Rise Oceans Rise

Rise Oceans Rise

The polar ice caps are melting–does anyone believe it or care?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Antarctica alone holds 60% of the world’s fresh water “locked into millions of cubic miles of polar ice.”

NASA glaciologists states: “Ice is going to retreat in this sector for decades and centuries to come and we can’t stop it.”

In other words, we may have “reached the point of no return.”

Sea levels are seen rising 10 to 12 feet–that’s almost 1.8 x Magic Johnson across all our oceans!

The New York Times says that just a four foot rise would inundate cities like New York, Boston, Miami, and New Orleans.

WTOP reports that the impact will not just be in low-lying cities but even Washington, DC along the Chesapeake Bay is at great risk.

And while over time barriers may be able to be built up around DC to protect it, other areas like New York City is “almost unenclosable.”

Global warming has is changing our earth’s ecosystems, and like the National Deficit, we can try to prove it false, ignore it, or hope for a technological breakthrough or miracle to save us.

Yes, there are lot’s of doom and gloom scenarios, and it’s hard to know when to take catastrophe seriously and when it is Chicken Little.

While I wouldn’t go looking for high ground just yet, maybe that Miami oceanfront–as much as I love it–may not be the best long-long term investment around. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Would MLK say?

What Would MLK say?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes about how Congress orders NASA to complete a testing tower for rocket engines at Stennis Space Center that is no longer needed, since the rockets themselves were cancelled.

The price tag of this tower is $350M!

But not to worry because NASA caught in this muddle says they will maintain the tower in case it’s needed in the future at a cost of just $840,000 more a year.

Why does this happen?

Pork barrel politics, where the the Congressmen and -women (in this case of Mississippi) don’t want to lose out on the federal spending, so they make deals whereby they get what they want and others what they want for their home states–even if the taxpayers end up getting little to nothing.

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal that while public servants are “expected to be less selfish than the average Joe…they are [actually] the locus of selfishness.”

She writes, “there isn’t a staffer on the Hill who won’t tell you 90% of members are driven by their own needs, wants, and interests, not America’s.”

Essentially what Noonan describes is a broken political system, where we elect individuals as politicians to represent us, but they take our vote of confidence and their elected office platform and instead use it to vote either for what they think should be done–not what their constituents think or want–or they work the system in order to make themselves look good and line up votes for their next run at office.

Either way, we don’t get representation of the people, for the people, with big picture strategic decisions for the future of the nation, but rather we get narrow thinking and voting driven by self-centered thinking of what’s in it for me (WIIFM).

Freedom is not free, especially when we make bad decisions to fund testing towers that are no longer needed or bridges to nowhere.

How we fix this is by having politicians with a genuine vision of where we need to go, anchored in the thinking of the people they represent and a foundation of integrity.

The leader can create a shared vision by explaining why, what, and how and building a genuine consensus around it.

Selfishness is not an inherent trait of politics–it can be replaced by selflessness when the greater good of the nation is placed above any one “I”–whether that be a person, party, state, or special interest.

(Source Photo: here)

For Somebody Who Has Everything

For Somebody Who Has Everything

What do you get somebody who has everything?

Well check this out…

You can actually buy acreage on the moon through The Lunar Registry, “Earth’s leading lunar real estate agency.”

Based on The Outer Space Treaty, no country can own a celestial resource such as the moon, planet, or asteroid, but this doesn’t preclude private entities and individuals from purchasing a “lunar land claim.”

The Space Settlement Institute, which “promotes the human colonization and settlement of outer space” is lobbying for the U.S. to recognize these space land claims (PopSci).

According to their website, when you purchase real estate through the lunar registry, “your property ownership is permanently registered by the International Lunar Lands Registry in its annual publication, which is copyrighted and deposited in the United States Library of Congress and with international patent and trademark offices.”

You can view available properties here, from the Sea of Vapors (“moon on a budget” for $18.95 per acre–near Crater Manilius) to Lake of Dreams (“most popular” for $34.25 per acre and a special “Sweathearts package with 2 acres side-by-side).

Properties can be viewed at The Full Moon Atlas through The Luna Society.

I found Lake of Dreams by its reference in sector B-4, although I couldn’t really tell from the atlas whether this was a place that I’d like to settle down or not.

In real estate, they alway say “location, location, location”–when you’re buying on the moon, who the heck knows? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Federal Leadership Is A Journey

There were three news articles in Federal Times this week (17 December 2012) that highlighted some disappointments for the time being, but that offer hope for the future:
–   Conflicts of Interest at DARPA: The previous director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is investigated by the Defense Department Inspector General for conflicts of interest related to the award of “hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to a company she co-founded and partially owned.” The hope for the future—the new DARPA director has “sent a full list of her financial assets to all of the agency’s employees.”
–   Missed opportunity for use of mobile devices, BYOD in the Federal workforce: The CIO Council’s report on “Government Use of Mobile Technology: Barriers, Opportunities, and Gap Analysis” was required by the Federal Digital Strategy (May 2012); however, while there is clarity of the need for greater mobility in the workforce, instead of a clear architecture forward, the report calls for more guidance from the administration on “how to handle the tricky legal, privacy, and financial implications.” The hope—the report looks toward  a government-wide or agency policy and guidance to support more flexible use of mobile devices and a cross-functional team to evaluate Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for the future.
–   NASA doubts commitment of getting to an asteroid: NASA, which has been criticized by some for not having a clear direction, has been charged with “sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025,” yet there is not consensus that this is “the next step on the way to Mars.” The hope—NASA can restructure, engage in cost-sharing partnerships, or otherwise increase budget or decrease scope to right-align and achieve clear focus on the next great goals for outer space.
Lesson learned: leadership does not have all the answers nor do they always do everything right, but leadership is a journey. So while today, we may not always be making the best acquisitions for advanced research, achieving clarity of a mobile strategy, or landing people on Mars—we are on the way—through one small step for leadership, one giant leap for the rest of us.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to NASA)

When Aliens Come Calling

Alien

This is an out-of-this-world topic that I don’t think I have written about before…ALIENS–no seriously!

MSNBC ran an interview with Seth Shostak, the chairman of the International Academy of Astronautics’ SETI Permanent Study Group (27 June 2012).

SETI is the well-known orgnaization that conducts the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence–they employ 150 scientists, educators and support staff, and their projects have been sponsored by NASA, Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, and many technology companies like HP, Sun, and more.

At SETI, they monitor radio transmissions and telescope observations for signals that “cannot be ascribed to noise.”

According to Shostak, he believes that we will detect alien signals by between 2025 and 2030, although he acknowledges that searching for alien life in the cosmos in like looking for a needle in a haystack, and it “never occurs when you expect them.”

However with advances in technology (specifically computer processing), we will get closer to be able to monitor “all-sky, all the time, all frequencies,” rather than searching a specific star system, for a specific time, at specific frequencies.

The really interesting question posed though is what happens if we actually detect an alien signal?

Apparently, most of the planning, according to Shostak is for the initial protocols for alerting everyone and even then “it takes something on the order of five days” to assess whether it is real or not.

The big concern is that “nobody is in charge” for handling such a global…no, intergalactic event.

And, he says “I don’t think there’s any large-scale effort to prepare humanity.”

Maybe, it’s that we don’t believe or want to believe that this eventuality will ever really occur.

Perhaps, it’s too frightening to think of ourselves as the native Americans being invaded by colonials with superior technology and firepower.

Yet according to a National Geographic survey, more than a third (36%) of people surveyed think aliens exist. And how many more people are afraid to admit it?

Aliens could be a good thing–coming here benevolently to share with us or they could act alien and try to take from us. From our own Earthly experiences, it seems the latter is far more likely.

We have a lot of fingers and weapons pointed at each other all time, I wonder whether we need to spend more time and effort thinking, planning, and preparing for something much more scary and threatening than each other.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris at Oblong Pictures)

Living The Limits

 

Almost two decades ago, when working towards my MBA degree, I read the book, Beyond the Limits(1992) about how between growing world overpopulation and our disposition to living without regards to our limited resources, we were in danger of depletion and ultimately face an existential disaster. 

Now this theme continues with the movie, Surviving Progress(2012) warning that our unabated consumerism and overproduction is leaving in its wake diminished environmental resources and leading eventually to a collapse of our global ecosystem. 

In between the book and the movie, I have followed the warnings of well known and respected leaders, such as former Vice President, Al Gore on global warning, former Comptroller General, David Walker on our spiraling national debt, oil magnate, T. Boone Pickens on peak oil, and that is just to name a few. 

Yet, the warnings of our unsustainable living keep running up against our impressive technological progress–for example, oil and natural gas is being discovered and still plentiful, agricultural productivity keeps rising, and computers and automation allows us to continuously do more with less. 

So what are we to believe–are we on a unsustainable collision course with mother nature that threatens our very existence or is our innovative prowess and technological progress going to keep us ahead of the curve and out of any danger? 

As a technologist, and someone who promotes innovation, entrepreneurship, hard work and sound supporting ethics underlying everything we do, I am a firm believer that we can make a difference. Yes, with G-d’s blessings, it is possible to shape our destiny, so that we can continue to not only sustain ourselves, but also actually improve our standard of living. 

On the other hand, I cannot help but notice a generally gluttonous lifestyle in our society–where people almost always seem to buying bigger and better homes, cars, and even now yachts and private planes, and where buying and throwing things out is a vicious and endless cycle, where we live for the moment, rather than plan ahead. 

Despite initiatives to reduce, reuse, and recycle, we are still very much a single use society (use and discard), where compulsive shopping and a “mine is bigger and nicer than yours” mind-set and motive prevails. 

Now as humankind plans for Earth’s ultimate resource depletion, companies such as Planetary Resources  are researching and developing robotic spacecraft to mine asteroids to get water, extract raw materials, and find new sources of precious minerals, and government agencies like NASAare exploring orbiting space settlements as well as the permanent colonization of the moon and Mars. 

At the end of the day, the Earth–no matter how large and bountiful–is a finite resource and we should use innovation and technology to extend its use and at the same time reach out to find our next hospitable home. 

Watching two seasons of a Discovery television series called The Colonyabout how people in a simulation of a global catastrophe, survive–I saw that no matter how well they did for a number of weeks living off of existing resources where they were, eventually, they had to plan and creatively build their escape to a new sustainable living place. 

Unfortunately, this is not just TV fiction, but this is our reality–to thrive in our world today, but also to plan and build for the long-term–a new home for mankind.

Hello From Moon Colony

Moon_colony

What can be more thrilling than the promise of space exploration and the virtually limitless possibilities that it holds.

 

Since the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, the first manned mission to land on the moon, we have dreamed of the next step in terms of an actual colony of humans living there.

 

In 1975, the science fiction TV show Space: 1999, that many of you may still remember, envisioned what this space colony could look like (until a nuclear mishap sends the colony hurling through space).

 

From 1984, you can see attached, a NASA’s artist rendering of a colonized moon along with astronauts and lunar rover.

 

Now in 2012, with the presidential campaigning in full swing, we are hearing the promise of such a manned lunar colony once again and it is still just as exciting as ever.

 

One candidate, called for the lunar colony to be bustling with commercial activity by 2020–wouldn’t that be amazing!

 

While it was funny when this candidate said that once the colony reached 13,000 American inhabitants, they can petition to become a state, it also somehow brought it into a new perspective and made it so real–like could this really happen one day?

 

The idea of expanding beyond our limits here on Earth, making new discoveries, tapping into potential new resources, and harnessing ever greater innovation from such exploration can bring hope of a better, brighter tomorrow to all.

 

Note to self: must haves for a lunar colony–aside from a place of worship, a great fitness center and some nice restaurants, we’ll need the Internet, iPhone, Netflix, and Xbox (and Facebook would be a plus) 😉

 

(Source Photo: here)

Future Of Space Travel

For those of you who are upset to the see the final Space Shuttle mission this week, we definitely have something to look forward to with the new Orion, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for manned space flight.

The main saucer-shaped “Crew Module” can separate from the “Service Module” that contains the propulsion, water and oxygen for sustaining life, and cargo transport (this is similar to the flying “saucer” that could separate from the main body of the Star Trek Enterprise in later episodes).  

Orion will supposedly be the most advanced space vehicle out there to support missions from 4 to 900 days (virtually a full blown Star Trek voyage).

It is being built by Lockheed Martin (an early supporter of the United Federation of Planets?) and will have advanced life support, propulsion, avionics, and thermal protection for reentry (and hopefully in development are the phasers, photon torpedos, phase modulating shields, warp core, and transporter).
The Orion will be able to transport 4 crew and may be augmented by Robonauts (sort of like Data the android, but with no personality yet). 
Robonauts are engineered by a collaboration of NASA and General Motors, and according to GM, they will help automate “dull, repetitive, and ergonomically challenging tasks” and make us more efficient in both the aerospace and automative industries.  Note: A robonaut is currently up on the International Space Station for testing (a precursor to Deep Space Nine).
Progress is being made, cool things are coming, and we will hopefully all be fortunate to see it unfold.
Gene Roddenberry was right about our future all along. 🙂
(Source Photos: Orion from Wikipedia and Star Trek Enterprise from here)

>The Search For Servant Leadership in A Chilean Mine

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The Search For Servant Leadership in A Chilean Mine

I’ve been following the story this week about the 33 miners trapped half a mile below the surface in the collapsed mine in Chile.

The story of the miners survival is incredible, but so too are the implications of corporate greed and the neglect of the workers safety and how we treat people as objects rather than human beings.

33 people are stuck in a space approximately 500 square feet for 18 days until a 2.3 inch drill hole was used to discover their whereabouts this week.

The miners had lost on average 22 pounds each and were on rationed peaches, milk, tuna, and crackers every other day.

The pictures of the miners and the notes of love and hope that emerged from below the earth’s crust were truly inspiring, despite the way that they got trapped to begin with.

Yet, the miners now have to wait approximately 4 months for a rescue tunnel 26 inches wide to be completed to pull them to safety.

The fear, panic and duress of being trapped 2300 feet down in 95-degree heat in close quarters for so long is something government officials, psychologists, and family members are very concerned about. They have even reached out to NASA to help them deal with the effects of the prolonged isolation.

Amazingly, when we think about how technology could help in this situation, it is not necessarily a “super-duper” drill able to dig them out in hours or minutes that is the focus here or a transporter able to beam the miners up the surface in seconds, but rather a simple tool like a ladder placed near the ventilation shaft (as was supposed to have been for safety purposes) would have enabled the miners to escape to the surface.

Now instead of the mining company having done the right thing for its workers to begin with, they are now facing a lawsuit from the families of the trapped miners and potentially bankruptcy.

This situation is reminiscent of other companies that put their profits before their workers, like we saw recently with BP that didn’t have a simple safety shut-off valve on the leaking oil well, and now they are funding a $20 billion escrow account to settle claims from the Gulf Coast oil disaster.

Plain and simple, it does not pay to skimp on worker safety.

More than that, people are not only our most important asset—as has become cliché to say, but the whole point of our interactions at work is to treat each other right.

Of course, we need and want to be productive, to improve things, to reengineer business processes, enable them with new technologies, and leave the world better from our work, but to me the true test for us as human beings is to make these contributions to our organizations and missions and at the same time not lose our basic humanity.

If the cost of an improvement or promotion is some very real bodies that we must climb over to get there, then I say we are failing the true test before us.

We can make the same gains and more by treating people with kindness and compassion—the way we would want to be treated.

Let’s not deny anyone a ladder or safety valve or even in the smallest ways mistreat our employees.

The test of leadership is how we treat people in accomplishing our goals, and the long-term effects to us from our behavior in this regard are greater than any short-term technology or process improvements we can make by dehumanizing ourselves and hurting others.

>EA Can Do It

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A number of weeks ago, I was at a CTO Event in DC and got to hear from colleagues about their thoughts on various technologies and IT trends. Overall the exchange was great, and as always, I was deeply impressed with the wisdom and experience of these IT leaders.

However, one particular set of comments set me back in my chair a little. And that was on the topic of Enterprise Architecture. Apparently, a number of CTOs (from a relatively small number of agencies) had not had great success in their organizations with EA and were practically questioning it’s very existence in our IT universe. Yikes!

I believe some of the comments were to the effect (and this is not verbatim—I will put it euphemistically) that these individuals had never seen anything valuable from enterprise architecture—EVER—and that as far as they were concerned, it should be discontinued in their organizations, altogether.

In thinking about the stinging comments from some of the IT leaders, I actually felt bad for them that they had had negative experiences with a discipline like EA, which is such a powerful and transformative planning and governance framework when implemented correctly—with the value proposition of improving IT decision making and the end-user as the focal point for delivering valuable and actionable EA information and governance services—generally what I call User-centric Enterprise Architecture.

Right away after the negative comments, there were a number of CTOs that jumped up to defend EA, including me. My response was partially that just because some EA programs had not been successful (i.e. they were poorly implemented), did not mean that EA was not valuable when it was done right—and that there was indeed a way to build an organizations enterprise architecture as a true beacon for the organization to modernize, transform, and show continuous improvement. So please hold off from dismembering EA from our organizations.

Recently, I was further reassured that some organizations were getting EA, and getting it right, when I read a blog by Linda Cureton, the new CIO of NASA who wrote: NASA CIO: How to Rule the World of IT through Enterprise Architecture.

In the blog, Ms. Cureton first offers up a very nice, straightforward definition of EA:

“Let me step back a bit and offer a simple definition for Enterprise Architecture that is not spoken in the dribble of IT jargon. In simplest terms, it is a planning framework that describes how the technology assets of an organization connect and operate. It also describes what the organization needs from the technology. And finally, it describes the set of activities required to meet the organizational needs. Oh, and I should also say it operates in a context of a process for setting priorities, making decisions, informing those decisions, and delivering results called – IT Governance.”

Further, Ms. Cureton draws some parallels from a book titled How to Rule the World: Handbook for an Aspiring Dictator, by Andre de Gaillaume, as follows:

“· It is possible to manage IT as an Enterprise.

· You can use the Enterprise Architecture to plan and manage the kinder, safer, more cost effective IT world.

· Transformational projects will successful and deliver desired results.

· IT can be a key strategic enabler of NASA’s [and other organizations] goals.”

Wow, this was great–an IT leader who really understands EA and sees it as the tool that it genuinely is for–to more effectively plan and govern IT and to move from day-to-day organizational firefighting to instead more strategic formulation and execution for tangible mission and end-user results.

While, I haven’t read the dictators handbook and do not aspire to draw any conclusions from it in terms of ruling the world, I do earnestly believe that no organization will be successful with their IT without EA. You cannot have an effective IT organization without a clear vision and plan as well as the mechanism to drive informed decision making from the plan and then being able to execute on it.

Success doesn’t just happen, it is the result of brilliant planning and nurtured execution from dedicated and hardworking people.

Reading about NASA’s direction now, they may indeed be looking to the stars, but now, they also have their eyes focused on their EA.