JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 184 : 16 June 2005

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

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Europe votes for the past as China & India surge ahead

Tom Friedman, the Pulitzer prize-winning columnist and author most famous for his commentary on the Mid-East, had an epiphany during his recent visit to Bangalore, India. This brought the recognition that "the world was flat" - discussed in his book by that name (see weblink below). He continues to write on that topic; some of his recent comments are summarized here.

French voters (and now the Dutch) recently rejected the European Union constitution, showing their blindness to all the forces of globalization which are chipping away at Europe's welfare states. Clearly this is a bad time for Europeans to lose their appetite for hard work, just when India, China and much of the third world are rediscovering theirs.

In a world where others are willing to work 18-hour days, French voters are trying to preserve their 35-hour work week. In the "old Europe" - France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy - the benefits they have known for 50 years are falling apart. The Europeans seem to be saying: "Stop the world, we want to get off!" At the same time, China, India and others want to jump on, and are building their economies to compete.

India and China are racing the world to the top. They are taking work from Europe or America not simply because of low wages, but also because they are ready and willing to work harder. These people have an incredible new hunger - not for food, but for opportunity. I've brought this up over and over again, the statement that an old Japanese guru once told me: "You can't simulate hunger."

India is the world's largest democracy and has the youngest population - almost 70% below 35, 50% under 25. Compared to India, Western Europe looks like an elderly, assisted-living community. A huge part of India still lives in slums or villages, but more and more people are reaching for something better. India is already largely English-speaking; now even the poor seem to know that English is the key to tech-jobs, and they want their kids to have those opportunities. And Unions have declared the tech-sector an "essential business", off-limits for strikes.

Infosys and Wipro, the two Bangalore-based companies I've often written about, received more than one million applications last year for some 10,000 job openings. In a world economy where most companies had little or no growth, these two companies grew by about 50% last year; both now have sales approaching $ 2 billion and profits of 20-30%. Infosys has US Nasdaq market-cap of $18.6 billion; Wipro has a NYSE market-cap of $14B. The best indication that Bangalore is becoming "hot" is how many foreign techies - non-Indians - are now going there to work.

Meantime, China is turning out 700,000 engineers a year, 37% of all college graduates and their University system growing in leaps and bounds, generating new high-tech competitors in networking, computers, semiconductors, biotech, space.

And wow, are they hungry! Recently, in just 3 weeks, the residents of a large city block in Shanghai were relocated, all the buildings were bulldozed, and a 1,000-bed isolation hospital was built using 10,000 conscripted workers who worked 15 hours a day, every day, with no Union interference. On the last day of construction, a stream of ambulances was already bringing in patients.

When China's prime minister visited India for the first time last April, he didn't fly to the capital, New Delhi, as foreign leaders usually do. Instead, he flew directly from Beijing to Bangalore, for a tech-tour, and then he visited the capital. Meantime, it's interesting to note that no US president or VP has ever visited Bangalore.....

Click Tom Friedman - Race to the top

Click Why China is poised to streak ahead of the West

Click Will China Become the Leading Nation of the 21st Century?

Click Read Tom Friedman's book: 'the World is Flat":

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New US Report on Slavery

In a US State Department report just recently released, four American Mid-East "allies" - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - were listed among the countries criticized for not doing enough to combat human trafficking and slavery. They're listed as "Tier 3" countries, "whose governments do not fully comply with minimum standards" set by American law, and "are not making significant efforts to do so."

The annual "Trafficking in Persons" report identified countries which are destinations for trafficking victims exposed to sexual exploitation and forced labor. Also listed as Tier 3 countries were Bolivia, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Sudan, Togo and Venezuela. The estimates are that 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders against their will each year. Many victims are forced into prostitution, sweatshops, domestic labor, farm work or child armies.

About 80% of slave trafficking victims are women and girls, with the large majority forced into the sex industry. About 50 percent are minors - more than 1 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade each year.

The report found that hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers from South Asia and Africa arrive in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and fall into either forced begging or involuntary servitude, suffering from physical and sexual abuse, nonpayment of wagers, withholding of travel documents and restriction of movement.

Saudi Arabia, the big US oil-ally, was in Tier 2 last year, but was listed at Tier 3 (worse) this year because of its lack of progress in protecting victims and prosecuting the guilty.

Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have legislation against trafficking and forced labor, but the report cited these 3 countries for weak implementation of laws to investigate, prosecute and punish traffickers, as well as for inadequate steps to protect victims.

Some Tier 3 countries (Bolivia, Myanmar, Jamaica, Sudan and Togo) are "source" countries, where traffickers find victims, while others (Cambodia, Ecuador and Venezuela) are source, transit and destination countries for trafficking victims.

The US put several countries on notice that they are at risk of joining the Tier 3 list if they don't take adequate steps to combat slavery.

Click US cites 4 Gulf allies in trafficking report

Click Pinto eNews editorial April 2005 - Slavery Today

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Strong growth of robots use continues

Artificial intelligence and robotics expert Rod Brooks forecasts major changes in the next 50 years. Much in the way that computers have revolutionized society, robots may take on an increasingly significant role in people's lives.

Robots are already a steadily increasing part of factory automation. Compared to fixed, or hard automation equipment that is designed to perform a single task, robot arms are multifunctional manipulators that can be programmed and reprogrammed to perform a variety of different tasks. That flexibility can greatly decrease the need for costly part fixtures, while significantly reducing the time required for product changeovers.

What's more, robots have shown dramatic improvements in price, reliability and ease-of-use in recent years. And as North American manufacturers look to become quicker, more agile and cost-competitive, there are signs that robots are finding broader use in US factories.

Toyota, Japan's top automaker, sees the declining birthrate and aging population leading to growing demand for robots that can help in tasks such as child care and nursing care. The auto company aims to start selling robots that can help look after elderly people or serve tea to guests by 2010.

Click Brooks Forecasts Future of Robotic Technology

Click Automation World, May 2005 - Make Mine Flexible

Click Toyota Aims to Sell Service Robots by 2010

Click Robots Are Designed for Everyday Life, But Not Ready for Living Rooms

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Lots of new applications with Google Maps

People are discovering how to use Google's mapping service to illustrate graphically a lot of useful information. It's a simple and easy way to look at what would otherwise be a enormous amount of data.

Google Maps charts each point on its maps by latitude and longitude, and that's how it produces driving directions to practically anywhere in the US. Developers have figured out how to match these points with locations from outside databases that contain vast amounts of data.

For example, by overlaying Chicago Police Department crime statistics on a Google map, recent crimes can be pinpointed on a single map. One new company is offering this in Chicago, with each crime marked by a graphic pushpin, so that people can quickly learn what dangerous train stations, pool rooms and alleys to avoid.

One Florida company combines Google Maps with data on convicted sex offenders, so that people can call up maps of their communities and click on the pushpins to see the name, last known address and photo of each offender.

Drivers searching for an area's cheapest gas can go to websites which blend Google Maps with a database of prices at individual gas stations.

Home buyers can pinpoint the locations of houses in their price range. Renters can now spot available housing in 29 cities including San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

So, what new applications can YOU come up with?

Click Google Maps Tinkerers Make Demographic Data Come Alive

Click Book - Google Hacks

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Rampant e-mail addiction

A recent survey sponsored by AOL polled 4,012 people 18 years and older in the 20 largest US cities. It found that a high percentage are hooked on e-mail. Some check for messages in the bathroom, in church and while driving. The average e-mail user in the US has two or three e-mail accounts and spends about an hour every day reading, sending and replying to messages.

E-mail dependency is so strong for 41% of people surveyed, that they check their e-mail in-boxes right after getting out of bed in the morning. The average user checks five times a day.

About 25% acknowledged being so addicted to e-mail that they can't go more than two or three days without checking for messages. That includes vacations, during which 60% admit to logging into to check email.

Not surprisingly, all that e-mail activity sometimes leads to regrets. 45% indicated they would like to have the ability to retrieve a message they have sent but that hasn't been read yet. And there is also some attachment anxiety to sent-messages. 43% would like to be able to track where their messages get forwarded.

For those interested in curbing their e-mail compulsion, here are some suggestions:

  • Resolve not to check e-mail after a certain hour of the night, and respect your own curfew.
  • Close the loop on an ongoing e-mail discussion by picking up the phone and calling the other person.
  • Consider how many messages you send out.
  • Act on every e-mail you open by deleting it, forwarding it, responding to it or filing it.
  • Go without e-mail one day per week.
Hey, I'm not preaching here. I admit to being addicted, and my wireless laptop has exacerbated my addiction. But I'm trying hard to abstain.....

Click Survey: US residents addicted to e-mail

Click Emails & Multi-tasking hurt IQ more than drugs

Click Finding a Cure for Email Addiction

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Dr. Ted Mohns [drtedmohns@yahoo.com] read Prof. Harry Frankfurt's booklet on BS and had these lucid comments:
    "You know, I don't really get Frankfurt's definition of BS, and wonder if he may not have essentially sold a catchy title plus some BS of his own. To me, making a statement about something with literally complete disregard for whatever the truth happens to be is not BS, as Frankfurt attempts to re-label it, but instead generally means that the speaker is either woefully ignorant or quite psychotic.

    "Lies of omission are still lies. If the speaker has any conscious awareness of what the true facts may be and yet says otherwise, then that is a lie. If a celebrity does a product ad and privately has no use for that product, the celeb surely knows that he or she is lying to the camera. That's not BS. That's a lie.

    "BS could at times equate with "spin" (also either a noun or a verb). Occasionally BS is used to describe content which is nonsensical and a waste of time (as in, "That lecture was total BS."). While BS as a word certainly has its uses (some being even wonderful at moments, e.g. the exclamatory form), I hope that the current BS about BS won't dilute or obscure our clear understanding and timely perception of what is a lie and what is not."

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Jack Eskew [jack@microsmith.com] bought a Roomba home robot vacuum cleaner, and provides this update:
    "My wife and I are very pleased with the Roomba that we purchased in late December. However, the little fella' developed a problem and had to be repaired. Our Roomba would only back up in circles.

    "The fine telephone work from the Roomba folks has a brand new robot headed our way. They asked that I remove and return a vital part (the clip that secures the brushes). So, I will be able to take the old Roomba apart and hopefully repair it. Actually all of the engineers here at Microsmith will be invited to help take him apart.

    "The warrantee and support for this product is (so far) excellent."

Click Go to Amazon.com to buy your own Roomba

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Mike Wegenka [mwegenka@trane.com] comments on the specter of robot e-waste on the horizon:
    "With automobiles, few recognized the pollution problems; yet they continue to proliferate. Imagine the pollution levels from hundreds of millions of robots using internal-combustion engines.

    "What about all the 'electronic garbage' already being generated? Every new PC, cell phones, etc. made today will be ready for the scrap heap in three years, I think we are already there in terms of an unforeseen pollution byproducts that can cause environmental nightmares in unregulated landfills. This may be a new 'asbestos removal problem' of this century."

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