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mardi 11 octobre 2011

American Ingenuity or Two Dollar A day Chinese Workforce?

This week, the Jewish High Holiday week has been full of news of all sorts. The News TV especially CNN has become a personality cult series and without much merit in news analysis of the world. Al Jazeera, which gained, some respect for reporting from Arab Lands when no one could go there, is dry and humourless and reflecting its national origin in Doha.
Fortunately we still have
The Economist
While traveling I spend the waiting periods at the airports in Lounges of the airlines and some of the lounges are good at providing reading material. On a recent visit to the Fort Lauderdale and Houston Lounges, I could collect
FP foreign policy
Strategy and Business
Executive Travel
Global Traveller (much more advertising medium)
Laptop for the recent introductions and tricks to improve your laptop
FT weekend edition and any of the local newspapers.

The news was heavily weighted towards Steve Jobs’ death and rightfully so. So much grief over a technology entrepreneur who touched millions of people not only because of the tech creations but also because of what he stood for, and his devotion to work, family, ambition, hope and optimism. It is those human qualities that we would remember Steve Jobs for, not for ipad or iPhone, which will be superseded by the future gadgets coming in at lightning speed into the arena.
Talking about the future, there was an interview with the Guru of futurism, Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi, both masters on their own rights. They had published the widely successful Future Shock in 1970 and followed it up with The Third Wave. According to an interview published in FP, we are moving on to the Fourth Wave. Toffler’s coined Information Overload and every one knows that we have very little privacy left when we are on Internet. The hybrid age we are entering is the one in which there is an interaction between humans and technology, dating to the time when a Computer trounced two selected participants in a quiz show on TV!
Future business models among others would be affected by this hybrid age we are entering into. Imagine the changes in the last twenty years, where were we 20 years ago? Internet? Ipad? Chinese Manufacturing? Call centres in Bombay? Decline of French as a language? English as the most spoken second language?
In this age, what would distinguish societies would not be their unique cultures but their adaptability and those who cannot adapt would not be able to eat their share of the pie.
Americans would leave the manufacturing of silly things to China, and can tailor make niche products for the regions of the USA, and China’s dominance might become shaky when USA no longer need to buy from China?
Interesting times ahead. But where would you rather spend those interesting ahead? In Yemen? In Doha?
In Damascus? Or in the United States of America?

This also was a week of Nobel Prizes!
Literature prize went to a swede, peace prizes well awarded to the two Liberian ladies and the Yemeni activist!
But all the other sciences, Americans shared or were given the prizes. One French and One Israeli and one Aussie.
Which country provides the innovation? Which provides the nurturing ground for such genius?
An article on Business+Strategy was thought provoking as well.
We tend to blame China when things are not going well in your country and blame India when the 800 number you called has a foreign accent answering them. Leave the Chinese to manufacture the 2-dollar tchotchkes and the Indians to answer your credit card enquiries, and sell them instead Boeing Aircrafts and Computer innovations, let china manufacture the iPhones but the innovations are in the USA. Instead of worrying about the culture of outsourcing and young men dying in their twenties with heart attach in Bombay, lure their best brains out for 100,000 usd plus salaries to Google, Apple, Facebook, YouTube. The four are already managing many a things including revolutions in other countries. Whilst the young men some countries are dreaming of sixty virgins in heaven, let the innovations of the west provide virgins of their own countries with some sense of freedom by connecting them to the world of ideas and liberal thoughts.
France Faces a Dilemma was the title of the article. There has been deterioration in manufacturing in France but they have not shifted to China or allowing unlimited imports, but the production had moved to Germany. China produces lower-tech, lower margin products, such as apparel, furniture and other office machines. France’s trade imbalance with western European nations has come at the expense of higher value products such as automobiles, advanced chemicals and industrial machinery.
So France’s decline along with the decline of the national language is a shift to regional western economies, which may not decide to return. In the USA, we can visualize a regional production forcing the Chinese and other manufacturers to set up factories in China, ditto the previous shift of regional production of Japanese automobiles in the USA.

Another interesting article that was quoted in another article about Chinese Tiger Mother type of singular education vs. Jewish view of education as a liberal one with greater breadth, was from the President of Wesleyan University.
It does make you think, as the world is going through changes and the terms like globalization has lost its meaning.
I recommend that you read the article by Michael Roth; it would make you think and direct your children towards not Associate Degrees in Business Management but towards a greater liberal education before they branch off into their peculiar career interests.
Roth says:

We should look at education not as a specific training program for a limited range of mental muscles but as a process through which one will generate some of the most important features in one's life. It makes no sense to train people as narrowly as possible in a world going through cataclysmic changes, for you are building specific strengths that leave you merely muscle-bound, not stronger and more flexible.

So at a time of economic spasm as the one we are going through, it is good to think that there are people in America who value liberal education over a strictly utilitarian education. In Asia, Education is seen a Business in itself, otherwise why should KL and Malaysia have 43 medical schools? all charging high tuition fees so that they can educate a small number of people in a very narrow field of rote learning?

So despite the political charade of the conservative Americans and the bling bling of the French conservatives, one must be grateful for the life provided for us by the citizens of these countries who light our path to individual self realization.

I am not interested in comparing my quality of life with that of India or China (neither country interest me too much) but very interested in how to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the two western countries, USA and France where I spend my time and that star of the developing world, Cuba where one can always find a good conversation on any intellectual subject of your choice…
Thank You.
PS I highly recommend the magazine MONOCLE edited by Tyler Brule who also writes a regular column for FT.