JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 108 : January 10, 2003

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

  • 2003: Happy New Year?
  • Technologies to watch in 2003
  • Future forecasts
  • Automation update - start of 2003
  • Howard Zinn book - People's History
  • eFeedback:
    • Where cloning is really headed
    • Leadership & vision in industrial automation
    • CEO pay in Europe

Happy New year!?

The traditional wish seems to echo hollow naiveté this year. Perhaps more than most of us can remember these are uncertain times. The confluence of problems continues: an emerging war in Iraq that could ignite a mid-east conflagration; an uneasy standoff with North Korea; Palestine suicide bombings repeated regularly; the search for terrorists continuing like some awful game of blind-man's buff; the stock market gyrating up and down, as if mirroring the uncertainty; and any of a number of world problems seeming to get worse. Can YOU think of one positive trend?

While the largest religion (with the most followers) stumbles through the sins of its clergy, the next largest fosters intolerance and fear through suicidal attacks. Of course, the crimes of a few clerics do not reflect Catholicism, any more than the fundamentalist factions reflect Islam. But the cracks in the fabric of society are clearly seen and heard in a watchful and uneasy global community.

In the midst of this turmoil of events, the ever-present media do little else than report and repeat the instantly available bad news. TV channels compete for attention with a succession of talking heads breathlessly breaking the news of harsh events as they unfold. Brash headlines count down the days to a "Showdown with Saddam" as if this was just another heavyweight title fight. And the global village grows ever smaller.

In a turbulent new century, 2003 could perhaps present the beginning of a major transitional shift for humanity. I suggest - I "feel" - that we may be entering a profoundly different era. Nothing really different can come about without an awakening, not of just a few fringes, but of humanity itself. Today, the vast majority remains silent, feeling like helpless onlookers completely incapable of doing anything. How much pain before the paradigm shifts? How many millions must die before our collective conscience awakens?

The mass of humanity yearns to renew itself, and the time for transition is near. I might seem to some like an ardent John the Baptist, ringing his bell in the wilderness. But this is the best New Year wish I can muster. Perhaps this turmoil will bring understanding and the beginnings of a universal brotherhood of humanity.

Click Transition to a very different future

Click Finding a softer approach for a new century

Technologies to watch in 2003

The New Year is a signal to look again at technology trends, the major new technologies that will emerge and make a difference in the coming years.

Here is ZDnet's list of 10 technologies that will become practical and proliferate in 2003:

  1. Wireless networks: lots of small, cheap, low power wireless devices.
  2. Location-based services: beaming advertising and available services to mobile phones and PDAs.
  3. Holographic storage: the promise of terabyte storage in tiny spaces.
  4. Solar power: organic compounds that mix up and spread out like paint.
  5. RFID: physical items with cheap chip labels which can be read from up to 60 feet away.
  6. Telematics: a host of electronic gadgets for your car.
  7. Robotics: lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, amusing companions, pets; cheaper and more affordable.
  8. Lighting: light-emitting diodes (LEDs) producing more and purer light, changing color, using a tenth as much power and lasting thousands of times longer than incandescent lights.
  9. Gaming: Broadband multiplayer environments, games via mobile phones & emails.
  10. Displays: During 2003 LCD displays (now 25% of the market) will outsell CRTs for computers and TVs.
With a somewhat longer horizon, MIT Technology Review lists 10 emerging technologies that they predict will have a tremendous influence in the years and decades to come. At least a couple of items (wireless networks, solar cells) reinforce the ZDnet list.
  1. Wireless sensor networks: battery-powered sensors that monitor machines, the environment and everything else.
  2. Injectible tissue engineering: inject joints with mixtures of polymers, cells, and growth stimulators that solidify and form healthy tissue.
  3. Nano solar cells: photovoltaic materials that can be spread like plastic wrap or paint.
  4. Mechatronics: the integration of mechanical systems with electronic components and intelligent-software control.
  5. Grid Computing: linking almost anything - number-crunching computers, databases, and simulation and visualization tools.
  6. Molecular Imaging: earlier detection of human disease and more effective therapies.
  7. Nanoimprint lithography: etched nano patterns in silicon to produce high-performance microchips.
  8. Software assurance: tools that will yield nearly error-free software.
  9. Glycomics: drugs to solve health problems ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to the spread of cancer cells.
  10. Quantum cryptography: transmitting information in a way that makes any eavesdropping detectable.

Click ZDnet: 10 technologies to watch in 2003

Click MIT Tech Review - 10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World

Futures review

The New Year provides yet another opportunity for futurists to air their forecasts, readjusting earlier visions to reality and projecting yet further into an uncertain future.

The World Future Society presents is fourth annual review of Futurecasts for the 21st century, still standing by most of the forecasts made in January 2002 and expanding some areas for 2003. Here are some 2003 highlights:

  • The "War on Terrorism" has provided the excuse for blowing budgets. Bloated levels of public spending retard growth and redistribute income away from the poor.
  • Inflation continues, albeit disguised, hurting the poor much more than the rich.
  • Powerful vested political and economic interests easily trump national interests and the interests of worldwide peace and prosperity.
  • Keynesian theory routinely confuses cause with effect, lessening the depth of the current recession without eliminating or even shortening the period of sluggish economic activity.
  • People are not just living longer they are living healthier. The Social Security problem will have to be resolved by continuing to raise the age of qualification and continuing to transform it into the welfare program that it actually is.
  • The strength of unpopular despotic regimes may sometimes be hard - but it is always brittle. Several will break in the years ahead.
  • When clerics are given free reign to preach discrimination and hate as a means of keeping their flocks from considering alternative religious views, how can war fevers ever be quenched?
On the technology timeline, WFS Outlook 2003 presents these further-out forecasts:
  • Confessions to artificial intelligence "priests", 2004.
  • Designer babies, 2005.
  • Video tattoos, 2010.
  • Insect-like robots used for crop pollination, 2012.
  • ID cards replaced by biometric scanning, 2015.
  • Nanobots in toothpaste attack plaque, 2020.
  • Thought recognition becomes everyday input means, 2025.
  • First Bionic Olympics, 2030.
  • Emotion-control chips used to control criminals, 2030.
  • Moon base the size of a small village is built, 2040.

Click Fourth Annual Review of Futurecast Issue (2003)

Click WFS: Top 10 Forecasts from Outlook 2003

Automation update - start of 2003

New Year 2003 starts precariously for most automation companies. Some have gracefully avoided holiday cutbacks, but quarter or year-end revenue shortfalls will inevitably take their toll. For many, this is the time planning meetings and New Year budgets, with sales people being pushed to promise big bookings that will not materialize.

Here are some updated perspectives on the major automation players that we have been following. My prediction: By the end of this year, some of these companies will disappear.

Siemens:: Looking for growth through acquisitions in the US. There is still a possibility that they'll buy Honeywell IS, though if that doesn't happen, Foxboro is a possibility, or a couple of other smaller niche players like Aspen, or Wonderware. Meanwhile, past acquisitions like Moore Products have simply melted into the inflexible Siemens structure.

Click Siemens weblogs

ABB: Former chairman Percy Barnevik, has gracefully returned $62m of his retirement compensation. But that won't help ABB, which is delaying the announcement of its annual results by 15 days, reportedly to resolve "planning issues" following a series of restructurings. We think they'll survive.

Click ABB weblogs

Rockwell Automation: Anxious employees are waiting to find out whether Eaton (Cutler Hammer) will acquire the company this month. If this happens, the news will come any day now (Jan. 2003). There are many opinions about what will happen to the pieces - Reliance, Allen-Bradley, etc. Some are even raising the possibility that Honeywell will buy the automation business from Eaton, since their OEM technology relationship is still active. Let's wait and see.

Click Rockwell weblogs

Invensys: Putting on a bold face, while Rome burns. Even though the divestiture plan has paid down debt, most people wonder how they can survive the still heavy debt-load. Rumors have surfaced that GE may be buying Wonderware, to cement their leadership position after buying Intellution from Emerson. Unlikely - though GE has been paying high prices to enter this market; one wonders why...

Click Invensys weblogs

Honeywell: Still struggling through the Cote cutbacks and trying to meet his financial filters. If IS survives (if Siemens does not buy) then it will try to become strategically stronger by buying parts of Rockwell, or maybe even Foxboro and Wonderware.

Click Honeywell weblogs

Emerson: Strong management and a serious business player. They've moved strongly to "solutions" (another word for "systems") with a strong intent to generate more profitable pull-throughs for Rosemount, Fisher and other products. Delta V remains a flagship product with good technology plus excellent worldwide sales & marketing. Emerson will buy strategic pieces to strengthen their leadership position.

Groupe Schneider: I had mentioned Schneider in a positive light in my recent eNews (year end 2003). One weblog (not yet published) pointed out that Schneider is pulling in its horns by dismissing several people from Square D and Modicon. In Nov. 02, Square D eliminated 400 positions, the forth such reduction in 18 months. The significance is that they seem to be getting rid of many of the technical people, with a focus towards revenue generation, and very little after-sales support. The once respected Modicon may disappear into the French woodwork this year. But, Schneider is still relatively strong, and will bid for any pieces it thinks it can swallow.

Most of the automation majors have JimPinto.com weblogs for open commentary and feedback. There are currently no weblogs for Emerson or Schneider. Please feel free to send (direct email) your comments and feedback. If the commentary gets to 'critical mass', I'll be motivated to start a new weblog. If you don't send comments, please don't complain!

Click JimPinto.com weblog index

Howard Zinn - The people's historian

In my continued search for soft solutions for hard problems" my son Chris Pinto recently introduced me to the writings of Howard Zinn, a historian who presents an unvarnished view of the past. Zinn contends that official history is a biased story, told by the ruling minority, the leaders, the politicians - all parroted by the press. He insists that it is important to listen to the majority to get a more evenhanded understanding of history.

At 77, with an impressive body of writing behind him, this professor, activist and author has dedicated his life to the belief that knowledge of history is important to people's everyday lives, and can be a powerful force for social change. Zinn believes that historical change occurs more through mass movements of ordinary people than through political leaders. His best-known book "A People's History of the United States" was one of the first major looks at American history from such a perspective - it has sold a phenomenal 500,000 copies.

There are 2 People's History books - the first from the days of Columbus (with a view of the explorer more as a ruthless exploiter than a hero) to the start of the Clinton era. The second book, The Twentieth Century provides a more recent view with new chapters on the Clinton and Bush presidencies. Both books end with a chapter entitled, "The coming revolt of the guards" (you can read it on the web with the link below). Here Zinn provides an admittedly utopian view, to imagine what radical changes would require of us all.

Matt Damon, playing a troubled genius in the movie "Goodwill Hunting", tells his psychologist (played by Robin Williams) that Zinn’s book "will knock you on your ass!" Let me tell you, it knocked me on mine!

Click Read Zinn's book and tell me what you think of it

Click A People's History of the United States

Click The coming revolt of the guards


Expanding on our discussion about human cloning, Dr. Ted Mohns [tedmohns@yahoo.com] provides professional opinions:
    "From both medical and economic perspectives, I don't foresee human cloning becoming an actual problem. The topic has been blown entirely out of proportion and has become a shibboleth in the hands of various religious and political factions.

    "A specific, entire person literally cannot be cloned, since at least half of the makeup of a person is acquired through the experience of the infant in the years after birth. That neurodevelopmental uniqueness cannot be duplicated, nor could the nearly infinite complexity of memory and experience of the genetic source be transferred. Cloning Richard Feynman's DNA would never produce another Richard Feynman.

    "Long-term viability of a mammalian clone has not yet even been shown to be technically feasible. Further, we have no shortage of people globally. I'm unaware of any economic incentive for anyone to undertake this on any significant scale, or of a political context in which it would even be possible.

    "When the mechanisms of organ development and tissue regeneration become better understood, cloning specific organs in vitro, without a donor fetus being required, is likely to happen on a significant scale. The result will be better and far less expensive medical care for a number of diseases, pending other, non-surgical treatments for those diseases (treatments which are not presently foreseeable). There is a chronic shortage of organs available for transplant, and the immunity aspects of transplantation technology leave much to be desired.

    "To take one example: From the standpoint of the patient, medical personnel, and health-care-financing sources alike, is it better to have a person with end-stage kidney disease who can't get a transplant die slowly and painfully on chronic dialysis, or to have their own new kidney grown, have a fairly simple operation, and be well again?

    "As you point out, there is already appreciable market demand for cloning people. That demand is a function of public ignorance. The science for anyone to be able to successfully do it just isn't there. It will be a number of years before that technical level will be reached, aside from the immense ethical issues. A responsible media could help by publicizing the follow-up on Dolly. Unfortunately, that's not the sort of story that boosts ratings.

    "The recent "Raelian" clone announcement is insane and reveals a Frankenstein-like grandiosity and complete ignorance of the requisites for normal human growth and development."

Dick Caro [rcaro@Caro.us] agrees with Bud Keyes' opinion on Iacocca, and bemoans the lack of vision in the industrial automation business, (with a notable exception):
    "Lee Ioccoa was more than a great company leader. First, he was a superb salesman spending his entire career in the automobile business, mostly in sales and sales management roles. Second, he was passionately a "car man." He lived and breathed the excitement of the automobile business. Third, he was innovative: remember his vision lead to the Ford Mustang and a whole new automobile market segment - the muscle car. Fourth, he was technically competent to run an automobile company. Fifth, he was courageous - he took personal charge and put himself on TV in those Chrysler commercials.

    "In the industrial automation business, only Emerson comes close. CEO David Farr spent 22 years in charge of their Process Control business directing its most aggressive growth. John Berra, President of Emerson Process Management, has most exemplified technically competent leadership. This includes putting himself on the firing line by founding ISP and then merging it into the Fieldbus Foundation. It would have been so much easier to "form a committee to study the problems," but John took charge and actively lead the way. Then, he inspired the troops to take maximum advantage of their position in the design of DeltaV. Success was assured with John's vision.

    "During the last 10 years of the 'bubble', we watched the industrial automation business flounder in the hands of non-leader CEOs who were not technically competent, and mostly did not understand their own business. To make matters worse, rather than promote from within. they typically hired lackeys who also did not understand the business. Failure was the natural result.

    "Say what you want about Microsoft, but Bill Gates is a technically competent leader who is not afraid to be the spokesman for his beliefs. It was his innovative vision that led Microsoft to become one of the largest companies in the world.

    "Other than Emerson, where is the vision-thing in the industrial automation business today? Vision has been driven from the ranks!"

Robert Unseld [r.unseld@mi-verlag.de] from elektronik Journal in Germany wrote:
    "CEO pay is a hot topic here in Germany too. A ratio of 500+ is madness - though perhaps in America everything is bigger and better. The trend that we are facing in Germany and Europe is that CEOs behave like they are the heirs of the founders; at least concerning their own wages. Maybe they are just pirates plundering the booty as well.

    "One must admire successful company founders for getting a company started from garage-status to a big hit company. They took the 'entrepreneurial risk' for which they deserve to be rich. After that. management takes bonuses for success, while the workforce has to take the rap for failure. Big ROI in most cases means to take big risks; somehow, Management has learned to shove risk over to the employees."

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