JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 114 : March 14, 2003


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

Contents:
  • Book: Friedman's "Longitudes & Attitudes"
  • New technology may soon be battle tested
  • Invensys out of FTSE 100 - pension fund frozen
  • Sign of the times: Manufacturers get disintermediated
  • McDonald's offers wireless Internet
  • eFeedback:
    • Quindlen premise - Democracy cannot strike first
    • Leveling of economies with transfer of work
    • Soft solutions too idealistic

Thomas L. Friedman's book - "Longitudes and Attitudes"

Thomas L. Friedman has a unique ability to interpret the world. His insightful commentary in the NY Times is read not only in the US, but all over the world. He won his third Pulitzer Prize in 2002 "for his clarity of vision in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat."

Friedman's book: "Longitudes and Attitudes - Exploring the World After September 11" includes his columns published about 9/11, as well as a diary of his travels from Afghanistan to Israel to Europe to Indonesia to Saudi Arabia. He discusses his talks with all the major players, as well as people in bazaars, schools and alleyways, studying the new kind of war that America finds itself fighting. Unabashedly patriotic, he seeks to interpret the things that America must do it grapple with the aftermath of 9/11.

I've had a lotttt of feedback after my summary of Friedman's Nebraska speech. John Curran [jcurran00@comcast.net] wrote:

    "Last night I heard Thomas Friedman address the School of International Studies, in D. C. (on C-SPAN). He is perhaps the most cogent and well-versed speaker I've heard in some time. I don't believe he speaks the gospel, but he's not far off the mark. What he says deserves serious consideration and is food for serious discussion."
To stimulate you to understand some of the points Friedman makes, either by browsing the web, or by reading his book, I am including some edited extracts. It is difficult to choose what to include!
    Prologue: "You will never understand the front page of the morning paper, or terrorism, unless you see the complex interaction between the 3 primary players: nation-states bumping up against each other, states bumping up against global markets, and markets and states bumping up against super-empowered individuals, many of whom are super-empowered angry men."

    Medal of Honor: "The ultimate strength of America and the impact it has on the world does not come from all the military systems, or from Intel's latest microchip. It comes from our remarkable system of laws and institutions. The stability of the world today rests on the ability of our system and economy to endure."

    The Real War: "We are not fighting to eradicate terrorism - that is just a tool. We are fighting to defeat an ideology: religious totalitarianism. Religions need to re-interpret sacred texts and traditions to embrace modernity and pluralism, to create space for alternative faiths."

    Breaking the Circle: "We respond to terrorism by trying to crush or expel them - but this is futile without trying to reform the extremists Islamic schools, or the political conditions that keep producing angry Islamic waves. So, the deadly circle that produced bin Ladenism - poverty, dictatorship and anti-modernism, each reinforcing each other - just gets perpetuated."

    Terrorist Software: "It is only when the world faces the fact that 9/11 was primarily about anger and societies problems that we will eradicate not just the hardware of terrorism, but its software. We must fight the ground war to eliminate bin Laden and his hardware. But, Arabs and Muslims must fight the war of ideas in their own societies, to uproot the software."

    The War of Ideas: "The war within Islam is not a religious war. It is a war between the future and the past, between development and under-development, between conspiracy and rationality, between advocates of suicide bombing and those who know that you can't build a society out of gravestones. Only Arabs and Muslims can win this war within their own societies - but we can openly encourage the progressives. There is no quick 'Get rid of Saddam' fix."

Click Read Friedman's "Longitudes & Attitudes":

Click Thomas Friedman's website

Click Book: The Lexus & the Olive Tree - understanding globalization

New technology may soon be battle tested

In future wars, robots may drop from the sky by the hundreds from unmanned aircraft, swarming like giant insects over battlefields in coordinated, terrifying assaults. But that is a decades-away scenario.

As the US military is poised to go to war against Iraq, we are getting sneak previews at how military technology has improved since the last time Americans prepared to fight in the Middle East. From wireless gadgets and high-tech rations to net-wired tanks and handheld computers for tracking battle plans, today's soldiers have access to tools that were still on the drawing board just a decade ago.

If civilians are in the vicinity, an e-bomb can be fired - a cruise missile tipped with a high-powered electromagnetic-pulse emitter, which "fries" the electronics without killing the people. The weapon's massive power surge travels through antennas or power cords to wreck any unshielded electronic appliance - civilian or military - within a few hundred yards.

There is no doubt that robots can save lives. They can navigate terrain and obstacles more deftly, lay down a cover of smoke, test for chemical weapons and extend a "neck" to peer around corners. Robots are also learning how to right themselves if they flip over, as well as how to follow their tracks back home if they lose contact with their base.

Rodney Brook' company, iRobot, developed a 42-pound, remote-controlled PackBot that US troops used to search Afghan caves. Packbot is like a small tank, climbs stairs, works in 10 ft. of water and 400g forces. Packbot sends video back to the troops, sparing them the risk of being hurt by booby traps or enemy combatants.

Now Marines have a remote-controlled robot, called Dragon Runner, which is less than half the size of PackBot. Camera-equipped Dragon Runner prototypes can scout buildings and streets - possibly even carry small bombs - in an urban-combat setting. The robot, which looks like a toy dune buggy, can roam around in a building after being tossed through a window.

Upgraded tanks, equipped with powerful computers, laser designators and improved infrared sights, can operate either as reconnaissance sensors, passing target coordinates back to command headquarters, attack helicopters or artillery units. Or, they can destroy armor with even greater precision and range than ever before.

Friendly fire incidents (a significant problem, as discussed on CBS 60-Minutes-II on Wednesday 12 Mar. 03) will be reduced by using a network that enables commanders across the battlefield (and around the world) to track the movement of friendly forces as a battle unfolds. They can plot their relationship to enemy targets as the hostile forces emerge.

The digital battlefield is even more advanced in the realm of materiel. Computers, data networks and radio frequency tags enable a FedEx-like tracking system. This is 'precision-guided logistics.'

Click Latest in weaponry is likely to be enlisted

Click The Military's Silicon Revolution

Click Readying robots for war

Automation updates - why always negative?

You know, people have asked me why I don't report "good news" about the automation majors. Believe me, I try. But, the majors report their own good news (via their own press releases) - leaving only the unreported items to be featured by yours truly.

Directly, or through the weblogs, I continue to get requests to continue my "no platitudes" reporting, which the mid-level employees and the mushrooms ("they keep me in the dark, and feed me BS") seem to appreciate.

As if to retaliate, some of the big companies (Honeywell and, more recently, Invensys) have blocked email and web access. Of course this does not stop employees from getting access through private accounts. Indeed, the Honeywell weblog generated MORE traffic after it was blocked....

Invensys out of FTSE 100 - pension fund frozen

Invensys continues in dire straits, with bad news coming in day-by-day. A month after the 60% Valentine's day crash to 20p, the stock dropped as low as 8.75p on Thursday 13 March 03 and closed at 10.00p, with a market-cap of just 350M.

As predicted, this week Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge lost both his FTSEs - British Airways and Invensys, the two companies he chairs, were evicted from the FTSE 100 index. At 69, one wonders whether at long last this is a signal for him to retire. Lots of concerned shareholders are working on this. Martin Jay, VT Group chairman, was recently tipped as heir apparent.

The pressure on "Slick Rick" Haythornthwaite continues. The falling stock price is not helping him. Complicating things further, to stave-off a run on its 3B ($4.83 billion) pension fund, Invensys has just banned employees from exiting the plan. Under new guidelines laid down by the UK Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority, trustees of company pensions can stop members leaving financially troubled company pension schemes by preventing them from transferring their benefits. Invensys is the first company to adopt the new guidelines. Where this will lead? Who knows....

Click Times Online - Invensys workers in pensions ban

Click Guardian UK: Lord Marshall loses his place in blue chip club

Click Latest comments & news on Invensys weblog

Sign of the times - manufacturers get disintermediated

"Disintermediation" is the elimination of intermediaries in a business process, usually when the cost to do business with them exceeds the value they provide. Today, globalization and e-commerce is forcing everyone to evaluate and reevaluate every link in the business chain to measure value, and to disintermediate if needed.

In years past, manufacturers were "upstream in the food chain" - they generated the highest profit margins with proprietary products. Intermediaries (sales channels, distributors, retail outlets) were "downstream" links and generated lower margins. The lower your business was in the food chain, the lower your margins.

One assumption was that the product manufacturer was the start of the process, just as the end user was the final link in the chain. Everyone else was an intermediary. However, when products become commodities (minimum differentiation, commonly available from several suppliers), the manufacturer loses that prized position and downgrades to just another link.

In the declining automation business today - regional Systems Integrators and Distributors are in the driver's seat. Manufacturers are being disintermediated!

Click Read my latest article: Disintermediation-3
- Distributors in the driver's seat
- manufacturers get disintermediated:

Click March 2003 InTech Industry View
- Cost of doing business tightens even more:

Click Disintermediation-1 - The sales-channel perspective

Click Disintermediation-2 - The customer perspective

McDonalds offers wireless Internet

Would you like super-sized Internet access with that burger and fries?

This week, 10 McDonald's restaurants in New York are offering an hour of free high-speed wireless Internet (WiFi) access to anyone who buys a combo-meal. By year's end, McDonald's will extend the access to 300 more restaurants in New York City, Chicago and California town.

Besides McDonald's, Internet surfers will also be able to tote their laptops to 400 US Borders book stores, hundreds of hotels and US airports where WiFi access will be available by summer.

The main target for WiFi is the mobile professional traveling around in large venues like airports; but smaller venues such as McDonalds or Starbucks want to provide service, too and the trend is growing fast.

Click McDonald's Offers Bytes With Bites

Click Building Smart Hotspot Access Points

eFeedback

Chris Power [PowerC@plcman.siemens.co.uk] felt that Anna Quindlen made a key point:
    "For some time now, I've been struggling to put my finger on the exact reason why I am so uneasy about the Iraq situation. Anna Quindlen's article really hits the nail on the head. It is the simple premise that democracy does not strike first, and that should the greatest democratic nation in the world do so, it would make a mockery of democracy itself. A terrific article, many thanks for informing me about it!"

Click Newsweek: The last word, March 10, 2003
- Anna Quindlen - Waiting, One Hand Behind

Charlie Matheny [matheny@alaweb.com] wrote about manufacturing work being transferred to China:

    "You mentioned deflation as a result of sending work to China. I think that anytime we export jobs offshore, to wherever, it results in a rise in their standard of living and a lowering of ours.

    "I recall from Economics 101 (or some such) that a dollar paid in wages in a community has a multiplier effect of 7X as it gets paid to the butcher who pays the baker who pays the candle-stick-maker, etc. If that dollar is spent outside of the US, then we lose and they gain, resulting in the inevitable leveling of economies.

    "I say all this while at the same time, I am involved in shifting a number of jobs to India. I wonder if the rest of the US has thought this out. I think that in the next 10 years, an enormous number of jobs will be shifted to India and China with the resulting acceleration in the economic leveling. Are we ready?"

D Wills [dwills@pacifier.com] provided some feedback on my "soft solutions for hard problems" writings:
    "I agree with your points, but I don't see the political will to change our ways. Let's face it, America runs the show, and Americans have no desire or need to cut their gas usage, or be more sympathetic to the world's poor. And nothing is going to change until it is literally forced on us. That is just human nature.

    "At work, discussions sometimes pop up between liberals and conservatives regarding things like better welfare, or socialized medicine. The conservatives seem to have the idea that if someone isn't working it is because they are lazy, and there are no exceptions. Taxes are believed to be forcing you to give up your hard-earned money that you should have exclusive right to. They say things like 'fire protection shouldn't be a public utility; one should have the option of buying fire protection from a private fire protection service, and if you can't afford that, tough!'

    "Many conservatives think that we should scrap the public education system, and say things like, 'you shouldn't have kids you can't afford to educate.' This mentality seems to be growing in the US. It seems that more and more states are having to cut services because people don't want higher taxes. I wouldn't be surprised to see the day when America no longer has public schools, social security and Medicaid, and other social services.

    "With the climate changing rapidly, due to global warming, it is going to be harder and harder for poor people (and the rest of us, possibly) to feed ourselves. But, I don't see any political will to do anything about these things. So, your article was very idealistic, not realistic. Let's face it, things will get much, much worse before they get better."

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