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The Future of the U.S. and China

July 31, 2005

Filed under: future,life,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:07

Most of us have read articles about the rise of China and its impact on the U.S. An article I read recently presented the subject in alarming perspective. Robert Malone’s Fortune Cookie column in the June 2005 issue of Managing Automation magazine really makes you think about where the two countries are headed. The one-page article is available here

Malone notes that civilizations come and go, and the normal ascendancy is about 200 years. Historians suggest that those living within a declining civilization are usually unaware of the gradual decline. In our case, “we are wandering along in our arrogant fog worrying about stem cells, the Ten Commandments, and steroid use in professional athletes,” Malone states.

Malone goes on to say that China has long held a position of wanting world hegemony, an attitude that goes back thousands of years. “It’s a rather frightening position: There is room for only one nation to be in charge and that nation is China,” Malone states. “The key to world dominance ever since the industrial revolution is industrial dominance pure and simple,” Malone continued.

Malone is principal of Robert Malone Associates and former editor-in-chief of Managing Automation.

Everything Happens for a Reason

July 19, 2005

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:14

These are words from my mother when I was a child and they’ve stuck with me. Over the years, when something very good or bad occurs, I remind myself that it happened for a reason. This was made clear in a recent commencement speech by Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios. He gave the speech last month at Stanford University.

Jobs told the graduates that learning calligraphy, while floundering in college, helped lead to the design of the first Macintosh computer, but he did not know it at the time. He also discussed his devastation from being fired from Apple. Looking back, he believed it was the best thing that could happened to him. “I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did,” Jobs said. He urged the graduates to find what they love and not to settle until they do.

Jobs told how he was diagnosed with an incurable form of pancreatic cancer about a year ago. He later found out that it was a very rare form of cancer that was curable with surgery. The event strengthened his belief that you must live every day as if it is your last. He also said that death is very likely the single best invention of life because it clears out the old to make way for the new.

The text of the speech is very interesting and I recommend that you spend a few minutes reading it. And remember that everything happens for a reason.

Change is Underway in Japan

July 2, 2005

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 17:48

Last week, I attended a one-day conference and three-day exposition in Tokyo and visited a U.S. client that has a large R&D facility in Kobe. I have been visiting Japan for many years and my fascination for the country and its people remains high.

The Japanese are among the most helpful you will find anywhere. When asking for directions, it is not unusual for a complete stranger to walk you part way to your destination. And the Japanese are among the most organized and prompt as anyone in the world. If you have a meeting with them, it’s advisable to be on time.

Japan is changing, however. Crime is on the rise. Compared to most other places around the world, it’s still an incredibly safe place, even in Tokyo and other major cities. If you accidentally leave a camera or some other valuable on a park bench, chances are good that it will still be there when you return an hour or two later. 

Japanese organizations have a well established hierarchical system based on seniority. A businessman of age 55 is respected and of much more importance than a businessman of 45. Experience and credentials are important too, but the hierarchy according to age rules. This too, is beginning to change. The Japanese are even starting to hire “outsiders” in top jobs at corporations. Sony, for example, hired a Welsh-born, U.S. citizen as its CEO—something that was unthinkable among most Japanese people.

Western influence is the blame for the alteration of Japanese tradition. Not only are the Japanese tapped into western music, movies, fashion, and motorcycles (Harley’s are big in Japan), I saw many more westerners than before in last week’s visit. During my first visit 12 years ago, I saw only three in the first two days in Tokyo. This time, I saw dozens. Bear in mind, however, that this is not many, compared to the tens of thousands of Japanese I saw in the train stations, on the streets, and at the exposition.

While Japan is indeed undergoing interesting change, most of the country is still very Japanese. And I hope it remains that way in the future.