JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 152 : 12 May 2004

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

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The problems of abundance

The technology guru George Gilder has long postulated: "Every economic era is based on a key abundance and a key scarcity." Here are some interesting insights from the futurist Peter de Jager (summarized).

What do traffic jams, obesity and spam have in common? They are all problems caused by abundance. By achieving abundance, technology destroys the natural checks and balances of scarcity.

The human body was designed to survive on scarcity, and it developed over tends of thousands of years. When food was abundant, it was stored as fat to protect against future scarcity. We are now surrounded by an excess of food, and the body still stores energy as fat for lean days - which no longer arrive. Hence, the obesity epidemic.

The automobile made it possible for humans to travel twenty times faster, reducing natural constraints. When it's so easy to travel independently, everyone does it, and causes traffic jams.

The speed and negligible cost of e-mail delivers an abundance of potential customers to anyone with a computer. The huge amount of aggravating spam in your mailbox is a direct result of wide availability of the technology.

There are lots of other examples. People have always copied music, but in limited quantities because copying an audio tape took time, was relatively expensive and the quality wasn't the same. Today, a CD can be copied easily and cheaply, and the quality is the same no matter how many times it's copied. So, the music industry cannot expect to sell music as if it were a scarce resource.

Technology has enabled effortless, inexpensive communication with anyone in the world. It also means that sending work to the other side of the world is much easier, and the cost is greatly reduced. Work is now geographically neutral, so almost any white-collar work is being displaced.

When technology creates abundance, it brings problems which are invulnerable to simplistic solutions. Like genies let loose from the bottle, the new problems are almost impossible to control. Traffic congestion cannot be solved by artificially reducing the speed of traffic, or increasing the cost of driving - through taxation. Obesity cannot be reduced by making food less available. Spam cannot be eliminated by making it difficult and costly to send e-mail. The ratios of abundance are too great to be overcome by artificial restrictions.

Any technology which creates abundance poses problems for any process which existed to benefit from scarcity. The problems with technological are the societal results.

Click Peter de Jager's "The problem with abundance"

Click Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era

Click Scarcity & Abundance - the Inflection Point

Click Wired - The Gilder Paradigm

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WiMax - the next big thing for wireless

Everywhere you turn these days, there seems to be a new way to make a wireless connection: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 3G.

Now there's yet another addition to the wireless alphabet soup, a technology that can transmit data 7 times faster and 1,000 times further than the already popular Wi-Fi systems. Officially called IEEE 802.16 but marketed as WiMax, it's becoming a hot product, thanks to backing from Intel and support from companies like Nokia. The first WiMax gear should be on the market by the end of 2004.

While Wi-Fi hotspots have a radius of about 100 feet, WiMax uses microwave radio technology to span distances as great as 30 miles. That means it could be used as an alternative to copper wire and coaxial cable for connecting homes and businesses to the Internet. If it takes off, WiMax could bring with it a whole new infrastructure, the next telecom revolution.

The real "buzz" about WiMax is that Intel will be shrinking it down to a chip which can be built directly into PCs and laptops. Intel did the same thing for Wi-Fi with its Centrino mobile processor line and helped accelerate the Wi-Fi boom.

WiMax laptops will show up by 2006, letting people get on the Net wirelessly, virtually anywhere - like having Wi-Fi everywhere! Nearly 4 million people will be using "broadband wireless" technology, and annual WiMax revenues could be $2 billion by 2008.

Click Business Week - The next big thing for wireless?

Click WiMax Won't Be Mainstream, Broadcom CTO Says

Click Wi-Fi Enters The Space Race

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Directed sound-beams

A new audio revolution is in the making - the ability to direct a narrow beam of sound. This "directional sound" technique uses an ultrasound emitter to shoot a laser like beam of audible sound so focused that only people inside a narrow path can hear it.

Two inventors seem to have come up with this idea independently on opposite US coats - Elwood "Woody" Norris, who lives just a few miles from my home in San Diego, and Joe Pompei from Boston. Both claim that their version of directional-sound systems will transform acoustics, to capture a new, potential billion-dollar market.

Imagine four people sitting in a car, enjoying four different musical selections or radio broadcasts at once, with no headphones. Think about displays in shopping centers which direct sound to only to one customer at a time. The cacophony of competing sounds in crowded trade shows will be replaced by focused beams of sound confined to specific exhibits. Rather than using a megaphone, a police officer could control crowds by directing orders only at a person creating a disturbance.

Both inventors have the same ultimate goal to replace millions of loudspeakers with directional-sound devices for home entertainment and PC systems, for a start.

These competing inventors are very different from each other. Woody Norris is 65, a maverick with no college degree who started as a radar technician in the US Air Force 40 years ago and has a deep, intuitive understanding of physics and electronics. He keeps inventing all kinds of audio gadgets and starting companies which have made him a millionaire several times over. Woody has worked on what he calls "hypersonic sound" for several years, and has invested tens of millions in its development.

In contrast, the East Coast entrepreneur Joe Pompei is 30, with impressive educational credentials - an EE degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Master's in psychoacoustics at Northwestern University. His "Audio Spotlight" system is his first invention.

It will be interesting to see how these competing inventions develop. My guess is that they'll develop different applications, to generate success in significant new markets. Good luck to them both!

Click Meet Woody Norris

Click Holosonics Audio spotlight - Puts sound where you want it

Click MIT-Tech Review - The Sound War

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Google's supercomputer - the IPO affect

How many computers does Google have? There are estimates in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of servers that scan, analyze and store all the gargantuan mass of web information searched, scanned and analyzed. But there is a better answer - ONE. Google has a single, very large, custom computer. And the goal of that ultimate computer is to "understand everything".

As Google gets ready to sell billions of dollars worth of its stock in its IPO, Perry Marshall predicts:

    "If Google goes public, the world's greatest search engine will be cannibalized and sold for parts. All the wonderful people will suddenly be in a quarterly cycle of indentured slavery to quarterly reports. All the visionaries will be replaced by slave drivers.

    "It won't happen because Google is evil. It will happen because Wall Street is insatiably greedy. Within two years Google will become merely a shell of its old self. And it will lose its popularity and someone else will be king."

Click Newsweek - The Google Supercomputer

Click Business Week - Google's Goal: Understand Everything

Click Read Perry Marshall's "Google Tells Wall Street to Shove It":

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Guest editorial - understanding repeated failures in context

The situation in Iraq is becoming more and more horrific and bizarre. If it does not scale down quickly, it will continue to escalate!

I yield my editorial comments to Michael Tsoukias [zibbo@ev1.net] a patriotic American who serves as a volunteer election judge in Texas. Michael is distressed (as most of us are) about the Iraqi prisoner abuse which had been going on for several months, even after the Red Cross raised the alarm. This behavior shames the overwhelming majority of decent US soldiers who are serving their country bravely:

    "This is yet another administration failure which must be understood in context:
    1. Most of the armed forces consist of young kids who are kept in a closed environment and thus easily fanaticized. This is not an excuse, but an ages-long explanation and should not be news.
    2. During the year before the Iraq invasion, we were subjected to a media onslaught, chiefly on Fox and MSNBC, spearheaded by Cheney, with the message that invading Iraq would avenge Sept. 11, 2001 ("payback time" and similar).
    3. On Sept. 11 itself, the worst security failure in US history occurred. Every one of the security service chiefs (and the military top brass) should have resigned; it was not their fault, but certainly their responsibility and it happened on their watch. No one had the professionalism to do so, and no one was fired either. Instead, they were given astronomical budgets and tyrannical powers which they abuse, with an endless plague of false alarms since then. On that day, in short, we rewarded incompetence and criminal negligence at the top levels. As for Congress, only Sen. McCain, to his great credit, said publicly: "our security agencies have failed and so did Congress, because we're supposed to supervise them".
    4. After Mr. Powell's UN speech this administration has zero credibility anywhere, not only because of the stupid lies that were presented as "compelling proof", but for the ease with which the lies were exposed practically overnight. This was worse than a crime - it was incompetence. Even so, to this day there is no contrition, no sense of anything wrong and all the same people are doing the same things. Congress has indeed failed us in keeping any kind of oversight and the tardy statements coming out of Sen. Biden and others for Rumsfeld's resignation are, I fear, too little and too late.

    "Since when did Saddam Hussein become the moral standard for US conduct ("things were a lot worse under Saddam")? "

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John S. Adams [Jsadams612@cs.com] commented on Dr. Ted Mohns' diagnosis of President Bush:
    "This is characteristic of the stranglehold that Democrats and Republicans have on our political system; not just Bush, who is just a handicapped player in a duopolistic system. One can say the same thing for both parties and most politicians.

    "Dr. Mohns' point can be re-explained as follows: Like an interstate college football rivalry, the two political parties play against each other to create fanatics. These fanatics are often more "anti" than "pro" one party. The issues and parties are reduced to "black and white" and this rivalry only strengthens the stranglehold of Democrats and Republicans on our system. It eliminates any "shades of gray", any alternative parties, from ever making an impact.

    "We will never progress beyond this stranglehold, nor will one party stray too far from the center because they need each other to maintain the stranglehold. There is too much money and power at risk for either party to allow any member to rise above principal. Ross Perot's supporters were more interested in breaking the stranglehold at the executive level than they were fervent about his positions. It almost worked...."

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Ravindra Pisal [Ravindra.Pisal@eeec-in.com] provides some perspectives on electronic voting in India, the world's largest democracy:
    "Elections in India will be held in April and May 2004. The uniqueness of this election will be the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at all the polling booths across the country. EVMs have been already in use in India for sometime but they were used in limited constituencies.

    "This will not only be the first occasion when an exercise of this magnitude has been taken up for the entire country but perhaps anywhere in the world. Approximately 1075,000 EVMs will be deployed and the entire election machinery is being geared for smooth conduct of poll with the EVMs and also educating the electors all over about the manner of recording their votes on EVMs.

    "The Indian Election Commission (known for its impartiality) has a website below) which describes the EVMs in detail. The objectives in using EVMs is to prevent fake voting. Yes there will be incidents like booth capturing in some places but the possibility of mass rigging is reduced to a large extent as the process is of E-Voting needs authentication every time a vote is cast.

    "Compare this with elections in USA where they are still debating the pros and cons of EVMs and trying to educate the voters there. The world still remembers the fiasco of 2000 US presidential election in Florida where, many still believe, the results were manipulated.

    "India is ready for many more firsts and I hope that will definitely set example for rest of the world."

Click Election Commission of India

Click Article which describes the use of eVoting in earlier elections
and the comments of manufacturers about these machines

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James Kulwicki [jkulwick@ford.com] provides a glowing testimonial - thank you!
    "Jim, I just completed reading ( and studying ) your recent ISA book Automation Unplugged. All I can say is wow! It was phenomenal. It was Outstanding - putting into clear perspective all that has happened in the controls and instrument field these past 38 years that I have been a practitioner as well as a learned observer. Your text is the finest business book I have had the pleasure of reading this side of Peter Drucker. Please keep up the great writing and analysis and looking to the future. Thanks!"

Click Read the Contents of "Automation Unplugged"

Click How to buy "Automation Unplugged":

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