JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 86 : May 27, 2002

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

  • Human cloning cannot be stopped
  • Newsweek: Wolfram & Kamen
  • Industrial Automation update - May 2002
    • Invensys soldiers on with expensive debt
    • Rockwell - good news (earnings) & bad news (RIFs)
  • JimPinto.com weblog: log your feedback on key topics
  • eFeedback:
    • More on "creeping criminality"
    • Competitiveness is a result of upbringing
    • Segway is flawed, Kamen is just a promoter

Human cloning cannot be stopped

In the 1930s, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World forecast a society based on clones, with a population optimized for productivity and happiness - humans bred for work, skills, administration, leadership, etc. In this century, that prospect looms.

Major controversy has surrounded the advent of every human reproductive technology, from artificial insemination to in-vitro fertilization. These were also denounced at first; but then they were adapted to serve human procreation needs and ultimately became commonplace practices. Like its forerunners, human cloning will happen - inevitably.

The '97 cloning of a sheep was a milestone. But, the prospect that the same methods might be used to clone human beings has been widely condemned by clerics, ethicists, sociologists and politicians as unethical and socially dangerous.

Clerics of many different faiths attack human cloning as a violation of God’s order; that same objection has countered technology advances since Galileo. Ethicists denounce it as a denial of a unique genetic identity; the same criticism was levied against in-vitro fertilization. Social critics warn that cloning would simply permit the rich to indulge in reproductive egomania, or entrepreneurs to mass-produce superior athletes; but that's not really a deterrent.

Laws banning human cloning have been enacted in 24 countries, including France, Germany, UK India, Japan, South Africa and Brazil. This simply allows other countries, like China, to take the lead.

Human cloning already has many advocates, including those who cannot have children by conventional means. If human cloning is made reliably safe for both mother and child, market demand will soar and likely overpower moral objections. It seems inevitable that human cloning, if made medically safe, will undergo rapid adaptation to human wants and needs. Somehow, DNA manipulation seems like a reasonable alternative to the lottery of the human biological birthing process.

According to polls, most people already support therapeutic human cloning - the creation of cloned embryos for research, particularly on stem cells. Therapeutic cloning today will hasten the arrival of reproductive cloning tomorrow. Even without it, cloning techniques and technology are advancing rapidly. Human cloning research will surely yield still further improvements in safety and reliability. Once human cloning is made physically safe, it will proliferate.

Someday soon, somewhere, a biologist will implant a cloned human embryo in a willing woman’s womb. The demand is already evident. Calls have come from gays and infertile couples who wish to have genetically related children, and from people who want to clone lost children or loved ones.

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. How the child will turn out psychologically and emotionally is anybody’s guess. But that uncertainty will not stop prospective clonal parents, just as similar unknowns have not stopped conventional reproduction.

The first human clone will probably be born outside the US - perhaps in China, where work on human cloning is proceeding. Wherever the child appears, its birth will undoubtedly electrify the world; people will want to know if it remains healthy, and how it develops as it grows to adulthood. One imagines that other cloned children will follow and become commonplace. This will then become a new commodity in the growing emporium of human reproduction.

Click MIT TECH-REVIEW (June 02)- Daniel Kevles: Cloning can't be stopped

Click TIME Magazine: CLONING - A collection of articles

Newsweek compares Wolfram and Kamen

In the last issue of eNews I mentioned that Steven Wolfram's new book A New kind of Science was published on May 14, 2002. Sales of this 1,280-page tome, full of pictures of computer experiments and theories of physics, are going amazingly well - easily Amazon's best ever seller; the 50,000-copy first order was sold out, with more on back-order.

Wolfram’s fierce independence, along with his chronically low opinion of the establishment, led him to a 10-year descent into solitude, from which he emerged only last week with this self-published book in which he claims to literally recast the entire field of science; the universe, he insists, works like a computer. I myself am slogging through the phone-book-size volume, excitedly and painfully. Excitedly because I too am thrilled with the complex patterns generated by simple cellular automata; painfully because Wolfram goes on endlessly on the same theme - I'm still waiting to discover the "new science".

Previously, in several eNews issues, we had covered Dean Kamen's iBOT, and 'Ginger' announced Dec. 2001 as Segway. The two-wheeled self- balancing super scooter has created a national sensation even before it hit the streets - already 22 states have agreed to allow Segways on the sidewalk. On the other hand, there are many that believe that Kamen is nothing more than a promoter of not-so-amazing technology (see Ray Zack's e-feedback below).

Wolfram and Kamen are two larger-than-life people, wealthy mavericks who warp science and technology from their own perspectives. Any discussion of how innovation works might begin by looking at what this disparate pair has accomplished.

The latest Newsweek (May 27, 2002) has a significant article that compares two great minds - Scientist Stephen Wolfram and inventor Dean Kamen. Will these two be known as the 21st century’s most important thinkers? The Newsweek article is easier to read than Wolfram's tome. But, despite what you think of Kamen and his Segway, this Newsweek article puts it all in perspective.

You may not want to struggle with Wolfram's tome, or wish to buy Kamen's Segway - but this Newsweek article is worth reading. Read it!

Click Newsweek - :Great Minds, Great Ideas

Click Website for "The New Kind of Science" - contents, extracts:

Click Review and buy Wolfram's tome

Click Wired: The man who cracked the code to everything

Click Yahoo - full coverage of several Segway news stories

Industrial automation update - May 2002

About half the JimPinto.com eNews subscribers are from the industrial automation business. I have been getting a lot of requests for updates on news-stories about major companies. Here are some of the latest news, stews and views.

Invensys soldiers on with expensive debt

One Invensys employee (name withheld) asked:
    "I noticed that since March you have not had anything to say about Invensys. Why is that? Those of us who work here have noticed, and wonder if our management has 'gotten to you'?"
Pinto response: While I have had some calls from 'management' (who turned out to be lower level marketing-communications lackeys) I have had no direct pressure from the top. Besides, how can they 'get to' me? Truth has no price!

Invensys senior management has never, ever directly disputed any of my comments. Mind you, many Foxboro employees have told me that "management" has been snooping around to see who is subscribed to the JimPinto.com eNews. So, many people have been changing to personal (outside email) subscriptions. However, there are still hundreds of direct Foxboro, APV and Invensys readers on the list. Plus, hundreds of others have received email forwards, and then sign up directly.

Invensys seems to be soldiering on, and those that remain seem to be working hard, nose to the grindstone. The Flowserve acquisition of Flow Controls seems to have gone through, with Invensys retaining a minority stake. Many ex-Invensys employees seem relieved that the saga is over - for them at least.

The latest news is that Compair has been unloaded to Alchemy Partners for a "nominal consideration", with Invensys retaining an 18% share. Here, the term "unloaded" is intentional here since Alchemy are notorious "bottom fishers" - the same people who bought ICS for a song. The name itself is amusing: Alchemy - turning base metals into gold!

Haythornthwaite has raised over $1b (£730m) from the two disposals: Flow controls, sold to US group Flowserve for $535 million, and energy storage $505 million. This helped to reduce debt (which peaked at £3.3b) to manageable proportions. Invensys signed a $1.4b (£1b) loan and saw its shares tumble on concern that the new financing was on punitive terms (175 points above Libor). We can expect more disposals from Invensys, but it is no longer desperate to raise cash and should be able to command decent prices.

Meantime, Invensys shareholders continue to push for restructuring of the board, specifically the departure of chairman and chief culprit of the Yurko decline, Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge. The pompous and egotistical xenophobe must also cope with calls for his resignation as chairman of British Airways. It's simply a matter of months before he is booted from the boards of both companies.

Click UK Independent - Invensys pays high price for £1b loan facility

Click Marshall faces axe at troubled Invensys

Rockwell Automation -
good news (earnings) & bad news (RIFs)

Rockwell Automation reported last week that fiscal third-quarter earnings are expected to improve. But, at what cost? Another debilitating Rockwell RIF (about 70-80 from Cleveland alone, some who have been at Rockwell for decades) happened last week.

Meantime, Rockwell acquired the controller division of Samsung's Mechatronics business located near Seoul, Korea, to form a new business that will operate using the name Rockwell Samsung Automation. In my opinion, this is no big deal: the acquisition is valued at about $20m, and will serve to expand Rockwell Automation presence in the Far East; plusSamsung signs on to be a Rockwell customer for automation products throughout its own manufacturing operations.

I've been asked a hundred times: "Is the Rockwell acquisition by Eaton for real?" Here is my opinion:

As I suggested in previous issues (eNews Dec. 31, 2001; Feb. 27, 2002) Chairman & CEO Don Davis is working diligently towards a sale of Rockwell Automation. The good financial performance (and consequent RIFs) helps to generate a better price. Eaton is a primary contender. Other major companies are "looking"; Siemens and Schneider are probably excluded because of possible anti-trust problems; a rejuvenated Honeywell (under new CEO David Cote) is a possibility, though it's more likely that Honeywell Industrial Automation will itself be divested; Emerson and GE think Rockwell Automation stinks; Danaher may be gutsy enough.

Who else is out there?

Click Weblog (see below) your news and views

Click Rockwell reports second-qtr. results

Click Rockwell Agrees to Purchase Samsung Controller Business

JimPinto.com weblog

You've no doubt heard about the phenomenon of 'blogging' - web-based articles and commentary that are updated regularly with inputs and discussions from anyone (including YOU) who cares to contribute. The value is relatively immediate feedback and interaction that escalates and expands to include an ever-increasing number of participants.

Thank you, Alex Pavloff, for suggesting that JimPinto.com could provide a good weblog.

Now YOU can get involved - with the JimPinto.com Weblog! You can log YOUR comments on the topics discussed in the regular JimPinto.com eNews - or for that matter ANY topic that relates to articles, poems, news, discussions on the JimPinto.com website. Or, bring up a new topic, or question.

Your 'blog' will usually be published the same day on the weblog for that topic. You can read the relatively immediate feedback and commentary from many others, on the same, or similar, or new topics.

Happy blogging! Stay tuned!

Click Go visit the JimPinto.com Weblog

You can 'blog' immediately on the following topics:

Social Commentary:

  • Creeping Criminality
  • The Lure of the Lifestyle
  • Crony Capitalism
  • Soft Solutions for Hard Problems
Industrial Automation Companies:
  • Invensys deline
  • Rockwell for sale
  • Honeywell - what about IAC?
  • Siemens - USA Managers' views
  • Japan automation players


Bob Holland had suggested that a Liberal Arts education was helpful to avoid "creeping criminality". Stan Abbot [Stan.Abbot@Invensys.com] responded:
    "I believe this happens when the focus moves from long-term benefit to the larger unit (such as the family) to short-term self advantage. 'Carpe diem' can mean, 'take advantage of your opportunities', or can be looked at as 'just do it, take care of #1.'

    "Selfishness at the top spawns selfishness at the bottom. And to justify our own self-centeredness we at the bottom don't demand a better attitude at the top. Moral compasses are encouraged everyday to point in a personal, relativistic direction, not toward some larger concept of what is right and wrong.

    "A Liberal Arts education will not resolve the issue. What we can do is adopt a better moral sense in ourselves. Then we can have higher expectations in the areas we can affect. And we can have mercy and grace when our expectations are disappointed, continuing to expect the higher ground."

Jonathan Schacher had complained that the use of offshore design talent is shortsighted. Debbie Miller [dmiller@goldentriangle.com] disagreed:
    "When American parents start making a commitment to their children's education so that young people have marketable skills, then Americans will thrive once again. Sorry, but if a company can get a highly qualified engineer from Asia who willingly works (and does a decent job) for half of what his American counterpart expects, the company should recruit that worker. Don't blame foreigners for the condition of American society. We've done it to ourselves.

    "We may have great ideas and strong entrepreneurs in America, but we have failed to make a commitment to properly educate our youth. The blame lies squarely with the parents. I think our young are in pathetic shape, and it’s not just a minority issue; this applies to youth of all backgrounds.

    "We could learn a few things from the Asian families who encourage learning and prepare their children for future well-paying jobs from the time they are very young. American youth are bred on television and rap. Many are raised by just one parent. These kids aren't even prepared to address ethical questions, questions that will come up when they hit their teens. I think this is because they have a weak education and no spiritual upbringing to simply know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, charity and selfishness.

    "My generation is doing a really poor job of raising the next generation. Don't blame foreigners for the mess we've created!"

My friend, Ray Zack [ZaxFax@aol.com] is convinced that Segway is flawed, and Dean Kamen is nothing but a good promoter:
    "About a year has elapsed since I was seemingly "baying at the moon" regarding lack of substance in the Kamen PR fraud. Kamen, as always, seems to walk away with millions of investors' money.

    "Slowly, as new details are advanced, there are an ever increasing number of technical gurus who now find it safe to repeat the fundamentals I notes more than a year ago. There is nothing quite as useless as being efficient in promoting and producing something that is a tech-marvel, but is basically flawed in its application!"

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