The Coming Tech-led Boom

30. January 2012

Date: 30-01-2012
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Three breakthroughs are poised to transform this century as much as telephony and electricity did the last.

In January 1912, the United States emerged from a two-year recession. Nineteen more followed—along with a century of phenomenal economic growth. Americans in real terms are 700% wealthier today.

In hindsight it seems obvious that emerging technologies circa 1912—electrification, telephony, the dawn of the automobile age, the invention of stainless steel and the radio amplifier—would foster such growth. Yet even knowledgeable contemporary observers failed to grasp their transformational power.

In January 2012, we sit again on the cusp of three grand technological transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century. All find their epicenters in America: big data, smart manufacturing and the wireless revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

One country, two revolutions

24. October 2011

Tom Friedman, NYT. 23-10.

The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven by the convergence of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga — with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and Web-enabled smartphones and “the cloud” — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.

Marc Benioff, the founder of, a cloud-based software provider, describes this phase of the I.T. revolution with the acronym SOCIAL. S, he says, is for speed — everything is now happening faster. O, he says, stands for open. If you don’t have an open environment inside your company or country, these new tools will blow you wide open. C is for collaboration because this revolution enables people to organize themselves within companies and societies into loosely coupled teams to take on any kind of challenges — from designing a new product to taking down a government. I is for individuals, who are able to reach around the globe to start something or collaborate on something farther, faster, deeper, cheaper than ever before — as individuals. A is for alignment. “There has never been a more important time to have all your ships sailing in the same direction,” said Benioff. “The power of social media is that it is easier than ever to both articulate, and reinforce, the vision and values that create and inspire alignment.” And L is for the leadership that does that. Leadership in a SOCIAL world has to be a mix of bottom-up and top-down. Leaders need to inspire, enable and empower everything coming up from below in a company or a social movement and then edit and sculpt it with a vision from above into a final product.

Read the whole article:

Something is Happening Here

12. October 2011

Date: 12-10-2011


When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining. There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of “The Great Disruption.” The other says that this is all part of “The Big Shift.” You decide. 

Read further:

Missverständnisse: Anglo-EU Translation Guide

26. May 2011

Getting Ahead of the Curve in a World of Cascading Crises

4. December 2010

  Date: 03-12-2010
 Source: Technology Review

 How scenario planning and forecasting tools can help organizations prepare for the worst—or seize entirely new opportunities.

 Four years ago, the threat of an avian-flu pandemic catapulted up the agenda of governments, global health agencies, and companies. The outbreak of an earlier virus, which caused a disease called SARS, had illuminated what a fast-spreading global virus could do to travel, commerce, and public well-being. As a shipping company, UPS took the flu warnings seriously. The head of strategy assembled 20 managers from different areas of the company for several workshops that explored how the disease might affect UPS’s ability to serve its customers. The objective was to examine and rehearse responses to various scenarios. Participants came up with five of them, each of which described the possible origins of a pandemic, the consequences, and the contingency plans that UPS might implement.

Luckily, the avian-flu pandemic did not materialize. But in April of 2010, an unknown (and unpronounceable) little volcano in Iceland began spewing tons of ash into the air, disrupting travel across Europe and forcing the UPS air hub in Cologne, Germany, to shut down. UPS recognized that just as in some of the pandemic scenarios, air travel would be impossible in certain regions. And because it understood the consequences, it was able to work backwards, adapting its flu contingency plans to the volcanic eruption. The company rerouted flights from affected European hubs to Istanbul, Turkey, and directed its network of trucks to deliver packages over long distances on the ground. Service was not interrupted. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rational Optimist

30. November 2010
Bill Gates

The science writer Matt Ridley made his reputation with books like “The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature” and “Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.” His latest book, “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” is much broader, as its title suggests. Its subject is the history of humanity, focusing on why our species has succeeded and how we should think about the future.

Although I strongly disagree with what Mr. Ridley says in these pages about some of the critical issues facing the world today, his wider narrative is based on two ideas that are very important and powerful.

The first is that the key to rising prosperity over the course of human history has been the exchange of goods. This may not seem like a very original point, but Mr. Ridley takes the concept much further than previous writers. He argues that our success as a species, as opposed to earlier hominids, resulted from innate characteristics that allowed us to trade. Not long after Homo sapiens emerged, we were using rare objects, like obsidian blades, far away from the source materials needed to produce them. This suggests that large numbers of commercial links were established even at the hunter-gatherer stage of our development.

Mr. Ridley gives many examples of how exchange allowed groups to thrive, by enabling them, for example, to acquire fish hooks or sewing needles. He also points out that even the most primitive human groups today are open to exchange. I’ve always thought this openness was surprising, considering the risks involved, but Mr. Ridley convincingly describes its adaptive value.

Exchange has improved the human condition through the movement not only of goods but also of ideas. Unsurprisingly, given his background in genetics, Mr. Ridley compares this intermingling of ideas with the intermingling of genes in reproduction. In both cases, he sees the process as leading, ultimately, to the selection and development of the best offspring.

The second key idea in the book is, of course, “rational optimism.” Read the rest of this entry »

Too Many Hamburgers?

22. September 2010

  Date: 22-09-2010
To visit China today as an American is to compare and to be compared. And from the very opening session of this year’s World Economic Forum here in Tianjin, our Chinese hosts did not hesitate to do some comparing. China’s CCTV aired a skit showing four children — one wearing the Chinese flag, another the American, another the Indian, and another the Brazilian — getting ready to run a race. Before they take off, the American child, “Anthony,” boasts that he will win “because I always win,” and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. “Now is our chance to overtake him for the first time!” shouts the Chinese child. “What’s wrong with Anthony?” asks another. “He is overweight and flabby,” says another child. “He ate too many hamburgers.”

That is how they see us. Read the rest of this entry »