JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 73 : December 31, 2001
Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- Futurist perspectives - Soft Solutions (continued)
- 21st century prognostications
- Rockwell Reality Regression
- BIO-bugs - robots that learn - from Los Alamos Labs & Hasbro Toys
- The wireless web
- Freedom is indeed the driving force for good
- Kamen Segway - just hype
- Some Invensys companies doing well
Futurist perspectives - Soft Solutions (continued)
The Jan/Feb 2002 issue of the journal of the World Future Society included
a section where several futurists presented their view of the future. As a
group, futurists' response differs markedly from the flood of editorials
released by the 911 jolt. In general, they take a longer view; some see the
terrorist attacks as a portent of darker things to come; others include a
positive scenario, envisioning upside developments from the tragic events.
Here are some extracts, selected from my own perspective of "soft solutions”:
Wider gaps - wider conflicts:
The longer-term prospects are for widening conflict between the rich and
poor nations, and for increasing destabilization worldwide. A system that
routinely rewards the few who are rich and powerful at the expense of the
many who are poor and weak, is a system that is programmed for destruction
and eventual collapse. This will be the principal event of the twenty-first
Authoritarianism vs. fanaticism:
The time may have come to consider a strong, authoritative central regime
as essential for preventing barbarism and fanaticism. One can only hope
that this will minimize abuse of freedom.
Massive peace movement needed:
Dialog and global education to understand how others think, to respect
other cultures, leading the way to healing and closure.
Instead of bombing raids, the US and other countries with large inventories
and backlogs of unsold food, clothing and other consumer goods could
airlift their surplus to needy countries.
A massive process of evolutionary changes - economic, political, cultural
and biological - against the common enemies of disease, poverty and
Don't call it war:
What we need is a new way to think - the words 'war' and 'crusade' are
harmful. 'Crusade' reinforces the idea that this is a religious conflict,
which it is not. 'War' is outmoded - wars are supposed to be won or lost,
not just endlessly stalemated. We will have to find an effective way to
combine hard power (military might) with soft power (persuasiveness and
coalition-building) to be successful in this new kind of struggle.
Instead of placing military police on every commercial airline flight, we
must train passengers how to deal with terrorists. We must prepare
civilians to deal with violence in everyday situations, to have a sense of
confidence in making a mature response to any crisis.
Democratization of all countries:
We must somehow spur democratic governments and equitable economic
democracy. Create self-reliant, ecological, electronically linked
communities (not states). A transformed United Nations, with increased
Planned positive outcome:
World Future Society: Futurist comments & insights
To counter the growing divisions of rich and poor, we must have extensive
actions to end poverty and despair, realize human rights for all, improve
education and health care, fight global crime and corruption, develop
democracy at a global level.
21st century prognostications
The first year of the new century and millennium has come and gone. On the
surface, the world continues to turn, but there are significant changes and
differences everywhere. Some of these changes have already been occurring
inexorably over the past decades - the advancing of Alvin Toffler's Future
Hard realities bring the recognition that a new society is emerging: new
demographics, institutions, ideologies, and problems. Things will be quite
different from the society of the late 20th century and different from what
most people expect. Much of it will be unprecedented. Most of it is already
here, or is rapidly emerging.
Get ready for change! The new century is bringing with it enormous changes
in all areas of human consciousness. Significant philosophical, ethical,
moral, legal, sociological and spiritual questions must be answered, as we
move forward in a new century and millennium.
My latest article on this subject is in the popular webzine spark-online,
published on New Years day. I'll appreciate your feedback.
spark-online : 21st century Prognostications
21st century prognostications - on JimPinto.com website
Rockwell reality regression
This week, as a stockholder, I received the Annual Report from Rockwell
(ROK). Realize that when published this is already 3 months old (fiscal
year 2001 ended Sept. 30 2001). Summary: 2001 sales $ 4.2b, net income 4%,
declined from $ 4.6b and 7% in 2000.
Chairman & CEO Don Davis says it was the toughest year he has ever seen in
his 39 years with the company (he joined in '63, as a sales-trainee). He
seems to boast (perhaps to show that he can be tough) that he has
"consolidated and closed facilities, realigned administrative functions and
reduced the worldwide workforce by 9%". He pushes PLC leadership into the
past (the '80's) and singles out Global Manufacturing Solutions as having
had significant investment, claiming that Rockwell today is at the
forefront of the movement to integrated services and solutions.
While he claims that he has spent "a lot of time talking with customers
over the past year" - close associates suggest that Don Davis hardly ever
leaves his "ivory tower" and speaks only with his "kissing cousins".
Control Systems generated 80% of revenue; Power Systems about 16%. With
about 3% of the total, no one at Rockwell quite seems to know what
Electronic Commerce is doing, though Don Davis suggests that it is "well
positioned to meet the current and future needs of customers".
At a recent (Sept.'01) meeting of all employees in Mayfield, OH (Control
Systems HQ) Sr. VP Steve Eisenbrown bravely invited questions from anyone
in the audience. He was asked, "Will Rockwell be sold?" Steve, probably
unprepared for this directness, responded spontaneously that the company
would be sold within one year, and indeed that all existing management
would be "swept away" by the new ownership. One wonders if anyone reported
Steve's response to his boss, Keith Nosbusch, or Don Davis at the clock
tower in Milwaukee...
At age 61, with no clear successor, Don Davis is tired and ready to sell
Rockwell Automation. Here is the explanation of the "one year" - the split
into Rockwell Automation and Collins earlier this year included a tax
provision that, if anyone buys one of the pieces on or before 1 January
2003, they would be assessed an additional $ 1b. So, while the process is
already under way, we can expect acquisition to occur only after that date.
Meantime, to maximize profits and increase the stock price, (and raise the
eventual acquisition price) Don Davis is doing little else than cutting
expenses. It is interesting that he did not receive a pay increase this
year, from $900,000 (plus $34,053 other income), though he did receive an
additional 330,000 stock options. Control Systems chief, Keith Nosbusch did
get a pay raise from $ 350,000 to $410,000 (plus $37,397 other) plus
120,000 options. Not too bad, for doing some RIFs.
Remember the RIF rules? RIF#1 - liposuction; RIF#2 - amputation; RIF#3 -
dismemberment. In my view, Rockwell has already engaged in RIF#2, and
hopefully will not proceed to RIF#3 before the company is sold. Indeed,
that would reduce the value!
Who will acquire? Only one of the majors can afford a purchase of this
size. Invensys is already being sold; Honeywell/Allied and ABB are too busy
with their own problems; Siemens (perhaps), Emerson (may be), Tyco or GE
(possibly), Groupe Schneider (who knows?), Mitsubishi or Omron (never, the
Japanese don't know how to acquire), Eaton or Danaher (if they are brave,
or stupid enough). Perhaps Warren Buffet?
Rockwell Reviews FY2001 and expectations for Q1 2002
BIO-bugs - robots that learn -
Here is some exciting news for Chaos Theory, Complexity Science and
self-organization enthusiasts :
from Los Alamos Labs & Hasbro Toys
Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Mark Tilden has created lifelike
robotic bugs that use transistors, rather than computers, to control their
actions. The result is a hot new toy line from Hasbro's WowWee Toys called
Tilden has basically used a dozen transistors to build a walking bug,
changing transistors or circuits to change strategies. For example, you can
wire up transistors to make the bug scared of light, scared of other
robots. You can make a chicken robot that's scared of everything. By
combining simple, elegant routines you end up with large-scale, complex
Based on "biomorphic robotics", Tilden's bugs actually learn and alter
their behavior as they interact with the environment. BIObugs have 4
unusual features: they're trainable; they learn - become more efficient the
longer they operate; they're animated and can interact with a child; and
they can be rebuilt very simply with new behaviors.
BIObugs are designed so that you can open them up and mess with their
heads - something every child wants to do. Toy stores are excited about the
sales potential - BIObugs were big sellers this Christmas.
Similarly designed robotic vacuum cleaners might appear soon, with new
models being unveiled at the New York Toy Fair in February. Some of the new
toys will have more interactive capabilities. Children can download new
transistor brain patterns from the Internet and build new designs
News-story: Los Alamos Scientist creates BIO-bug robots
BIObugs sell for about $40 each
Buy bug-building kits online
See BIObug 'Vivisection'
The wireless web
It’s becoming increasingly common: someone on a park bench, pecking away at
a laptop. Sure, you think - probably writing a report or playing with a
spreadsheet. But no - this is more than that - surfing the Web, outdoors
and cable free. Anywhere, anytime Internet access is gaining ground as
wireless networks owned and run by their users spring up in more and more
Although there has been some wireless access in places like hotels,
airports and coffee shops, new cooperatively run networks are allowing more
users to surf in outdoor public areas. These networks are set up by groups
that provide Internet access by hooking high-speed digital subscriber line
(DSL) or cable modem connections to wireless base stations. The base
stations transmit the bandwidth to any nearby computer - typically a laptop
or handheld-equipped with an antenna to receive the signal.
MIT Tech-Review: Unwiring the web
Cary S Hillebrand [email@example.com] responded to comments by Jerry Van Ee
[firstname.lastname@example.org] that much of the world does not really want to find out
about freedom, since they are more interested in a decent place to live and
be able to put food on the table everyday.
"Look at many if not most of those countries where the citizens lack the
basic essentials of life. You will find that the ruling structure is one of
repression and tyranny, with whatever riches exist being are siphoned for
to the benefit of a small privileged elite, leaving the masses to wallow in
Ralph Mackiewicz [email@example.com] commented on the hype surrounding Dean
"Examples abound. Nigeria and Congo are both rich, nay virtually
overflowing in natural resources, and yet the standard of living continues
to nosedive. If the populations had enjoyed "American freedoms and the
warmth of its culture" these nations would be enjoying the standards of
living and quality of life of Norway or Switzerland. For another example,
Egypt and South Korea had roughly the same per capita GDP in the mid
fifties. Why is South Korea, a country virtually devoid of natural
resources, an economic powerhouse, while the economy of Egypt has remained
stagnant? Again, compare the political systems for the answer.
"Freedom is not irrelevant to our happy status, it is the driving force that
permits us the luxury of taking for granted the ability to have a decent place
to live and to put food on our table."
The initial skepticism I had about IT (aka the Segway HT) that was
dispelled after seeing the iBOT turned out to be right after all; Segway is
a pretty neat toy. But, a revolution in the design of cities? NOT! The only
way that the Segway HT is going to revolutionize cities is by coercive
government fiat. Kamen as much as admitted to this on Good Morning America
when he suggested that "communities" (a euphemism for "local government
mandates") could control HT speeds by mandating certain digital keys be
used in different areas. If those same "communities" would only make
automobiles, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, roller
skates, scooters, and walking illegal think of what a wonderful world we
An Invensys (Triconex) employee (requesting anonymity) wrote:
"Your commentary regarding Invensys over the last year has been right on
the money. However, as a long time employee of Triconex, I would like to
point out that not all parts of Invensys are performing poorly. Triconex
sales were on target last year and are ahead of target this year. This
shows that despite a parent company in distress, a product line that
continues to deliver solid solutions for real customer problems will
continue to succeed. There are some gems in the Invensys portfolio; someone
just needs to dig them out!"
And indeed, several diggers are digging, even as we write. Stay tuned for
the new year news...
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