JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 59 : September 3, 2001
Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- Natural born Technohumans
- Robots beat human traders on the stock market
- Microsoft .Net impact on the Automation business
- RIFs, Layoffs & Golden Handshakes
- Try ISAjobs.org to post jobs, or view resumes
- Sign-up for The Harrow Technology Report
- Arthur C. Clarke Scenario: Cloning + memorychip = immortality
- More layoffs at Foxboro
- ERP & DCS are both dinosaurs
More on the technohuman evolution theme, from an article Natural Born Cyborgs by Andy Clark.
As we understand more and more how the brain works, we recognize that
human-mind upgrades have already been taking place over thousands of
years. Technology is simply accelerating the changes.
You might think of your body as totally natural - no silicon chips, no
retinal or cochlear implants, no pacemaker; perhaps you don't even
wear glasses (though you do wear clothes). But, you have already
advanced towards being a cyborg - a technohuman. This hybridization
began with speech and counting, written text and numerals, then early
printing (without moveable typefaces), and then the revolutions of
moveable typefaces and the printing press, and most recently to the
digital encodings that bring text, sound and image into a uniform and
widely transmissible format. Such technologies constitute "mindware"
upgrades, where the effective architecture of the human mind is
altered and transformed. The process of hybridization is continuous.
Society accepts the changes only after they become commonplace. It's
only the speed of change that is disconcerting.
Pretty soon, and still without the need for wires, surgery or bodily
alterations, we shall all be technohuman. Perhaps we already are, not
in the merely superficial sense of combining flesh and wires, but in
the more profound sense of being human-technology symbionts: thinking
and reasoning systems whose minds and selves are spread across
biological brain and non-biological extensions.
The famous Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote:
The wheel is an extension of the foot
The book is an extension of the eye
The clothing is an extension of the skin
Electric circuits are an extension of the nervous system
The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act - the way we perceive the world
We are all already "technohuman"......
Andy Clark’s fascinating article Natural Born Cyborgs
Read more Marshall McLuhan
Robots beat human traders in commodities trading
Robots can make more money than people when they trade commodities. An
IBM Research team's results could have a much greater impact than the
famous victory of the Deep Blue supercomputer over chess champion
Kasparov. The impact might be measured in billions of dollars
A commodities trader buys and sells goods, which are usually
agricultural or mineral-based, like pork bellies or gold. Their aim is
to buy low and sell high. Robotic trading agents have never competed
against people before a recent IBM test, when software-based robotic
trading agents - known as "bots" - made seven per cent more cash than
Both bots and people had the same set-up, allowing them to trade
through an unbiased software-based auctioneer. The auction was
designed to mimic the kind of commodities market where buyers and
sellers have a fixed amount of time to trade in a single commodity.
The goal was to maximize their profit at the end of trading.
The bots used very basic strategies. Some tried to make better offers
incrementally, in the hope that they could strike a deal, while a more
successful version tried to work out the best price to trade at, by
calculating its probability of success based on the form. In any
event, the bots won by a good margin.
The developers point out that these early robotic agents are very
simple. One wonders what future developments will bring in this
direction, and how those "robot traders" would have done in the stock
market debacle this past week.
Robots beat human commodity traders
Microsoft XP and .NET - impact on industrial automation
The introduction of Microsoft Windows XP and .NET and the impact on
industrial automation has generated a hot discussion on the Automation
List. We have summarized the comments of marketing-guru Walt Boyes
Microsoft has terrified most IT professionals with the new "reporting"
and "authorizing" features of Windows XP and .Net. There is no way
that any sensible business will install an operating system that gives
outsiders access to internal documents, for whatever purported
benefit. It doesn't matter how "cool" .NET is. For the immediate
future, it seems that "Microstupid" has shot themselves in the foot.
In the near term, people will continue to use the tools they've
already been using, because THEY WORK WELL ENOUGH to do factory floor
projects. Lots of people are using Microsoft's most stable platform,
Windows NT4/SP6a, and they will continue to write ODBC and driver
library hooks for the integration to SCM and ERP systems. Why should
Development costs money. In a time when all of the major automation
companies are reporting reduced revenues, and all but two of the
majors are in deep financial trouble, and at least three of them are
in danger of destruction, there is nobody who is spending any
significant amounts on R&D. Add to this the intense development work
going on in the open source community, and you can only begin to get a
picture of a seriously fragmented situation becoming even more fluid.
Walt Boyes is co-author of "e-Business in Manufacturing: Putting the
Internet to Work in the Industrial Enterprise" ISA Press - Sept. 2001, ISBN:1-55617-758-5.
Send eMail to Walt Boyes: email@example.com
Go to the Automation List discussion on this important topic
RIFs, layoffs and golden handshakes
In the past, the industrial automation business was stable - unlike
the up-today-down-tomorrow high-tech stars and the dot.com darlings.
However, these days big layoffs seem to be the only solution the
current leaders of major automation companies seem to be able to come
There are several expressions used to make the nasty job of layoffs
more palatable - cutback, downsizing, reduction-in-force (RIF) are the
most common. When a revenue slump occurs - and continues - downsizing
is inevitable. The first cut is usually to eliminate marginal people -
those who are clearly not contributing. But, what happens after that?
When does a company hurt itself by letting good people go? Think
about this : When your colleague is RIFd, it's a Recession; when YOU
are RIFd it's a Depression!
My friend Bob Tutelman provided Robert's RIF Rules:
Most employees who are let-go are given "the standard company
severance package". In the US, it is usually a week per year of
service; in European countries it’s typically more.
- RIF 1: Liposuction
- RIF 2: Amputation
- RIF 3: Dismemberment
But, the deposed CEO, the one supposedly responsible for leading the
company into decline, usually walks away with a "golden handshake: a
big lump-sum payment equivalent to several years of his
"compensation", plus possibly a pension and continuation of benefits.
Here are my Gorilla's Golden Guidelines :
(Hey! Notice the Pinto-P-alliteration - I didn't do it; it simply
flowed from my keyboard...)
Great article by Rich Merritt - Layoff the Layoffs
- GGG 1: Plant your buddies on the board.
- GGG 2: Praise yourself and blame everyone else for poor performance.
- GGG 3: Predict your exit, prepare your parachute, pull the ripcord.
InTech August 2001 - Slaying the Downsizing Dragon
Honeywell to pay Bonsignore $9 million severance plus benefits
Allen Yurko gets $7m when he departs Invensys
Jobs & Resumes on line at ISAjobs.org
For all industries that use instrumentation, systems, and automation,
ISAJobs.org is the first place to post employment opportunities and/or
view resumes of ISA Members who are available. Whether you seek a PLC
expert or a sales manager for your new line of wireless control
devices, ISA Members are the professionals you are looking for,
If you have open positions right now, go to ISAjobs.org. Post as many
jobs as you like FREE between now and 31 October. Just enter coupon
number F1001 when you get to the payment screen.
Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Harrow Technology Report
You might know Jeffrey Harrow from his years of having authored the
popular technology newsletter RCFoC - Compaq's Rapidly Changing Face
Now Jeff Harrow has struck out on his own as a technology consultant.
He will keep you informed of what he is doing on his new website (no
affiliation with Compaq). This will also be the hub of how he can
share his continuing insights into the worlds of computing and
technology that surround us.
Sign-up (free) for The Harrow Technology Report
Archive of previous RCFoC - Oct. '96 onward
On the Technohuman theme, Tom Nelson [email@example.com] from
Sturtevant, Wisconsin (USA) brought up the plausible biotech scenario
from Arthur C. Clarke's 1996 book: Richter 10:
"Arthur Clarke wound together two easily conceivable technologies that
would lead to virtual immortality. One technology is cloning.
Independent of moral issues, there is no doubt that in the near future
we will be able to clone ourselves. The second technology is the
ongoing march toward increased miniaturization of microchips and their
related huge storage capacity.
"Clarke's scenario is this: We will be able to implant in our brain a
microchip socket and it's chip to store and retrieve life's memory; a
sort of carbon-to-silicon-interface RAM drive. The chip will contain
all our memories with the capacity for several lifetimes. We will
learn to address the memory through our carbon based RAM.
"People will clone themselves at desired intervals and then transfer
the chip from the old self to the new. Repeat the process every 40 -
50 years or affordable intervals. Life, in some sort of existence,
could go on forever."
A former Foxboro employee who "pulled the ripcord in December 2000"
sent this news on Wednesday, August 29, just before Memorial day:
"Layoffs again at Foxboro today. So far there are 25 permanent
employees terminated, 3 transfers, and 16 technical writers who were
contract labor. The layoffs affected Systems Hardware and Software
Development and Product Support, Documentation, PCB Design and
Corporate Quality Assurance. This cripples support for their small,
but highly profitable, nuclear industry product lines. There will be a
total of 100 people terminated when all is through this week."
On the previous Invensys (which owns Foxboro) acquisition of Baan, a
somewhat disillusioned engineer complained:
"Invensys may actually succeed with Baan... After all, configuring a
@#% ERP system is the same as configuring a @#%() DCS. I compare
the work I do with Baan similar in nature to the work I used do on a
Foxboro DCS. Boring, overkill for most situations, and not very
flexible or agile. Components do not work out of the box. But hey,
you can make lots of money selling services to configure and deploy
"So there may be a good fit in combining an ERP company with a DCS
company. Both are dinosaurs...."
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