Smart bombs

We live in a new world order now and China is extending its reach throughout the world, and Europe and the US have a different hegemony. India is trying to be recognized as the new kid on the block and carve out a piece of its own territory in South Asia. With Pakistan and China as neighbors it has not been easy and tensions still prevail beneath the surface, of deep cracks in the psyche of the nation from past wars. To rise above these and to find its rightful place in the nations of earth the Indian society has to change and adopt a more nationalistic stance. Only a strong nation can survive and there is much work to be done after decades of neglect of real world capabilities. The world has advanced and now India must put its best brains and capabilities into becoming a world player.

I recently read, “The Indian ‘smart anti-airfield weapon’ (SAAW), developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI), other labs and the Indian Air Force, was fired from an air force aircraft.” It has the capability of striking targets within a range of a 100 KMs without crossing the Indian border, with great precision. It can deliver enough of a payload to incapacitate, an enemy’s air capabilities. The development of smart bombs is just the start of the program, as India has a lot of catching up to do. Sadly its defense systems, need modernization on a massive scale. Big data capabilities, artificial intelligence, enhanced internet capabilities, smart weapons, and electronic surveillance are all part of the brave new world. India needs to step up its game to excel in these fields.

The planned build out of the capabilities of the Indian Defense forces, will be a major economic driver for South Asia. If done properly, it will provide much needed investment, labor and scientific development, using indigenous resources. The door for foreign partners is shyly opening up, and will become in the next few decades, a major opportunity for global defense industry corporations. The defense of the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean are at stake, and India has to develop the capabilities to project force, over greater distances. With its great rocket capabilities it now has to augments its ability, to deliver force to face any external force. Only the Air Force can ensure superiority on the battlefield, so any enhancement of their capabilities; is a step, in the right direction. For South Asia to emerge from its shell, India has to play a key role in ensuring, a safe and secure nation.

The race for the future of humanity

Everywhere I look I see new corporations that did not exist a few decades away leading the charge for the future of humanity. While the middle class in America is very troubled at its shrinking future, there are other areas where America is truly great and continues to flourish and make billion dollar enterprises, with some approaching trillion dollar valuations. The rise of Trump and his denial of climate change, and attempts at reviving coal and fossil fuels,, and the new age successful entrepreneurs embracing green energy and reducing emissions, is a dichotomy approaching loggerheads with each other. People have voted for security as he has fanned their base fears of an existential threat, to our way of life, saying only he can help fix it. The five principles mentioned above by PWC show exponential progress is possible, from our current human condition.

Let us examine the new trends and see if in this time of great change in human existence, to understand if there any hope, for a brighter future. Firstly people in the rust belt are right as the mass secure employment offered by huge assembly lines, and the manufacturing era, is fast vanishing. Automation and robotics are fast replacing manual labor. An example is that the latest steel plant in Germany producing high value products, is run by just 11 people, monitoring all the production on video screens and sensors. The era of the rugged steel worker facing scalding smelting pots, in Andrew Carnegie’s and J P Morgan’s US Steel is now officially over. Machines will carry out the labors repeatedly and with lesser errors, than men and women doing physical labor.

Manufacturing and mining jobs are taking a hit as new systems and machines evolve. The new auto factories have armies of robots doing repetitive tasks, like welding and painting with great precision, 24 hours a day. Machine learning is making the machines ever smarter every day, and they are able to see, feel, adapt and repeat with increased precision and productivity. The glory days of manual human labor is receding and machines are making our lives easier, by doing the work that caused endless repetition and back breaking work, by our fellow beings. We will enjoy the fruits of these advanced machines making products ever faster and more economically; and designers, engineers and visionaries will use the machines to produce products just in time, to meet our needs. Rosy the riveter is now a machine.

Logistics is going through a sea change from what it was, and what it will become. If we go to a modern warehouse we find that increasingly there are no men riding forklifts ferrying pallets and goods, across racked spaces and trying to keep track from memory, where the goods are. Now sophisticated robots store and retrieve goods in huge cavernous spaces, where only sophisticated computers remember where each barcoded or RFD item is stored. Where hundreds worked in labor daily, now a handful monitor and program the arrival and departure of goods. The development of autonomous trucking, will further remove the thousands of drivers, who drive through the night to make a living and keep our stores full. Even the railroads will become autonomous, as trains will move through automated signals and routing, day and night with no human error.

In agriculture there are fewer people on the farms, as the new machines are computerized wonders. A modern farmer can single handed do what took hundreds toiling day and night in the fields in the last century. The seeds are genetically improved – a process going on since the Inca and the Maya’s improved corn, by selectively cross breeding large grasses, into what we know today. Cotton production in India improved substantially as an example, from using the new seeds. Pest resistant, drought resistant varieties help farmers to ensure a good harvest, where previously the weather gods and nature dictated the outcomes of an year’s work. New drip irrigation techniques and fertilizer application optimization, is leading to greener farming, with less run offs and environmental damage. We can fight the change, but it is surely coming, as we will need to feed 7 plus billion humans soon with a more nutritious, healthy and assured diet.

The Service sector is the mainstay of any modern society and the changes here are probably the most visible, to the ordinary man or woman on the street. Communication devices have become smaller, smarter and ubiquitous. The ability to mass produce and ensure communication seamlessly globally, is a modern reality and some of the greatest minds are working tirelessly, to make it even better. Modern banking and the cashless society are becoming a reality. The middle men are being squeezed out of the supply chains and the managing of money and assets as machines do not make mistakes and follow instructions instantaneously. Global trade and services will continue to improve despite all national efforts, to control things at our border, as it is becoming a flat world with economies of productivity going, to the lowest cost producers.

Finally our homes and cities are changing at an increasing pace. iRobots, electronic washing machines, fridges, internet connected lighting systems, are all examples of how small machines, can save the drudgery of housework. The Internet of things is developing faster than imagined and the digitization of society will proceed at a faster pace. Our grandchildren will wonder why we owned cars and drove polluting vehicles in our cities killing thousands in preventable accidents. Even our music and entertainment is now delivered 24 hours a day long as we have a connected device and can watch sitting in our own homes. Meals and produce is going to be delivered on order seamlessly and no physical cash or human interaction will be required as drones deliver to our doorstep. We will order from the likes of Alexa and the bounty of our universe, will come to us. Smart cities will emerge making life easier for our citizens.

Even Financial institutions as we know them with their great bastions of secure banking and physical assets and authentication, are changing fast. Blockchain authentication and digital transactions will be at our fingertips and devices. A visit to the bank for doing a transaction will be unknown to our Grandchildren, as the new financial systems and crypto currency evolve. The thousands of bank tellers and service personnel, will be replaced by machines and sophisticated authentication system. Crony capitalism will stand exposed, as markets and transactions become more transparent, and regulators will shrink in number, replaced by ever vigilant machines and systems.

So to conclude the middle class is in a grave danger of shrinking as the jobs of today, will be gone tomorrow, in huge numbers. Yet I have full faith in humanity and the human spirit, as we are more capable than the machines, which will replace us. We will rise to even a better future for our human race as we will find better things to do, than the drudgery of some of today’s jobs. The five principles outlined above will guide us to a better future, as technology will be a great enabler. I remain optimistic that we can and must do better, for ourselves and our grandchildren. We will have to reskill the workforce to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s humans, and that race is now on in earnest. .

Power will flow to enterprises that embrace automation, reduce internal costs, make better use of advanced devices, design modularity into their products and services, and participate in blockchain-style verification systems.’ By John Sviokly who is a principal and U.S. marketing leader at PwC, where he also works with clients on strategy and innovation. He is the head of the Global Thought Leadership Institute.

Hard decisions and stronger actions needed

 

Indian GDP growth has picked up, as is clear from the chart and will continue to grow. Unfortunately “in 2011, Transparency International ranked India at 95th place amongst 183 countries in perceived levels of public sector corruption and in 2014, India saw a reduction in corruption and improved the ranking to 85th place. India’s absence rates are one of the worst in the world; one study found that 25% of public sector teachers and 40% of government owned public sector medical workers could not be found at the workplace.” The new government has taken numerous steps to remove corruption and increase its ability to deliver money directly to its citizens, thereby avoiding all middle men.

Arun Jaitley the Finance Minister of India tried to explain the recent de-monetization and other governmental actions, “Expenditure required for poverty eradication, national security and economic development have to be compromised with on account of tax non-compliances. For seven decades the Indian “normal” has been to undertake transactions partly in cash and partly in cheque. “Pucca” and “Kachha” accounts are a part of the business language. Tax evasion has been considered as neither unethical nor immoral. It was just a way of life.” At the height of this national tax avoidance mind set, tax avoidance became the most exacting science in India; as in 2015, only 24 lakhs (2.4 million out of a billion) declared income above Rs.10 lakhs ($ 15,000).

He went on to explain with the deposit exceeding 12 trillion rupees, “Not only has the money lost is anonymity, it’s owners, after being taxed, are entitled to put it to more effective uses. The size of the banking transactions and consequently the size of the economy is bound to increase. In the medium and long run, the GDP would be bigger and cleaner. Money entering into the banking system and officially transacted would give an ample scope for higher taxation – both direct and indirect. The Centre and the State Governments would both stand to gain. The economy would also be serviced by both cash and highly digitized transactions.”

He continued, “The Prime Minister was being futuristic, and thinking of a more modern, technology driven cleaner economy. He is now speaking of cleaning the political funding systems. His opponents want a cash dominated, cash generating and cash exchange system to continue”

I agree largely with the intent of the Benami Act to stop corruption and the various other measures like De-Monetization; and use of Pan and Adhar or electronic IDs, to facilitate digital payments. Modernization at the source will increase transparency and increase usage of the modern banking and digital economy. With reform of the indirect taxation later with GST, taxation at the sales points will be easier to enforce, and unite the nation under one law. The foundation of India as an economic powerhouse is being carved out anbd new paths beiung laid out for its economy. The new laws are being enforced, to drive the spending of vast amounts of money, on education, healthcare, infrastructure and poverty eradication, that India truly needs. Too long has the shadow economy kept the nation back, as bribery and tax avoidance, became part of the national character. It is time that the soft state economy, face a hard reality, that its time has come. The Indian economy is growing and will continue to grow for decades, and it is up to its government, to come up with enlightened economic reforms.

My hope is that the Indian populace and its leaders, continue to find the means to improve the joy of their citizens. There is enough work to do for the next century, and level headed down to earth leadership, is required for progress. This government at least has ideas, and is risking its future, in carrying them out.  It is time to change all that old ‘normal’ and break through to the new reality of increased productivity and ease of doing business. Thank god there are some much needed leaders, who are ready to sacrifice their people to hardship and inconvenience. Let us see what the next budget lays out, as it may be one of the more important ones, in a long time. We need some hard decisions and stronger actions, to continue to make the foundation, for the twenty first century where finally India emerges as a great nation. Henry Miller once said “One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one” -Henry Miller, writer (26 Dec 1891-1980)

Diabolical schemes

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To read some of the reactions of the opposition in India one would imagine that the current ruling BJP party has unleashed diabolical schemes, to crush the poor farmer and the common man. Financial tyranny has been unleashed and the suffering is unimaginable, and the GDP growth is soon going into a black hole. The preposterous idea that untaxed wealth somehow benefits the poor by reducing bust\boom cycles is ludicrous. The cashless society based on digital transactions is coming to India, at a whirlwind pace and green shoots, are coming up everywhere. Indian jugaad or the spirit of the people to manage all hardships, and still survive and prosper, is legendary. Some numbers below will show the massive changes going on currently, in the fastest growing economy.

800,000,000 credit and debit card are in circulation in India and 450 million have become active. There are 240 million e-wallets activated in India in just one and a half years. The numbers coming out of demonetization are mind boggling in their enormity. An estimated 84% of the total currency issued by the Reserve Bank of India has to be exchanged for new notes. In the fastest growing economy, it is like the job of changing the wheels, of a moving superfast train. Such a humongous social interaction between the populace for replacing the old notes in Banks, has had a social benefit, as people have suddenly emerged from the shadows. The Banks have increased transactions considerably and the ATMs and branches, will normalize eventually. It was an exercise in good governance, without the preparation and diligence, required for such an enormous event. The people have still come out largely favorable even though minor hardships were suffered by the common people to adjust to the new notes. The RBI and banks have to do a better job of implementation and not, make their incompetence, the reason for political unrest.

The arrangement for mass distribution of your largest replacement notes became a quick bottleneck. ATMs did not work as the new two thousand rupee notes, do not fit into current ATMs and need major efforts to recalibrate. As per RBI, about 8.45 thousand, billion worth of value, or notes, of the scrapped Rs 500 and 1,000 notes, were deposited with banks, by November 27. The huge bonanza of unturned in old demonetized notes, will be a net gain against the outstanding liabilities of the RBI, and a direct gain for the government. The Government can then turn around and deposit those funds, into newly opened Jan Dhan accounts, directly to the consumers. In a bonus of the digitization of currency the redistribution of wealth, can take place overnight. The corrupt will pay taxes and penalties on their holdings, and the money will come in as deposits for the Banks. These deposits and be turned into loans, and will be lent out in fresh loans to new entrepreneurs, emboldened, by the new digital money revolution.

The Finance Minister has made a poor execution of a huge event, dependent on the poor citizen’s patience. For centuries the Indian populace has been put through, much wanted, and unwanted change. New Delhi has had quirky rulers like Mohammad bin Tughlaq and others, who have tried their hands at currency reform. The use of demonetization as a political and social weapon, is clear, and surprised many patrons and foes alike, of the current ruling party. The inconvenience is enormous to the common farmer, worker, businessman and above all politician. The cash and barter economy of votes for cash favors, has taken a direct hit as the new currency is not yet available, and the old is useless, and has to be replaced.

I am sure the people have seen worst changes, and life will go on, and eventually things will fall, back into line. Corruption and the black economy is not going anywhere, in the Republic of India. It is ingrained into their properties and way of life of the urban masses. The FM is concentrating on rolling out the GST which will be another phenomenal change in direct taxation in South Asia. Only 45 million out of a total population of 1.2 billion pay taxes in India. The myriad tax collections integration into GST will help with the ease of doing business in India, if it is implemented well. Based on the current experience with demonetization, it appears to leave the feeling that the common man; is only waiting for the other shoe, to drop. Come hell or high-water their beloved Modi is taking them on a wild ride. 2017 will indeed prove a turning point in the Indian economy, as the government will soon have resources to carry out its bold agenda for growth. . The Helicopter economy is fast approaching and they will be dropping money directly into over two hundred million individual accounts of the Jan Dhan ( People’s wealth) .

Please fasten your seatbelt and get ready for the ride of your life. The stage is set as By 1 June 2016, over 22 crore (220 million) bank accounts were opened and ₹384.11 billion (US$5.7 billion) were deposited under the Jan Dhan scheme. Expect these to increase substantially in the near future, as the helicopter has been primed for takeoff! The poorest of the poor are about to become centre stage, in a new economic revolution. Will this finally lead to the decades of rapid growth, that is needed to feed, house and entertain the billions? The British are long gone, and now their Rupee legacy is being digitized, and technology on a massive scale, is being unleashed. To the super wealthy who may have been effected by the latest reforms, I will only request to listen to one of the greatest industrialists, and consider their sacrifices to be for the good of the community.  “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community. -Andrew Carnegie, industrialist (25 Nov 1835-1919)

Rich land, poor leaders

The IT industry is India’s largest organized employer, home to some 3.8 million workers. Problems of low margins in the completely commoditized, so-called enterprise applications development and maintenance business, is not good for growth. They have to re skill their labor, and not get trapped in a shrinking pie of production system’s maintenance. Their great hope is the opening up of our world, to trade and international commerce with a backbone of technology services. When information flows freely, then commercial interests flourish. With the backlash of nationalism, as in Brexit, or some of the current US rhetorics, the companies face an uncertain future. Some will remain body shoppers, using labor arbitrage as their main strength, while only a few will take up the tough challenges and opportunities, which come with a changing landscape. Technology is going to transform our lives in this century. Our future will provide opportunities, for the brave who invest in a new vision, through determination and effort.

Meanwhile in the burgeoning youth population of India, IT jobs are required for a 100 million workers in this century, to satisfy the needs of a growing generation. The current Indian IT companies will have to transform themselves, in the SMAC world; as technology becomes available, to ordinary people. Billions of people need digital communication for news, banking, healthcare, education, social media and everything that modernization and the Internet of Things will bring. The companies have a source of major anxiety in India’s engineering colleges, many of which churn out vast numbers of semi-employable graduates. We have a glut of young, half educated men and women, ready for on the job training, while the developed world has a shrinking youth. This is at a time when IT hiring is going flat and many companies are downsizing, due to the remnants of the Great Recession. Investment is STEM education is the best investment, instead of more fighter planes and war machines.

The challenge is, will India take its education responsibility seriously, and invest in its future to improve the quality of its graduates. Huge investments in Research and Development need to be spent, at its numerous universities, to bring them up to world standards. The University Grants Commission is a spent force, with no leadership or transforming vision of 2020, or the century that is upon us. Precious little has been achieved in the large public sector universities, and most of the development has come from individual entrepreneurs or organizations, who have opened private colleges. The investments in education, pays off many times over, in the life of its graduates, as they become more productive and economically better off. Women and men need the opportunity to become their best in science and engineering, to find economic opportunity to join the middle class. To waste this opportunity, India will become another Pakistan with their war mongering, as its youth is ill educated and largely unemployable in the new skill industries. Their war should not be outside their borders, but they must make the tough choices within, to employ their resource to improve, and provide better life skills to its vast multitudes.

We may find ourselves fighting the wrong war soon, if saner heads don’t prevail. All resources belong to the people, and should only be used by them, for their own betterment. Too long has an army corps been over invested in Jihad and Mujahideen and now needs to fade away, as its glory days are gone? The time of the people has come, and democracy and the people’s business has shifted to development of education, health, finance, smart cities and logistics. Billions will be invested to improve the lives of millions in its rural and economically backward populations. This opportunity is now and the politicians on both sides of the border should realize that a better future awaits, if they do the right things, it can well become a South Asian century. They must work together to increase their productivity and economy, as the Indo Gangetic plain remains a rich land, with poor leaders. Our succeeding generations deserve a better future.

Receding glaciers in our high mountains

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According to a report from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), 35% of the glaciers in the Himalayan region will disappear in the next 20 years, even as temperatures across the Himalayas would rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. In a warming region, the iceman’s invention may be a useful adaptive tool.  “Glaciers have been receding rapidly for the last four-to-five decades,” said Chewang Norphel, 74 known popularly as the ‘Ice Man’. Eighty percent of the farmers in Leh district in northern India, he said, depend on glacier-melt to irrigate agricultural land and grow vegetables, barley and wheat. In a largely Buddhist region large stupas of Ice and the diversion of water sources into shaded valleys to seed artificial glaciers, is becoming the only source of reliable water in an increasingly arid region.  Norphel has been leading these efforts with the help of the local authorities for the past decades bringing much needed relief.

The Ice Man’s methods as he detailed to world leaders at the Kyoto climate summit in 1997, may be the last saving grace, for the fading glaciers in mountain ranges across the world. From the Alps, Andes, Rockies, Caspian mountain ranges we will see devastating effects, as these are the source of major life giving rivers like the Danube, Po, Rhine and Rhone in Europe, the Colorado in the Rockies, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and many others in Asia. Climate change and receding glaciers continues to dry up California, European plains, the Indo Gangetic plain and other major croplands on earth and major glaciers have been on the retreat, across all the nations. Ground water levels are falling precariously, as we continue to pump out more water for irrigation and human needs from dwindling aquifers. We need the ability to use these high mountains to create the large glaciers, needed to store and release huge bodies of fresh water, and aid nature to do it, in the race against global warming.

The worries of these receding glaciers were dramatically shown by California Governor Jerry Brown this year when he stood in a barren land where glaciers had traditionally covered the land in recent memory. The Swiss and other experts have been proposing huge Dams to store the water at a great cost. China has been looking for water for its arid regions to feed its growing population. South Asia probably has the most at stake as the Monsoons have been erratic and its river flows and water reservoirs in precarious conditions with substantial hardships for its farmers. Increasing suicides from desperate farmers, are becoming a seasonal reality of life in these regions.

These methods are known to work at very low cost, and with simple engineering changes. We just have to divert existing water systems, and reduce their velocity, and divert them to shaded valleys, where the seasons and nature will do the rest. The Indian army and the government’s engineering bodies, have started work on these efforts, but much more can be done worldwide. We have to make efforts to build these natural stores of waters in the winter months, so they can be used in the spring to seed and grow crops without rains. These can also help to replenish the ground water levels before we hit disaster levels, and human existence in these areas becomes impossible. Climate change is not going away any time soon, and the sooner we take action to preserve life giving fresh water supplies, the better for us.These have lower environmental effects, than the giant Dams being proposed, and can be implemented at far lower cost of resources, with a minimal environmental footprint.

Union less wonders

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Perhaps none of the wealth generators in India’s growth story, are more important that the multitude of its IT companies, and the millions that they have enriched. Of all the success stories from Silicon Valley in the West to the Financial Industry in NYC, none stand out more with the great services, which these companies provide on a daily basis. In the highly competitive, dynamic, cutting edge, technically challenging work of running and delivering complex information technology solutions for its clients, these companies have stood out in their professionalism. They have grappled with some of the most challenging projects and delivered year after year and decade after decade, building on a flat world of communications and transparency.

Filling just the skill gap from retiring baby boomers, and the whole mainframe and Y2K deliverables, are now history, as these companies move into the new world of digitization, cloud computing, big data analytics and many other emerging new technologies. The reliance on their services is increasing and for the near term there are few alternatives even while the world and environment that they work in, is rapidly evolving and changing. It is a constant struggle to reskill their workforce, as new new things appear on the horizon like the Internet of things. If every device is going to be programmable, than there will also be the need for new software and analytics, to make it run smoother. The needs keep growing and the question is can these companies have the vision to move into this brave new world, or will they become dinosaurs like the mainframes and midrange and client server applications, which ruled the roost, and now are slipping into museums and history books.

A cloud literally and physically hangs over the future of these giants, and the future is hard to predict on who will evolve and survive, and who will fall by the wayside in this cruel new world. There are so many challenges and rewards available for the winners, that for them to imagine failure is impossible. Each one has to reinvent itself in a world of cheaper and ever more efficient service needs. The days of billion dollar multiyear deals are so yesterday, and we now live on quarterly and annual contracts which continue to squeeze more and more inefficiencies out of the systems. The competition for these new contracts is worldwide and more and more transparent, as multinationals and the biggest Banks, Insurance, Healthcare, Retail, Hospitality, Logistics companies have become much smarter, in how they plan and pay for resources. The business value of information technology lies in the automation of business processes, provision of information for decision making, connecting businesses with their customers, and the provision of productivity tools to increase efficiency.

There are no 9-5 routine jobs left, or if they are, they are rapidly shrinking. Corporations are downsizing and knowledge of their systems is leaving with them, as they retire or move out of the door. The outsourcing companies that are struggling to fill the void, are themselves challenged as key technical resources are in high demand, and continuously on the move. There is more data being created and stored and analyzed today, than at any time in human history, and it is growing exponentially. Machine learning, artificial intelligence and newer ways to replace humans is the new trend as anything that can be done systematically, reduces human error.  Robots work 24\7 without breaks and flawlessly ensuring quality and predictability.India’s leading IT companies are quite on the proposal by Tamil Nadu Labur and Employment Department Principal Secretary Kumar Jayant stating that the New Democratic Labor Front – IT Employees Wing (NDLF), that workforce is free to form unions, as reported by a leading daily on Thursday. The sad part is that these bureaucrats neither understand the industry or its needs. Instead of enjoying the growth and the employment being generated, they want to impose laws enacted in 1947 in a different generation and world. This industry grew because it went out and hired and trained its labor force, with no help from the government and even built its own infrastructure and human resource management systems, with no outside help from the state. Now that they are successful the politicians and bureaucrats want their pound of flesh. It will be the biggest mistake that can ever be made, as these are not public sector banks or the railways business, where routine processing by humans is key.

I can hear the giant vacuum that will suck the jobs from any State that tries to enforce this and even from countries, as this is a truly global world. These resources are increasingly more mobile, and need no office to work from. Without location constraints they are free to work anywhere, where a stable environment provided with power and connectivity. Free enterprise and ability to train and dynamically work, are the hallmarks of these companies as otherwise China’s State giants would have taken over a long time ago, just as they have done in manufacturing. India needs less labor laws, to meet tomorrow’s needs, and not enforcement of antiquated ones, from a non-industrial or non-service industry past. Hopefully saner heads will prevail and all such talk will be quickly put to rest and the union less wonders allowed to grow and succeed, in a modern world. It is a competitive world that can turn on a dime as they say, and survival is tough enough without any outside muddling. These deliveries are time critical and skilled where only the best and brightest succeed, and not a world of work stoppages or rigid laws, that bind and stagnate.

Manufacture or decline

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America is on the edge of an abyss called Industry 4.0, where it can either take the leap to the next level of innovation and productivity, or forever fall down into a state of perpetual decline of its living standards. There are many factors that point to the eventual decline of the American civilization and some say it started with the dot com crash, and others point to the Great Recession after the housing and financial collapse. The export of manufacturing to China and other nations and the dependence of the American consumer on other nations, both for its goods and also for its deficits is disheartening. We are on a downward cycle that is slowly spiraling out of control with trillions in deficits. A nation of debtors cannot lead, and the divide between the rich and the rest is growing, and will lead to class conflict, and a permanent rendering of our social fabric.

The decline in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is worrisome and so is the disappearing middle class. More people are dropping out of the working class, because of inability to earn a living wage, and the destitute and disabled are straining the state and city resources. Good paying jobs have gone the way of the dodo bird, and we might as well tighten our belts, and pray that social security and Medicare will last into our old age. The despair is reflected in the dysfunctional election primaries we just witnessed and the rise of health and mental issues across the land. Some have felt the Bern and talk about a social revolution. Others believe that Trump is the leader of high moral standing, who will lead us to the next Cultural Revolution.

Personally I believe that there are green shoots coming up and some of it is the resurgence of manufacturing in America. I believe in a coming Industrial Revolution that will transform America and the rest of the world. Everywhere I look I see the emergence of new innovation and technology. From the days when Ford offered its customers “any color they want, long as it is black” to the new F 150 trucks which can be configured a million different ways from the same assembly line. American manufacturing has come full circle with robotics, lasers, software, hardware advancements that were scarcely imagined just a few decades ago.  The resurgence of the automotive sector where GM’s new cars are a marvel of efficiency and technology can scarcely be believed, from a corporation that Obama had to bail out just recently.

The never say die attitude of continuous innovation has brought cheap energy in abundance from the shale formations. Cheap gas has driven the largest coal producer Peabody bankrupt and gone a long way in the greening of America. We will soon be the cheapest producers of plastics, resins, steel, automobiles and planes in the world. Our labor is the most productive and if things continue with newer software and hardware convergence, the gap will only widen. There is no other silicon valley in the world and we still attract the brightest and the best. Even one of the oldest Dow Jone’s Company GE is reinventing itself, as an innovation driven, software optimized, 3D metal printing of complex jet nozzles, guzzler of latest technologies and manufacturing oomph. The green energy from renewal sources is just starting to take off at a massive scale,  and this will provide impetus to the next new smart cities and rising living standards. Driverless cars, green cities, research universities, modern factories with better paying jobs in manufacturing will bring new life into the economy.

The information age is built on a foundation of cutting edge technology, and majority of its innovation, still comes from America. Social media and the new unicorns of how we interact with society and each other are still being built out in America, and the rest of the world is following. There are cheaper and more efficient ways to do things as proven by the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and others who did not even exist just a short time ago. The billions in new wealth created by these corporations is based on the emergence of innovative software and increasingly complex hardware convergence. The new Masters of the universe are not the Wall Street tycoons exchanging bonds and corporate paper, but the likes of Page, Bezos, Jobs, Zuckerberg. Gates and Allison who create the next new thing.

Yes my faith in American manufacturing has been reborn and I believe this will be the greatest century of American creativity and innovation. We have the vision and aptitude for disruption, and the universities and research and development between government and private sector, which is the envy of the world. Those who rumor that America is not capable of producing anything but services and information, in the mistaken belief that we are just an overgrown agrarian economy, are not seeing the whole picture. The rust belt based on coal, steam and old manufacturing may be dead, but its successors are proving to be far stronger and more resilient. Nano technology, Genetic engineering, Bio Technology, Custom production to meet individual needs are here, and will only improve at a faster rate as energy costs continue to go down and productivity improves.

The crucible of human endeavor is all in the spirit of our people. Long as we allow this spirit to grow, there is no other nation that can best us from our desired goals. We will stake our fortunes and take the risks of making a better world, just as the founding fathers did against the greatest empire and won.   There is no force that can hold us back if we stay true to our ideals and continue to strive for a more perfect union. Manufacturing powers can help us rebuild our Middle Class, with better paying jobs and a more equitable society. We can bring the prosperity to the rest of the world and lead in improving the living standards of humanity. With dedication and American ingenuity we can leap this abyss of  our despair, of Malthusian predictions of our decline, and come out even stronger on the other side!

US kids behind in Science education

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Our children are continuing to fall behind in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and currently the US is ranked 44th in the world. The ranking has been on a steady slide downwards with no hope for improving. Other countries continue to improve their engagement in modern education, and help their students prosper, because of better policies and parent’s involvement. Paul Morgan of Penn State’s education department has done a focused study on the causes of this decline in America over the past decades, and come up with some startling findings. These are similar to the ground breaking work done by Fredrick Froebel (pictured above) over a century ago, who started Kindergartens and revolutionized children’s education, and was very influential in improving education in our world.

His research looked for the timelines when these declines happened, whether in High School, or 8th Grade, or third grade, or started in Kinder Garden. It also looked at racial and economic backgrounds of the children, and any other social factors that may be causing the US children to be consistently falling behind in STEM studies. He found this is threatening the development of the knowledge based society, required for our future. Given all the modern gadgets available and tools of our information age, it seemed strange that our children are not gaining ground, on the rest of the world. I was intrigued by the contrary findings of his research, as I would have expected that our children would have the benefits of an internet age, and be able to develop basic math and language skills, more rapidly.

His core findings are that the knowledge gap starts in Kinder Garden itself and children just do not have the general knowledge and societal awareness, which form the foundation for a good education. It is the parents and society that is failing the children by not exposing them early to the needs of a modern educated society. Mathematics and science exposure early is not required but just an exposure to general knowledge where we broaden a child’s horizon to include a broader exposure to our world. The child has to be given the opportunity to expand his\her brain by exercising it in learning general and broad spheres of knowledge. Especially in minorities an effort needs to be made to help groom the children early, to have this broader exposure to education, as soon as they enter, or even before they enter Kinder Garden.

His research talks about a “leaky STEM pipeline” where low-income, minorities and women are allowed to set lower expectations, and hence not encouraged, to challenge themselves, towards loftier learning goals. The same individuals when encouraged and provided the right support, can excel at basic STEM education, and develop into scientists and engineers in later life. While about 20% of white children and similarly about 20% of upper-income children do not display aptitude for science and mathematics, it falls to 52% for low-income students and 63% for blacks by the time they reach 8th grade. These low numbers are not acceptable if we really want these children to live an economically better life, in the knowledge based economy we are transitioning to.

The solution proposed is to encourage young children to become competent in English and mathematics at an early age. They should be guided to have more exposure to general knowledge in Kinder Garden and encouraged to broaden their horizons. Young brains must be encouraged to develop basic language and mathematical skills, along with physical and societal awareness. This foundation is to be built up to the third grade and if they are up to the grade level by then, it is highly probable that they will continue on that path, even when they are in the 8th grade. Education policy has to change and parents, teachers and society all have to contribute to the child’s success. Then the children having built this foundation and with the right expectations, will become competent in STEM education in High School and College.

As Paul points out “It is never too late to help children grow to be successful.” By starting early we can make them more aware of the physical and natural world around them, even before they reach KG. To make a great society we have to start at the beginning, and invest far greater effort in the children who are our future. To shirk this responsibility on the basis of race, ethnic, gender or economic background will be the greatest blunder we can make as a society. Each child deserves the opportunity to be successful in later life, and while not everyone has a STEM aptitude, not to be even allowed the opportunity to improve oneself, is a moral sin. There is still time to invest in our future, and by an early change in education policy, make America the land of opportunity once again.

Darkness, light and black holes

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“When you emerged from the black hole, was it God who pulled you out, or was there another great force that was pushing you out, from the great contraction of mass?” the teenager asked me with wide eyes in his excitement, as I spoke at my old Alma Mater on my latest adventure. I had returned after a harrowing mission and we had brought back elements that fitted into the missing pieces of our atomic table, which had not been found before our mission.
“Well it really started when I used dark energy to propel my spaceship many years ago, while still working on my research at this very school, but that is all an old story and I don’t want to bore you all with that,” I responded to the class of eager new space cadets, who had much greater heroes than me; to look up to. Our mission had lasted many years and I had returned a much wiser man after the journey there and back.
“Well nobody has ever returned from a black hole in our milky way, so what was it that made you enter it in the first place? Why everybody says it is a miracle that you are still alive to be here with us today?” the boy continued adjusting his mind prompter, to focus more clearly, on my thoughts. I could feel him probing into my deepest consciousness and opened the neurons to my memories of that day, when I was hurtling almost at the speed of light, and time was almost standing still; and great distances of space, rushed by. He was with me, as I guided my spacecraft to find that elusive gateway, out of the black hole, that my professor had theorized about in our research together. I let him peek in to finally see the portal, which led out of the densest of dark matter out into space again.
“Oh the pressure and the weight is so incredible, that you and your spaceship are almost crushed. What a horrible and strange way to die.” The boy’s broken and fearful thoughts communicated, breaking out in fear, from the memory of that moment. All the others turned to look at him, and the teacher turned his mind to him, and chided him for being so inquisitive, and to probe my mind in such a blatant manner. I turned my mind to happier thoughts, and spoke to the larger crowd, “Never give up on your dreams, as each day brave new horizons, open up to us. We are only what we dream and think and you are our hope now, and with you a new more equipped generation will enter space. I was lucky to have lived my years realizing my dreams, and I wish you to remember that everything you imagine will be possible, in the future. Just believe in yourself and have courage in your beliefs and nothing will ever hold you back from your goals.” I ended looking fondly at the young student whose wide smile and bright eyes, were our best hope for our future.
“We are all proud of this great traveler, who has so kindly graced us, with his presence today,” the teacher said, obviously embarrassed by the probing incident, that one of his students had carried out; against the norms, of our civilized society. “We should thank him for taking time out of his busy routine, to come and talk to us today.” He continued to keep the students from dwelling on the incident that had happened, and clicked through the images from my journey..

Ever since we had started inbuilding these capabilities into the new generations, we had also developed codes of conduct, on how to curtail the obvious abuses of privacy and mind control; that were possible, using these new capabilities. It had taken many generations to curb the enthusiasm, which the young boy had demonstrated. I remembered similar incidents from my youth when I had misbehaved in similar fashion, and smiled at his indiscretion, as he reminded me of a younger me; with his awe, and thirst for knowledge.
“We have all to explore new frontiers and develop new materials and for this we have to enter the crucible of a black hole or a super nova or pulsar, where new elements may be created for everyone’s benefit. It is a treacherous journey in our history, and many brave thousands have died attempting it, in our recent past. I and my crew was just one of the lucky ones to have survived, and for that I am eternally grateful” I said remembering the great alumni who had come from this school and gone on bravely, to carve out new fields of science, for modern humanity to survive and prosper.
Just then the commander who was the principal of the academy came in, and I knew at once that something was not right. He quickly addressed the class and thanked me for coming and told the students to work hard, and try to achieve what I had achieved in my short life. The students stood and cheered as I waved bye to them, as they had made posters and studied my exploits before my visit, and made a kind of hero out of me. As the commander took my elbow and guided me out of the hall, I could see that he had closed his thoughts, and I knew that there was more here than I could see. I followed him quietly to the secured room used for the secret communication channels, with external resources.
When we entered the room, all the secure walls were put up, the main communicator of the universe was opened and I noticed that some of the highest security codes, were collaborating in this project. The commander opened his mind and I saw my greatest fear in his mind. We were under attack and the forces of darkness that had been expanding the universe, were taking a pause it appeared and turning inwards, and the world as we knew it would be forever changed. After a thousand years of peace it appears that war is upon us at a scale, that the forces of the universe can scarce control, and the survival of our humanity is at stake. The opposing forces of darkness and light, are poised to turn on each other, and we are entering an area, that we have no idea about, in our long and storied existence.

“The great council has been assembled from across our universe, and the deliberations are about to begin,” the commander said, enabling some more communication devices for us, as we entered this new virtual reality meeting. We saw the assembly of leaders from across the lands gathering together and scientists showing the results of their investigations. I saw the troubled looks and heard the troubles thoughts of our friends and companions, as they reviewed the dark evidence being presented to them.

“We have been summoned at short notice to address a threat, which can wipe out all our civilizations, as we know them today,” continued the commander and I collapsed into an armchair suddenly very tired from my recent trips. “We cannot possibly head back to war again, after a thousand years of peace?” I though worriedly to myself, as I immersed myself into this new virtual reality..
‘The most important discoveries will provide answers to questions that we do not yet know how to ask and will concern objects we have not yet imagined.’ -John N. Bahcall, astrophysicist (30 Dec 1935-2005)