JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 87 : June 3, 2002

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

  • NEMS : Nanoscale sensors, actuators & machines
  • Industrial Automation - More on Siemens
  • Stephen Wolfram's book - mixed opinions
  • AFI 100 best films of the past 100 years
  • Camera - digital or film?
  • eFeedback:
    • Success causes non-competitiveness
    • Spend more time with your kids
    • Questions about human cloning

NEMS: Nano sensors, actuators & machines

In his keynote speech at the Spring 2002 Nanotech conference in NY, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich addressed the promises and peril of nanotechnology. Gingrich, also Chairman of the NanoBusiness Alliance, pointed out that nanotechnology can eliminate poverty and clean up the environmental messes left from the technologies of the industrial age. On the other hand, it can also create grave new dangers.

In this regular eNews, I keep stressing the point that Nanotech (atomic scale processes) is on the horizon and rapidly approaching. Nanoscale engineering is already translating science to practical design and assembly. The latest issue (June 2002) of MIT Technology Review focuses on Nanoprocesses.

NEMS (nano-electro-mechanical mechanical systems) are quickly becoming practical, bringing ultra sensitive sensors and ultra strong actuators that might replace damaged human tissue, or power tiny robots.

The holy grail of nanotechnology is self-assembly, which will soon be an effective nano engineering tool. Self-assembly is nothing new: biology does it all the time; in chemistry molecules team up to form structures. Indeed, the concept of self-assembly grew out of attempts to aggregate molecules spontaneously into specific configurations. Now, nanotech self-assembly is attempting the same.

Stay tuned - Nanotech is one of those technologies that will revolutionize this century!

Click Spring 2002 Nanotech Conference in NY

Click Nanomachines systems begin to flex their muscles

Click Self-Assembly : Devices that build themselves

Industrial automation - more on Siemens

After reading our coverage of USA Manager's view of Siemens (eNews April 18, 2002) a former Siemens manager provided some additional perspectives:
    "I had the somewhat unique experience of being Siemens US employee, at Siemens Energy & Automation, reporting directly to one of the German divisions. My job was to global responsibility for the business relationship between Siemens and one specific customer. I got a very different perspective on Siemens.

    "Siemens is a giant trading company. They have operations in over 150 countries around the world. Each of those country operations is basically independent. Germany requires that each country remit money on an annual basis, with the amount for the succeeding year decided at the end of the previous year. As long as a country operation sends in the required amount, Siemens Germany can do very little to exert influence on how that country operates. The one lever they do have is to send money to the country for use in internal programs. So what you end up with in certain situations, is Siemens Germany sending money to Country A, which doesn't use all of it as intended, and Country A ends up sending back money that originally came from Germany as a program incentive, as part of its required contribution to Siemens Germany. In essence, Siemens Germany gets its own money back.

    "I had more than one upper level Siemens manager express the wish that Siemens were an American company, so that the parent could tell the child what to do.

    "Because Siemens Germany is so successful in all of Europe, and because there is so little contact between German management and American customers, there is a complete lack of understanding as to why Siemens isn't more successful in the US. I once had a Siemens Germany sales person say that when they call on a customer in Europe, they simply say "We're Siemens and here is our technology"; and the customer responds with "Where do I place my order?" In America, the customer's response to "We're Siemens!" is "So what?" And, Siemens has no idea what to do with that response!

    "In my opinion, the bottom line is that technology doesn't drive business - relationships drive business. There is a long-standing relationship between Siemens and the customer base in Europe that does not exist for Rockwell, GE, etc. By the same token, that relationship exists in America for the Americans, but not for Siemens and the Japanese companies.

    "Simply buying American companies doesn't assimilate the relationship for Siemens. Instead, it adversely affects the relationship for the acquired company because Siemens doesn't know how to adopt the American culture and develop the American customer base."

I recently spoke to some Siemens and Moore managers (Moore was bought by Siemens in early 2000). They report that things remain highly unstable at Siemens Energy and Automation, USA.

The former Moore operation has been assimilated into various Siemens business units with heavy workforce reductions. Anyone who had DCS sales, marketing, development, and operations knowledge is now gone. The APACS systems group was folded into a new unit called Process Instrumentation Division with the mission to provide systems solutions to the process industries (APACS, PCS7, PLC, and Drives). Total confusion and mis-direction followed this organization that was put in place in early 2001. Now SE&A has disbanded the Process Instrumentation Division in a cost cutting move. People and products are once again being re-assigned.

The German parent business unit, Automation & Drives, has been the most profitable unit within Siemens in the past, but global profits have been halved so major cost cutting is required. The President and CEO of SE&A, USA is rumored to be going out by the end of the Siemens fiscal year, Sept. 30.

Unfortunately, in the industrial automation business, the sorry Siemens saga is being played out in similar moves at Invensys, Honeywell, Rockwell and ABB. It seems that only well-managed Emerson is escaping the negative hits.

The JimPinto.com WEBLOG provides a channel for inputs, comments, questions, answers on all of the issues discussed in the regular eNews, and on the JimPinto.com website. Read all the latest 'chat', or contribute your own comments.

Click Siemens - American Managers' viewpoint

Click Siemens news and views on the Siemens Weblog

Click weblogs on Rockwell, Honeywell, Invensys

Stephen Wolfram's book - mixed opinions

In his hefty book, A New Kind of Science Stephen Wolfram explains that virtually everything - the patterns on seashells, the ticks of financial markets, even the universe itself - is the result of instructions as simple as a few rules in a software program. He insists that unearthing all these rules could lead to a new scientific renaissance.

Wolfram predicts that within a generation or two his new kind of science will be taught in schools along with chemistry and math. He says his theory may even supplant today's physics; because it doesn't require calculus, it will attract smart researchers who don't want to learn advanced math. He expects that, perhaps in his lifetime, his name will be enshrined alongside those of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein. The ego is off-putting - but is he right?

Opinions are divided. Some scientists agree that Wolfram may be blazing a trail. Gregory Chaitin, the Nobel prize-winning mathematical theorist at IBM Research hails Wolfram's thesis as "revolutionary". Richard Crandall, former chief scientist at NeXT Software, now at the Reed College Center for Advanced Computation, calls Wolfram's book "a masterpiece".

But others in the scientific community dismiss the book as a rehash of Wolfram's breakthrough work in the 1980s on so-called cellular automata. I must admit I myself am somewhat confused by the endless display of cellular automata diagrams as examples (or evidence) of how the complexity of the universe is structured. I am still trying to find something really new.

What I am surprised about is the total lack of references relating to any other prior scientific work. Wolfram seems to want his "new science" to stand totally on its own, as something ultimately so simple and self-evident that it needs no prior pillars to prop it up.

Click Business Week - Stephen Wolfram's Simple Science

Click Ray Kurzweil's review of Wolfram's book

Click Q&A with Stephen Wolfram

Click Wolfram's Book - review & buy at Amazon

The 100 best films of the past 100 years

When you got to the video store, how do you pick which movie(s) to take home? Sure, you might pick a recent hit - but why not pick from a list of the best movies of the past 100 years? First you can pick the ones you've never seen. But, there are others you may have seen already, but would like to see again. And hey, you can start a collection!

In 1998 The American Film Institute in Los Angeles, CA. commemorated the extraordinary first 100 years of American movies by making a definitive selection of the 100 greatest American movies of all time, as determined by more than 1,500 leaders from the American film community.

The 400 Nominated Films were feature-length fictional movies produced between 1912 and 1996, with the goal of developing a capsule of the first 100 years of American cinema, across decades and across genres. Note: These are primarily American films; British movies (like Gandhi) and other non-American films have been excluded.

These films have left an indelible mark upon our lives and reflect the defining moments of the last 100 years, giving us pieces of time that we can never forget. They entertain, enchant, and inform - from the earliest defining silent films of Hollywood to all the genre types (comedies, westerns, etc.) and to the blockbusters and epics of today.

Here are the top-10:

  1. Citizen Kane - 1941
  2. Casablanca - 1942
  3. The Godfather - 1972
  4. Gone With the Wind - 1939
  5. Lawrence of Arabia - 1962
  6. The Wizard of Oz - 1939
  7. The Graduate - 1967
  8. On the Waterfront - 1954
  9. Schindler's List - 1993
  10. Singin' in the Rain - 1952
This suggestion comes from my daughter Rosalie Pinto, who just graduated from UC Berkeley (May 02) and is now enrolled in the Peter Stark Producing program at the USC Cinema & Television graduate school in Los Angeles. I expect she'll be producing one of the top films of the next 100 years...

Click AFI - The 100 Greatest American Movies

Click Look at the 400 nominated films

Camera - digital or film?

So, do you still use your "old" film camera? Or, have you bought one of the new, fancy digitals? If you did get a digital, how many megapixels resolution? And how do you download all those pictures you take to your computer? Serial link, USB or firewire? How do you print the photos, to show them off? Do you put the prints in an album? Or, do you simply keep them on your computer?

My wife was looking at all our old photos the other day, in albums and in boxes and bundles, and she noticed that there was a big break in the time sequence. Suddenly, about 5 years ago, there were no more photos to be found. And then we realized - that was when I started using my digital camera. All those hundred of pictures I had taken were stored in my computer where I could find them very easily - but no one else could.....

After we can back from our recent cruise, we wanted to make an album - and so I had to print all the digital photos I had taken. Well, first of all, apart from the endless amount of time it took me to select and print all the good pictures, the relatively poor printer resolution did not produce film-quality photos. So, do I go out to buy a new high-res printer? And, have you discovered the price of quality photo paper for your printer? I wondered why I hadn't simply snapped some film and taken the rolls for 1-hour developing, available almost anywhere. And I could have scanned the photos that I wanted to send off as email.

Well, I then discovered that I could go to almost any 1-hour-photo place, not only to get film developed, but to also get a CD with digital versions of all the photos on that film - high resolution images (file size about 5mB), low-res versions (to send email copies to friends and family) and tiny thumbnails for my on-line catalog; plus a convenient computer picture-viewer. Cost of the CD? About $5. Now, why do I need my digital camera?

Hmmmm. I gotta think about this....

Click Shot for Shot: Digital vs. Film - Which Camera is right for You?


In the last eNews, Debbie Miller complained that poor upbringing in the US was the cause of non-competitiveness. Mitch Carr [mitchcarr@msn.com] disagreed:
    "Yes, there is a need for stronger moral fiber in the US. But this is NOT the sole cause of our inability to compete against cheaper labor.

    "Third-world countries are simply not as expensive as the US. The cause of our non-competitiveness is not that we have poor morals, or lack focus on education; it is that we have succeeded!

    "I live in an area with superb schools, where parents have more disposable income. They dispose of a lot of this income into their children's pockets. And the children buy as much instant gratification as they can, because it is right there to be bought! Kids today don't have to work all summer to buy their first calculator (like I did) because it comes free with their subscription to Sports Illustrated.

    "Our engineers demand high salaries because this country has a very high overhead. Every street lamp, every paved road, every shopping mall is overhead. Most third-world countries don't have the overhead we have. And, when they come here, they are overwhelmed at the profusion of goods!

    "Being competitive has nothing to do with whether we go to church, or whether parents are divorced. It has to do with the fact that we have succeeded. We have a higher standard of living, a higher overhead, and expect more. We are better off than we used to be and that costs money!"

On the other hand, Tony (&Linda) Carnovale [TCarnovale@schneider.com.au] from Australia agreed with Debbie Miller:
    Australia is not much different than USA society; we have more or less the same in practically every metric - except good beer and coffee.

    We have three children under 4 years old and are struggling with the question how best to bring our kids up with strong moral and ethical values. Apart from the obvious essential of spending more time with our children, I think the money normally spent on expensive private schools and luxuries is better spent on regular overseas travel with them."

Norm Helfgott [luckynorm@cox.net] responded to the article "Cloning cannot be stopped!":
    "I do see practical applications for cloning - producing new vital organs for replacement purposes (there is a tremendous shortage).

    "But, the one towering issue is SURVIVAL! Picture this scenario: Dr. Dungforbrains comes up with a brilliant idea: he clones a group of unsurpassed warriors to do his bidding. They will do anything to appease their creator; they will personally deliver nuclear weapons, biological weapons, or other means of mass destruction that they are instructed to deliver. Frightening concept? It is to me!"

Pinto response:

It seems that "cloning" is not the only way to get humans to deliver weapons - misguided religion appears to be 'brainwashing' humans into doing just that!

On another point: many people responded with questions like this:
"If a clone commits a crime, who is responsible? What about individual responsibility and freedom?"

I'd like to point out that cloning does NOT produce a duplicate; it is simply an alternate method of human reproduction. For emphasis, let me quote again from the previous issue of eNews:

    "Human clones will NOT be what some people expect - replacement duplicates. They will, like everyone else, be born as babies, each genetically the same as its clonal parent, a new kind of identical twin; but since each will be shaped by environmental influences, each will develop uniquely."

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