JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 85 : May 17, 2002
Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- The education of GE's Jeff Inmelt
- Machines are filling in for human soldiers
- Wolfram's long-awaited book - "A new kind of science"
- Webshots - digital photos on your desktop
- Poem - Angel Angles
- Comments on 'Creeping Criminality'
- 'Soft walls' technology cannot be used for aircraft control
- View of Siemens from Australia
The education of GE's Jeff Inmelt
The Jack Welch era is history. Through his failed attempt to acquire
Honeywell and his latest romantic escapades, Jack Welch himself has
lost some of the admiration that he had seemingly deserved in the
past. For GE, the Welch era is a glamorous artifact of a corporate
world that no longer exists. Now, GE is a whole new ball game.
During his short tenure as chairman and CEO of GE, Jeff Inmelt has
been struggling. Despite a sagging economy, GE was delivering a solid
17% earnings increase - before accounting changes. Spooked by the
implosion of Enron, and accounting scandals at Tyco, investors bailed
because of flat revenues and GE's cautious outlook. GE shares have
Jeff Immelt's rite of passage as CEO had been meticulously planned;
he spent almost two decades apprenticing for the job. He was to be
Jack Welch's final legacy. But sadly, many of the challenges Inmelt
faces are not the ones he prepared for.
Business Week : The education of Jeff Inmelt
Machines are filling in for soldiers
In some key arenas, soldiers are being replaced by machines - with
sensors and weapons that can be operated by remote control or are
autonomous. These new robotic weapons can function as heat detectors,
radar, cameras, and microphones; they can reveal decoys, pierce
camouflage, operate in darkness and bad weather, do video
surveillance, and detect enemy vehicles. They are smaller, lighter,
cheaper, more fuel efficient, and easier to move. Robots are better
at tedious, time-consuming tasks and can be deployed for missions
that could cause harm to humans.
Remember Rodney Brooks of the MIT Robot Lab (eNews 7 Feb 02 and
27 March 02)? His company iRobot has a US Defense contract to build
a robot, about the size of a suitcase, which can climb stairs, crawl
over ditches, survive three-story falls. Instead of carrying bombs,
this robot has eyes and ears, transmitting what it sees and hears over
a wireless link. This is a "Packbot" which can be thrown into a vehicle
and then hurled through windows of buildings where the enemy may have
And too, there is the robotic war correspondent. The "Afghan Explorer"
looks like a cross between a lawnmower and a robotic dog and has been
designed to travel to war zones to provide images, sound and
interviews from hostile environments that are off-limits to human
NY Times Science: Machines are filling in for troops
MIT Tech Review: The Robots are coming
BBC News: Robo-Reporter Goes to War
Wolfram's book is here!
In a previous JimPinto.com eNews (Jan. 01, 2001) we featured the
Stephen Wolfram story : "God, Stephen Wolfram & everything else."
This week (May 14, 02) Wolfram's long-awaited book "A New Kind of
Science" was published. Wolfram has spent more than ten years
writing this book in which he presents what he describes as
"dramatic discoveries" based on his experiments with cellular automata.
Stephen Wolfram, the genius creator of Mathematica software, has been
investigating the potential role of cellular automata as a universal
computer capable of producing patterns for everything from quasars to
bumblebees, hurricanes, stock markets, and rose petals. The book
addresses a wide array of fundamental issues in science, from the
origins of apparent randomness in physical systems to the development
of complexity in biology, the possibility of an algorithmic theory of
physics, the interplay between free will and determinism, and the
nature of intelligence in the universe.
Wolfram insists that his book is sure to become a landmark in the
history of modern science. He says, "I've discovered that some of
the very simplest imaginable computer programs can do things as complex
as anything in our whole universe. Understanding this point seems to be
the key to a whole new way of thinking about a lot of very fundamental
questions in science and elsewhere."
Is Wolfram's assessment of his own work correct? Ray Kurzweil's
comprehensive review of Wolfram's 1,200 page treatise was published
at 12:01 am on May 14 when the reviewer embargo was lifted.
Ray Kurzweil's review of Wolfram's book
Wolfram's A New Kind of Science - website
Review & buy the book from Amazon
Webshots - digital photos on your desktop
Hey! What do YOU do with those hundreds of digital photos you take
on that nifty little digital camera?
That little LCD screen on the camera itself is too small for more
than a squint. So how do you show your pictures? When you do have
access to your large desktop computer screen, how do you cycle
through the pictures?
Well, I found a nice way to put the digital photos from our recent
Caribbean cruise on our home computer. It is called Webshots
- and I'm sure you'll like it too!
The best pictures are cycled as the desktop background. The complete
set of photos cycle through as the screen-saver, with an adjustable
time-cycle. All the pictures are automatically resized to fill the
screen. When we get bored with seeing those, we can quickly switch
to pictures from previous vacations, parties, picnics or weddings.
Webshots is a freeware program which you can download quickly. Within
a couple of minutes, you can show off as many of those pictures as you
want, right on your computer.
There are about 4,000 "angel" investors in the US. These are not
venture-capitalists - professional investors using funds obtained
from other sources. Angels are private individuals who invest their
own money as seed capital in early-stage companies that catch their
interest and help to accelerate them to market leadership.
I am a member of the San Diego Tech Coast Angels, a group of
S. California private investors with affiliates in Orange County
and Los Angeles.
Who are these "angels" anyway? And why do they invest? You might enjoy
the poem I wrote for the CONNECT newsletter, published May 14, 2002.
The inventor is getting pretty close to the end
Read the full poem - Angel Angles
All tapped out and in need of a friend
The prototype is already built
The home is mortgaged up to the hilt
The market is big
For this thingamajig
But they’re out of money and the plan disentangles
What they need is some angel angles
Visit the TechCoastAngels website
My essay on Creeping Criminality brought these comments from
Bob Holland [email@example.com]:
"From a historical perspective, what you describe is not new to our
species. We see evidence of the same underlying behaviors going right
back in history to the earliest foundations of civilization.
A craving for status and wealth is endemic in virtually all human
societies. Only the level of organization of the society seems to
dictate a difference in the degree of 'creeping criminality'.
Jake Brodsky [firstname.lastname@example.org], a licensed and instrument rated
Private Pilot for many years, commented on "soft wall" technology
to prevent aircraft from flying into restricted areas.
"Hunter gatherers were mostly very strong believers in the equality
of their fellows and were often satisfied with status symbols that
were insignificant compared to those of, for instance, some American
CEOs. Only when agriculture allowed us to increase our population
density enough to create multi-level societies do we see evidence of
creeping criminality on a large scale. But even so, it existed 5000
years ago, and was little different than what you describe.
So "insidious wealth addiction" (greed) is part of human nature.
"Your closing thought posits the question of what can be done about
this, but offers no answers. So let me throw one out: Liberal Arts
Education. The Arts celebrate, overwhelmingly, what's good, true and
universal in man. By studying them, and including a healthy dose of
the sciences, and disciplines like psychology and history, we are
exposed to different sets of values than those you identify as being
the root cause of creeping criminality. I am personally appalled
at the incredible reduction in liberal arts education programs that
has occurred in my lifetime. Perhaps there exists a correlation:
liberal arts in our public schools and colleges down - creeping
"This is NOT the answer. Aviation databases are notorious for the
rate at which they are updated, and for the outright errors. The
database for the GPS navigation receiver in my airplane has to be
updated EVERY 28 DAYS. And even then, I still have to sort through
lists of updates as long as my arm before filing an instrument
An ex-Siemens executive (name withheld - "it may unwittingly offend
some of my German friends") provided these insights from his time
with Siemens in Australia:
"Now, imagine your aircraft with the panic button. How do we even
know that the information is good? What if someone decided to wreak
havoc by putting errors in the navigation database?
"What you've done is move the risk area from one place to another.
I'd rather have a real human being in the cockpit who can override
this nonsense, than to have a passenger who can't do a damned thing
about his predicament. Wouldn't you rather place your trust in a flesh
and blood pilot in the cockpit - one whose fate will probably be the
same as yours if there is a screw up?
"Another problem: Navigation systems themselves are fallible.
Did I mention how many aircraft are struck by lightning every year?
It's much higher than you think. And yes, there often is damage to
all sorts of instruments on board. That's why there are redundant
systems. However, it takes a human being to know which ones are
real and which ones are broken."
"I was with the major exodus of Siemens employees in Australia when
they shut down their Industrial Services division. Your comments
on German/Japanese companies therefore caught my attention as a
former Siemens employee.
"I couldn't help but sense that many of the German Siemens management
I met who were visiting the Antipodes were viewing us as "inferiors"
to be looked down upon. I could only think how out of place it was.
None of the German staff in Australia were like that fortunately,
and I am grateful for these friendships that have continued beyond
my time there.
"Another observation was of a meeting that took place in Berlin with
about 500 senior management from around the world. They were told
by 'the Fuehrer' that if they did not improve their game, they would
experience 'disposition'. They were also told that the reason why
they were not meeting their sales was not that the targets were too
high, but rather because they were not using the approved 'Top Plus'
strategy. I was amazed that one could ignore a global meltdown in
the technology industry, and blame subordinates.
"It was also sad to see that 'the Fuehrer' was not modeling the
success that he was expecting of his senior managers. In true
autocratic style, one manager was interviewed after the bashing they
all received, and said: 'I was encouraged to learn that we can do it.'
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