Computer Sentiment 1984

So I found this book in an IT colleague’s office. 


It’s called: “The Unofficial I Hate Computer Book”.


It was written in 1984, and like the George Orwell’s book by that name, it is a dystopian view of technology. 


The back cover says:

Computer haters of the world unite: It’s time to recognize and avenge the wonderful advances we’ve made thanks to computers–excessive eyestrain and headaches, irritating beeping noises, a one-ton printout where once there was a six-page report, a “simple” programming language you can’t understand without five handbooks, a dictionary, and a math degree.

The book goes on with illustration after illustration of unadulterated computer hate and associated violence. 


– Dogs dumping on it (see cover)

– Contests to smash it with a hammer

– Hara-kiri (suicide with a knife) into it

– Skeet shooting computers that are flung into the air

– Shotput with a computer

– Tanks rolling over them

– Sinking it in water with a heavy anvil

– Boxer practicing his punches on it

– Setting it ablaze with gasoline

– And on and on, page after hate-filled page.


So in the last 34-years, have we solved all the annoyances and complexity with computers and automation?  


Do the benefits of technology outway the costs and risks across-the-board?


How do security and privacy play in the equation? 


I wonder what the authors and readers back then would think of computers, tablets, smartphones and the Internet and apps nowadays–especially where we can’t live without them at all.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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No Smokestacks Here

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So I heard something good about human capital that I wanted to share:


It goes like this:

“There are no smokestacks here, only people!”


We can’t treat “human capital” in our organizations the way we treat industrial/capital assets in our factories. 


The industrial revolution–along with the sweatshops and smokestacks–have been overtaken by the service and information age.


G-d has blessed us with an abundance of wonderful material things that can now be largely produced by automation and robotization–letting us focus more than ever on developing our people, nurturing their ideas, and realizing their innovations. 


In our organizations, the human assembly line has given way to thinkers and innovators.


Sure, we have to build things and sustain ourselves, but the people behind the things are what counts and not just the things themselves. 


We’ve grown from heartless slave labor and sweatshops to emotionally intelligent, compassionate, and thriving humans beings in the workspace–or so we strive for it to be. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Camera Of Life

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So this open-door market has no workers there.

Someone comes in to stock the shelves periodically, and that’s it!

It’s completely automated of workers, and only has this automated kiosk for check-out. 

As you shop, there are cameras watching you, so you don’t steal anything. 

Then you go to the checkout and like in other stores, you scan you items and pay with your credit card, but the difference is that it’s without anyone else around at all.

Can you imagine someone would leave there business and there is no one watching you, except the cameras.

You’re on your honor system. 

Just think how much money the owner saves by not having to stand there or hire someone to stand there all day. 

He can have 10 or 100 or 1,000 of these stores and no daily labor to pay for. 

Talk about people losing their jobs to automation and robotics!

So even if someone does steal 1 or 2 things, it’s a minor loss to the owner compared to paying someone to stand there and check people out all day (salary, benefits, payroll taxes, workers comp insurance, and more). 

What if the camera isn’t even real and it’s just a dark cone, so you are just left to think that you’re being surveilled…another savings for the owner. 

Now imagine if we all internalized this thought in life that we were under the watchful eye of our Maker, and everyone would do the right thing even when no one else was there watching. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hold On To Your Jobs

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These statistics are dismal for manufacturing in the U.S. 


Today, public sector (government) employment is 22.2 million vs. just 12.2 million manufacturing jobs. 


In other words, there are 10 million or 80% more people employed by the government than making things in this country. 


This is the complete opposite from 1979 when government employed 16 million people and manufacturing had 19.6 million workers.


So just 37 years ago, manufacturing employment was 22% more than our public sector employment.


Manufacturing lost 37% of it jobs, while government grew 39%.


It hasn’t been since 1989 that there was parity at 18 million between the two sectors. 


Lest you think that the loss in manufacturing jobs is due to automation and technology, the Economic Policy Institute states unequivocally:


“Trade, not productivity, is the culprit.”


In the U.S. the annual trade deficit is over half a trillion dollars–we are hemorrhaging and no one has been even trying to stop the bleeding.  


If we send all our manufacturing prowess and capacity abroad eventually we are not only going to lose our capability to make things, our ingenuity to invent things, but our finances to pay for anything. 


Trade is a great thing when it is mutual and equal, not when it is one-sided and damaging to our economy and jobs. 


Bad political decisions mean a poorer future for our economy and our nation. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Requirements Management 101

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This was a funny Dilbert on Requirements Management. 


In IT, we all know that getting requirements can be like pulling teeth. 


No one either has time or desire to provide them or perhaps they simply don’t know what they’re really after.


Knowing what you want is a lot harder than just telling someone to automate what I got because it isn’t working for me anymore!


In the comic, Dilbert shows the frustration and tension between technology providers and customers in trying to figure out what the new software should do. 


Technology Person: “Tell me what you want to accomplish.”


Business Customer: “Tell me what the software can do.”


In the end, the customer in exasperation just asks the IT person “Can you design [the software] to tell you my requirements?”


And hence, the age old dilemma of the chicken and egg–which came first with technology, the requirements or the capability–and can’t you just provide it!


(Source Comic: Dilbert By Scott Adams)

Robots, They Are Coming

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I was so excited by this photo in the Wall Street Journal today.


YuMi, an industrial robot by ABB, is adroitly writing Chinese calligraphy. 


If you look at the photo and think for a moment, the notion of the robot doing and the person watching is truly prophetic of how we are evolving technologically and as a species. 


Yumi is made by ABB, a leading robotics company headquartered in Switzerland, that on one hand has over 300,000 robots installed worldwide, but on the other hand needs only 4,600 employees in 53 countries to produce all these fantastic and productive droids.  

This robot is a work of not just incredible science and engineering, but of art and beauty. 


It’s sleek black and white build with two incredibly agile arms and hands plus a viewing camera, enables it to do small parts assembly or even fine calligraphic work. 


YuMi stands for “You and Me” working together, collaboratively. 


While we surely will work together, the flip side is that with robotics, some people (who don’t make the transition to STEM) may not be working much at all. 


But of course, the positive side is that we are looking at an incredible capacity to do more and better with less! 


Leaving the innovation to humans, and the assembly and service to the bots, the bar will be raised on everything–both good and bad.


We will build greater things, travel and explore further, and discover ever new depths of understanding and opportunities to exploit.


But we will also edge people out of work and comfort zones, and be able to engage in new forms of conflict and war that only the power and skill of (semi-) autonomous machines could inflict. 


The robots are here, however, they are coming in much greater numbers, capabilities, and impact then we can currently fully comprehend. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via WSJ)

All American Chair

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Got to love this all American chair. 

Red, white, and blue. 

And stars and stripes everywhere. 

The only thing that I seriously wonder about is whether this chair was manufactured in the U.S. 

With the U.S. losing 35% of it’s manufacturing employment between 1998 and 2010 (from 17.6M to 11.5M), due in large part to outsourcing, there is a good chance this chair was made overseas. 

Now manufacturing makes up less than 9% of total U.S. employment

Also noteworthy is the loss of 51,000 manufacturing plants or 12.5% between 1998-2008.  

Together, agriculture and industry make up only approximately 20% of the entire U.S. economy

Manufacturing are agriculture are strategic capabilities for this country and any country. 

It’s not just what you know, but what you make!

Sure we can make things faster and easier with automation, but at this point there is a serious skills shortage (with millions of jobs going unfilled), and we need to safeguard the strategic knowledge, skills, capability, and capacity to make things vital to our thriving existence.

We need to be a more self-sufficient nation again and not a one-trick service pony. 

We need to use information to be better innovators, creators, developers, and builders. 

Information is great, but you can’t live by information alone. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)