JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 147 : 18 March 2004

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

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Job losses caused by improved productivity, not outsourcing

Productivity is now a global race, an international competition between regions and nations. This is because Productivity is the source of wealth, the key to improvements in living standards. Those who can make things cheaper, faster, better - win! America's own productivity revival has caused the "jobless recovery" - not outsourcing.

Business Week estimates that 1% productivity improvement can eliminate up to 1.3 million jobs. With productivity growing at an annual rate of 3-5%, the reason for the jobs shortfall becomes clear. According to Forrester Research, of the 2.7 million jobs lost over the past three years, only 300,000 have been from outsourcing.

Today, information-processing applications are cheap and easy to use - everyone (down to the small auto-shop and candy store) uses spread-sheets, databases, invoice printing and on-line banking. Web services allow integration of all parts of the enterprise. Cooperating suppliers and users can monitor, analyze, optimize and adjust business processes in real-time. Almost everyone is doing more, with fewer people.

The resulting productivity boost is generating startling results. So, it's not jobs being eliminated by automation, or jobs going offshore. It's just that many jobs have simply disappeared, eliminated by productivity improvements.


Click MIT Tech-Review - Productivity's Technology Iceberg

Click Business Week - Where are the jobs?

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I voted - touch-screen - OUCH #!*

On Tuesday 2 March 2004 I voted in the California primary elections.

I signed in to verify that I was who I was. Then I was given a card which I inserted in a slot on the machine, and followed very clear, easy instructions. When I was finished, the card popped out, and I returned it. And I spent the rest of the day wearing a button: "I voted - touch screen".

There was news of machines that didn't work and took hours to repair while voters waited (and many simply left). The machines I saw worked flawlessly; this was much easier than turning pages and punching chads!

BUT, I am still VERY uncomfortable because, as a nerdy geek, I can think of lots of ways to rig the system. It's easy to duplicate and re-write the magnetic cards so that fake voters can go on voting endlessly, to pad the count. And when the database is uploaded off the machine, the count can be rigged - lost, changed, multiplied.

But, most of all, I am concerned that there is NO paper-trail, and NO traceability. In the event of a close election, it would be impossible to prove that a count was not rigged, or have a re-count. Sure, the manufacturer (in this case, Diebold) insists that they have thought of all the possibilities and have made the machines foolproof. But, every response from Diebold screams naiveté!

Electronic voting watchdog Avi Rubin volunteered to serve as an election judge in Super Tuesday balloting - in a precinct that used the Diebold machines. Rubin has posted an account of his daylong adventure. Read his interesting, funny (if it was no so scary) account for yourself (MIT Tech Review weblink below).

With memories of Florida's 2000 election debacle still fresh, this November about 50 million American voters will cast their ballots using electronic voting machines similar to the Diebold machine. Most experts say the machines are vulnerable to glitches and tampering that could make Florida's election difficulties in 2000 look tame.

And THEN what will we do? Ask the Supreme Court to decide who will be President? Again??

Click MIT Tech Review - Electronic Voting: Report from the Trenches

Click SD Union Voting machine glitches concern computer experts

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No winners in the DARPA robot race

15 robots turned up - but nobody won....

Last week - on Saturday, March 13, 2004 - all the autonomous, self-navigating robotic vehicles that were entered in the 150-mile race across the Mojave Desert failed within just a few miles of the start, victims of the rugged terrain, barbed-wire fences and technical glitches. Clearly the technology was not quite ready. And sadly, none could claim the $1 million DARPA prize.

Earlier pre-trials provided a preview of what was to come - some machines would not start, and some simply drove in circles like dogs chasing their tails. 21 teams attempted to qualify, but only seven completed the flat, 1.36-mile obstacle course at a California Speedway. Some were allowed to compete without finishing the pre-trial obstacle course.

Two hours before the start, each entry was given a map of the course that included hundreds of waypoints marked by precise coordinates. Team members were not allowed to steer or touch the robots after they started. All the robots entered relied on global-positioning to orient themselves, and a variety of sensors, lasers, radar and cameras to detect and avoid obstacles.

The odds-on favorites, the Carnegie Mellon University military Humvee, dubbed Sandstorm, was the first to move out smartly just after dawn. It took off at a fair speed over the course, which was covered with boulders and brush. Within 15 minutes, it had covered about seven miles over mostly flat desert, but snapped an axle near the tiny town of Daggett, just over 7 miles from the start.

SciAutomics, sponsored by Elbit Systems, an Israeli manufacturer of off-road vehicles, was the most successful, managing to moved forward 8 miles, before it stopped. Most moved less than a mile before stalling, overturning or running off course. Some spun their wheels, flipped over and encountered rocks and ruts that stymied the sensors and software. A robotic dirt bike toppled just two feet from the starting gate. A six-wheel robot was disqualified after it got tangled in barbed wire. Another entry rolled onto its side several hundred yards from the starting gate. ,p. Virginia Tech's converted golf cart failed within 100 yards of the starting line when its brakes seized up. Other competitors suffered a variety of problems, including stuck brakes and malfunctioning satellite-navigation equipment. The race ended in just about 4 hours, after the final robot became disabled. It looked like a high school experiment gone awry - if it wasn't so disappointing, it would have been funny.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) organized the competition and offered the prize because they need the technology. The Pentagon is trying to meet a congressional mandate to convert a third of its battlefield vehicles to autonomous robots by 2015, to save human lives by moving in advance into hostile territories.

DARPA spent $13 million on the Grand Challenge, while competitors invested several times that cost to develop their entries. But clearly, money was not the motivation. This competition has sparked a level of interest and excitement that is similar to the early Apollo space programs. DARPA will inevitably run the competition again, probably in a couple of years.

Click Robot race suffers quick, ignoble end

Click Robot race fizzles close to starting line

Click $1 Million DARPA Robot Race Ends As All Entries Break Down

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Unwanted e-mail - ISPs & email software share blame

The two most recent viruses, MyDoom and Sobig, rank first and second in terms of the severity and global scope of the damage they caused. These viruses have proved the inadequacies of countermeasures designed to thwart such attacks.

The service providers (AOL, MSN, Earthlink and others) and the email-client software people (Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm Eudora, etc.) are not dealing with the problem as they could and should. They prefer to be greedy - making money by offering "premium" services. The additional revenue seems to be more appealing than the social responsibility of stopping the scourge. While the direct blame lies with the perpetrators, the technology companies are now equally to blame, for failing to do the right thing.

Given the increasing pace of virus development, we are probably going to see even nastier criminal attacks sooner or later. Some predict the rise of "cryptoviruses" - viruses that invade your computer and encrypt all your files, making them unreadable. The only way to get the data back will be to pay a ransom.

Antivirus companies worry about the rising threat of "metamorphic" worms - ones that can shift their characteristics so quickly and radically that antivirus companies cannot recognize them as viruses.

This profusion of viruses has become a national-security issue. There is even a worry that terrorists could launch virus attacks that could cripple networks and telecommunications, sowing confusion - the software version of a physical 9/11 attack.

Security managers beware!

Click Greed: the real reason for Sobig and MyDoom’s "success":

Click The Virus Underground

Click Crypto Virus Warning

Click SMTPi the cure to unwanted e-mail?

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Pinto editorial - the election battle has begun

As we were going to visit with friends the other day, my wife cautioned, "Don't discuss politics or religion with anyone, unless you know beforehand that they agree with you." And here I am, discussing politics again...

The feedback I receive tells me that many of you do agree with me, and encourage me to speak out on political issues. But too, there are others who insist that I should "stick to automation". Some even throw out angry epithets. But, I always answer ALL responses and what makes it worthwhile is that I often learn something new. And I hope too, that those who carefully consider the points I make feel that I have helped.

US voters now face a campaign for the White House that is the most negative and expensive ever. The 8-month contest between President Bush and Democrat John Kerry is already bristling with character attacks and hard-hitting television advertising. A escalating barrage of TV attack-ads is hitting key battleground states and both sides are starting to alienate voters.

Kerry said recently that there are several foreign leaders who have remarked that they hoped Bush would be ousted. Right away the Bush attack dogs came out: Who? What? When? Give us the names! Of course, it wouldn't be right for Kerry to name the leaders of France, Germany and almost every other country in the world that did not join the so-called "coalition" in the war on Iraq.

Consider this: In a recent European poll, George W. Bush was considered the biggest threat to the world's safety, before even Osama bin Laden. Billionaire George Soros last year likened GW Bush to Adolf Hitler. Sounds strange and off base? Read George Soros' article in the Atlantic Monthly (weblink below) - it may explain why he makes that comparison, and is willing to spend tens of millions of his own money to defeat GW Bush. Indeed, he insists that it is the most important thing he has done in his entire life!

America and Americans have long been admired and respected abroad. Today, many other countries consider us brash, intolerant, isolated and war-mongering. I find myself explaining to my international friends that not all Americans are like that.

Now, with the 3/11 terrorist bombings in Madrid, President Bush's "coalition" partner Prime Minister Aznar of Spain lost his job. The new Spanish President immediately decided to pull Spain out of involvement in Iraq, unless the UN takes over. He insists that he is not giving in to the terrorists, but rather acting in response to an overwhelming majority of Spaniards who oppose the war.

President Bush cannot discuss jobs, the economy, health care, social security, the cost of the Iraqi war, the gargantuan deficit. And so he harps only on the fear of terrorism. Plus he sheepishly repeats that Democrats will raise taxes. In reality, a tax increase to reduce the deficit will benefit the majority of Americans, with ONLY the very wealthy paying more.

I'm glad this is election year! I am looking forward to many debates between the candidates. I hope Ralph Nader doesn't muddy the water too much. I am fearful of an electronic-voting-machine fiasco which will "steal" the election yet again. But, I am an idealist, and believe in the fairness and robustness of American democracy. I'm sure that the next 8 months will yield several "smoking guns" to differentiate the candidates in the eyes of an angry electorate.

The attack dogs are barking! Bring 'em on!

Click GOP attack dogs have hit the campaign trail early

Click Poll: Bush 'Biggest Threat to Justice and Peace'

Click Atlantic Monthly: George Soros - The Bubble of American Supremacy

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Jim Hetzer [mailto:Rezteh@aol.com] felt that Tom Peters made some good points. He presents some of his own "hard truths":
    "I disagree with Tom Peters that service jobs are more critical than manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing creates value added, which creates real jobs and real wealth.

    "The larger issue in the global economy is that countries that have traditionally exported raw materials, e.g. Saudi Arabia for oil, are now processing the raw materials into finished goods in their own countries.

    "US companies are not investing in the USA despite the ability of American workers to make up for higher salaries with higher productivity and quality. Management at the top are willing to outsource jobs to get their bonuses and satisfy Wall Street. Perhaps management jobs should be outsourced too!

    "Globalization is going to continue, and we need to level the playing field. The US carries a heavy environmental and safety burden. We need enforce equal rules for outsourced work. And Direct tax incentives must be provided for capital investment in machines and people.

    "The USA still has a wealth of natural resources, energy and people that will permit it to compete in the global market if the capital investment is made to make our factories world class. If we give up, we will deteriorate to the global average wage, which I think is about $2 a day."

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My brother, Jude Pinto [jupin@bom2.vsnl.net.in], a successful Telecomm analyst in Mumbai, India, wrote about the benefits of outsourcing on the other side:
    "Many people, young and old, from America, UK and Europe are coming to India to get jobs. I know a diamond cutter from Antwerp, Belgium, who found he could not match the prices offered by the Indian trade. So he closed his company there and migrated with his family to Mumbai. He has a top job here as a consultant to a large diamond trading company, has a huge bungalow and a fine lifestyle, and is phenomenally well-off by local standards.

    "Places like Bangalore are beginning to have some of the lifestyle characteristics of any top American city. There are now regular visits by rock stars, Formula 1 races, even international sporting events. Migrating to India, where the cost of living is lower and lifestyles are changing for the better, is one way to cope till global wage/price levels adjust to the new realities."

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I had a lotttt of feedback on the topic of gay marriage! Tip Johnson [Tip_Johnson@msn.com], who is single (never married) and not gay, has some interesting insights:
    "The real question is why do gays want to get married? Is it for the sense of equality? Or for the benefits and rights?

    "Because of the limited rights of women in the past and the pressure of society to keep women in the home, we have created special benefits for married couples so that the wife would be taken care of when her husband dies. Now that women have the same rights as men and are welcomed in the workplace, we don't need to subsidize married people with special benefits anymore.

    "We still need to have special benefits for parents, but what's the difference between a married couple without children and a gay couple? If we take away the subsidies for childless married couples would fewer gays want to get married?

    "A person should be able to designate another person, whether they are the same sex or not, as their partner who has the full rights that a married partner has now. Originally the marriage license was the husband's title to his wife - she was considered a piece of property. Isn't it odd that the American Indian requires a dowry from the groom for their daughter (she is seen as an asset) and the Asian Indian requires a dowry from the bride (she is seen as a liability)?"

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