World View

On my flight back to Singapore a few days ago, the plane ride from San Francisco to Hong Kong took me pretty directly over earth’s northern polar region. It is a very empty and cold region, of course, but one of enormous beauty as well. So this post is just a simple photo I took from the 747’s window at the right time. The photo was taken when the sun never rises much above the horizon so the lighting is good to show contrasts on what would otherwise be a very white and contrast-less landscape.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Enjoy!

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories

What We Pass On

Lately I have been reading books on climate change.

Here is a short list of books that are VERY readable and whose points are well made –

  • Storms of My Grandchildren by James Hansen – Book by one of the leading USA climate scientists.  Starts with the known facts and then extrapolates to consequences
  • Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air by David MacKay – a dissection of UK energy uses and sources today, then projects efficiency savings and new technology for generation; takes all of this and then shows what it will take to make things be in balance
  • Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand – a thoughtful telling of how we must adopt modern technologies by a person who has deep street cred in fighting some of what he now advocates
  • Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler – why humans tend to be pessimistic and like bad news; how to see the world in more balanced ways
  • Keeping Our Cool by Andrew Weaver – long time Canada member of IPCC, thoughtful telling of science behind climate change told for all including non-scientists
This list should keep you busy and provide some thoughts for your vacation reading.
In reading these, I am repeatedly struck by the immensity of the challenges we are building for ourselves in the future.
Modern new agencies present climate change as a scientific inquiry where there is considerable differences of opinion and where the outcomes are uncertain.  It is clear from all my reading that this simply is not so.  Weaver makes the case most explicitly.  Science is clear as it can be that we are now in the early to middle stages of human driven climate change because we are mining all of the carbon the earth has stored away over millions of years and putting it back into our atmosphere in the form of CO2 in a matter of a couple hundred years.  The impact of this will be global warming, the melting of polar ice and all glaciers, the acidification of the ocean waters.  Any one of these will have dramatic consequences for all life (including human) on planet earth.  There are no peer reviewed journals where there are published articles that challenge these statements in any credible way.
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Now the point of this essay is not to go further into climate, but to ask a different question.
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Don’t we always seem to pass onto our children and grandchildren the solutions to past problems and the dilemmas of future problems?
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In the founding of the USA more than 225 years ago, the constitution allowed for slavery.  It was part of the balance or deal struck in order to create the Union.  But 80 years later we had to fight a civil war that was massively damaging to our still new nation just to over turn that legacy.
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In the ending of WWI, the winning nations demanded reparations that broke the German and other losing countries economies and gave rise to WW2.
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Even further back we can see that the industrial revolution was the turn of technologies that now gives rise to climate change … it is when we started massive extraction and combustion of fossile fuels.  The industrial revolution is also the moment in time when much more of humanity was able to share in the common riches and simple life enhancing articles that were only traditionally available to the super rich.  Clean water, underwear, dishes and silverware – you get the idea – were once only available to kings and their households.  All developed nations have this as a baseline for all their citizens and this is rapidly spreading to all humanity.
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So we are consuming ground based carbon and putting CO2 into the atmosphere in return we are getting a more universally educated, healthy and basic living standards for every person on earth.
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My question in this essay is: Are we creating a problem that cannot be solved in fulfilling and providing fairness to all or are we once again not having enough confidence in our children and their children to take care of the future?
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The contention by some very thoughtful people is that this time we are running up against absolute limits of the earth’s resources – fully depleted fossil fuels, drained aquifers, too much CO2 in the atmosphere.  And they are marshaling very convincing scientific arguments.
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History suggest another outcome.  We have consistently underestimated human kind’s ability to invent and mitigate the perceived risks of the future through greater innovation both in terms of scientific advances as well as social advances.  We are not the same people we were 200 years ago when the industrial revolution started us on the road of climate change.   We have mastered technology and vast landscapes of science.  But we have also built new institutions in terms of governing structures, businesses, philanthropy and such.
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When I consider the only the scientific evidence I find very little in the way of comfort.  But when I consider the entire human record then there is hope.

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads

Closing 1

Small World Group Incubator has been operating now for 26 months in Singapore.  We have started 9 companies and a 10th will launch in March.

And we have had 3 companies have up rounds beyond the money we initially gave them for starting capital, these 3 are – HeyPal, Green Koncepts and Third Wave Power.

And for all of this time we had no failures but it had to happen eventually.  And so it has.

What is most interesting is that the company closed not for failure of the technology, nor of market interest.  The company failed because the founding team broke apart and under that condition we could not find a way to continue.

If any of you reading this have any conception that venture capital is about technology, engineering, business model testing, innovation, customers.  It is about all of those.  But beyond all of these it is a “people” business.  And sometimes we just cannot figure that out even if we spend months getting to know a team.

So now our overall batting average looks more realistic!

Posted in Essays, Investing, Personal Stories, Singapore Incubator, Spiritual Threads

A Growing Program in Singapore

It has been 2 years since we start the Small World Group Incubator.  Much has evolved and much has stayed the same too.

We started with Dean Haritos and I as partners in this endeavor and both of us are still here.  But we have added Chong Chiet Ping and Kent Pavey as well as a junior member of our team Ken Lee.  The group works very well together and each of these people are integral to our success today.

We have funded nearly 10 companies and our pipeline remains strong and actually is strengthening in terms of interesting opportunities.  We have funded some companies outside of Singapore – notably Spinlectrix.

Our funding partner, the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF) has remained steady and together we continue to evolve this program to enhance its success.  For example NRF is seeking to expand the program to include new incubator managers along with the existing pool.  Some of the originally selected groups have become less active but the program, I believe, is being quite successful.

Some challenges have begun to emerge from the program as follow on investing is now beginning to loom for the earliest funded companies.

So what we have is a precocious 2-year-old, one who is growing but also teething and transition from walking and crawling to running.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Investing, Personal Stories, Singapore Incubator

Amazing Korean Internet Access

Tonight from my hotel (The Grand Intercontinental Seoul Parnae) I achieved by far the fastest internet access I have ever seen.  Totally amazing.

Here is the graphic showing the actual results using www.speedtest.net –

 Korean Internet Speed Test - Click to Enlarge

Korean Internet Speed Test – Click to Enlarge

This is what fiber optic communications should be doing for us all.

Service providers have become very proficient about quoting speeds that they never deliver.  This is so totally the opposite.

Frickin’ Amazing.

Posted in Optical Technology, Personal Stories

A View from Iraq

I have a friend that is a somewhat recent West Point graduate who is now on his second tour of duty in Iraq.  This time he works on the staff of a Brigadier Genereal of the Army.

He recently wrote many of his family and friends a letter where he talks about Iraq, what we are doing there and his feelings.  What I like best is that he clearly loves the people there and their resolution and courage.  But he also sees the challenges that cannot be solved quickly and maybe not at all by the USA military.  I liked his letter so much I asked and received permission to share it with the readers of this Blog.  His name is Walter and he is a Captain in the US Army.

There is food for thought here for all elements of the political spectrum.

His words begin here …

What is America doing here [here being Iraq, in case you didn’t read the last e-mail]?

The United States Forces – Iraq is hellaciously busy planning. While our diplomats negotiate with the Iraqis concerning an extension of American troops past the deadline of 31 December, the herculean task of moving all our equipment and soldiers out of the country continues. If you read the news, you’ll notice the new talk is of leaving 3,000 soldiers here instead of the 10,000 that dominated discussion for most of the summer. Either way, most of the actual training is being done by contractors, and that’s what will likely continue after 2012 anyway. What is truly fascinating is watching the military bureaucracy at work. USF-I has myriad staffs, working groups, committees, meetings to prepare for other meetings… it is impressive. It also means that egos, organizational stove pipes, different groups working at cross efforts or unwittingly tackling the same problem, and of course having too many chiefs and not enough Indians make things difficult. And that’s before you start coordinating with the Department of State while preparing to make everything their responsibility. Nonetheless, the people working here are bright, committed, and trying to make a difference. I’m almost universally impressed by the General Officers here as well, which is certainly heartening.

American forces are also busily training the Iraqis, especially on the sweet big ticket defense items we’ve sold them (we could probably solve our employment issues by selling the entire world our last generation of defense technology). These include an old variant of the Abrams battle tank, the M113 armored personnel carrier, and M198 and M109 artillery pieces. Only a few of Iraq’s divisions will be outfitted with this modern equipment, but the challenges are nonetheless substantial, especially since religious tensions come into play on deciding which divisions receive which toys. We have to teach the Iraqis how to operate and maintain complex machinery that is not only completely new to their military, but greatly stresses a fractured and fledgling logistical capability. The Iraqis will be the first to tell you that this is not one of their strengths, and culturemay have something to do with it. That link delves into greater detail than I can, and right or wrong is a very interesting read. On the other hand, I was present for the first firing of Iraqi artillery since the invasion, and the amount of sheer joy expressed by our Iraqi counterparts of all ranks was immeasurable. The Americans who have been here multiple times over are very proud of the progress Iraq has made.

 

What do you think of the Iraqis?

My last time here I interacted with them at the small unit level and was impressed by the generosity and hospitality of the Iraqi people. I should note that my soldiers who had fought against and lost friends to Iraqi insurgents on previous tours were far less forgiving. Now I talk almost exclusively to Iraqi generals (as the “schedule man” to BG Mealer, according to one of them). They are just like our Army, with some extremely competent leaders and some that leave you scratching your head at how they got their stars. The best ones invariably speak excellent English (a trait reciprocated by none of our senior leadership that I’m aware of), display a strong sense of humor, are fierce patriots, and realize how much work lies ahead of them. To a man, they desire American forces to stay beyond December. They also see Iran as the greatest threat to Iraq. During a discussion on the Abrams training program, we told one that it takes 10 years before an American is considered a fully qualified tank instructor. The Iraqi replied that we should call and tell Iran to wait 10 years, then. Another one remarked that “in all the world, the weak, nobody listen to him, everybody want bite from him. If you leave now you leave us in the mouth of the lion.” Today I sat in on a meeting with an Iraqi four star general who I swear was educated at Oxford. He began the meeting discussing the Arab Spring, and likened the transition from American troops to Department of State as reminding him “of the morning flower. It blossoms at the beginning of the day and closes at the end of the evening.”

Even more fascinating is Kurdistan. First of all, the animosity the Kurds bear towards Arabs means it is by far the safest region of Iraq (unless you count the Turks and Iranians pursuing separatists across national borders). While American soldiers don’t leave the International Zone in Baghdad, the cities of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah are so safe that you can walk around unarmed. However, they have seen their comparative advantage vis-à-vis the Iraqi military decline significantly, especially because American efforts to strengthen the central Iraqi state mean their own Peshmerga lack the heavy weaponry of normal Iraqi Army units. The Kurds still love us, but they are deeply worried that once we leave they will suffer again. One of them summarized it this way: “We need money for construction because our country has been destroyed. We are relying on our friends the Americans to help us… for the past seven years you have been giving the Iraqis all the money, and now they have what they want, they have the power, and we have a destroyed country… Please understand we are very thankful. In the name of the […] the Kurdish people, we thank you. We blame the decision makers. They don’t like us because we are different. Everything happening now is the same as under Saddam.”

 

What is Walter’s corner of USF-I doing in Iraq?

My piece of this puzzle has moved from the original posting, Iraq Train and Advising Mission – Army, to the USF-I J5 (Plans). This staff is responsible for strategy, assessments, and most everything taking place in the future. BG Mealer has already been here for over a year, but GEN Austin (currently vying with GEN Odierno for tallest 4 star general) extended her tour to make her the Deputy of this particular staff. The Director is BG (P, which means he’s been selected for 2 stars) Snow, who served as the ITAM-ARMY Director beforehand. They’re both exceptionally bright, driven, and wrestling with what seems like a million different working groups and meetings that attempt to keep the ship of our nation’s efforts here sailing on a smooth line. Interestingly, we’re teaching the Iraqis pretty well in that regard. At the end of a meeting today, the Iraqi conclusion was to form several working groups and hold semi-annual conferences. If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is!

 

What is Walter actually doing in Iraq?

I’m still working as the aide-de-camp for BG Mealer, who brought me with her to the J5. Does  this show her to be a poor judge of character? Absolutely. However, nobody is perfect. I do the important things, like keep her calendar, ensure she arrives to meetings on time and prepared (Heaven forbid the PowerPoint slides aren’t present), coordinate her travel, and of course do her laundry (much less menial than it sounds, since we’ve contracted for laundry services that take care of that). I spend my free time reading, exercising, and studying German, Chinese, and Arabic as well as Army Doctrine. You might want to ask, does Walter have too much free time? In response I ask you to do a word count on this e-mail.

 

What is Walter’s opinion of how this ends?

I should qualify this by stating that my opinion isn’t worth much. First of all, I don’t trust anything a 25 year old says about national strategy, and neither should you. Then again, the same could be said for many 52 year olds. I’m just an aide and don’t sit in the top level meetings or talk to the principal Iraqi policy makers besides saying hello and goodbye. Equally important is that a soldier’s job involves the execution of foreign policy, not forming it. At least, that’s what I remember from Huntington. What’s more, my opinion is difficult to nail down, and it often depends on my mood, the temperature (finally dropping, by the way), and of course the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter. To trot out the old cliché, where you stand depends on where you sit. Looking at the same data set through a different perspective can lead you to wildly different conclusions. To illustrate this fact, I’ve written two sample op-eds you might find in a mediocre newspaper *cough* AtlantaJournalConstitution *cough*.

1.     “Our failed imperial adventure draws to a conclusion.”

As the date for the complete removal of US troops from Iraq nears, the current spike in violence, political gridlock, and sectarian tensions underline how little our invasion accomplished. It’s true that we overthrew a brutal dictator who killed thousands of his own people. But what have we actually achieved in the time hence to either make Iraq a better country to live in or – in line with the original justification for the invasion – increased our own national security? Not much. Despite seven years pumping trillions of taxpayer dollars into the country, Iraq’s residents still deal with critical infrastructure shortfalls. Anbar province, cited as a success story because of the Sunni Awakening widely seen as crucial to the success of the “Surge,” has less than 8 hours of electricity a day. Roughly a third of Iraq’s citizens lack access to sewage services. Many provinces, including Baghdad, have unemployment of 25% or higher. When you place these stark facts against the backdrop of ongoing violence that leaves hundreds dead every month it is easy to understand why Iraqis are losing faith in their government.

 

The messy political system that replaced Saddam has proven equally unresponsive to the will of the people. Prime Minister Maliki left the crucial posts of Minister of Interior and Defense empty for months on end to maintain his grip on the levers of power, stalling much-needed reform and development projects. His chief rival, Allawi, went so far as to accuse him of torture, dictatorial tendencies, and gross mismanagement in a recent article published by the Washington Post. Political posturing notwithstanding, one thing is for certain: President Bush grossly miscalculated in invading Iraq and prosecuting the ensuing conflict. America and Iraq have suffered astronomical costs in blood and treasure to the advantage of the region’s true malign influence, Iran. The mullahs continue to provide Shiite extremist groups with sophisticated weaponry to bomb our convoys, attack our bases, and force more and more of the Iraqi elite to follow their de facto representative, Muqtada al Sadr.

 

Looking back over the last decade, it’s impossible to keep from thinking that America’s war of choice in Iraq likely cost us victory in Afghanistan. To add insult to injury, the Arab Spring adds further proof that a country’s populace has the power to accomplish what no amount of GIs and American Provincial Reconstruction Teams can match. What’s more, it has helped bring about our current financial distress, exhaust our military, and led to renewed calls for American isolationism. It’s time to forego foreign adventures and start dealing with the aftermath of short-sighted and duplicitous policy.

 

2.     “Glimmers of Hope in the Cradle of Civilization.”

Excluding the possibility of a new agreement between Iraq and the United States, America’s combat soldiers are mere months from completely withdrawing from the country. As they turn over America’s partnership with the Iraqis to the Department of State, they can do so knowing they made a crucial difference in the lives of millions. Despite initial failures, President Bush had the courage to double down on Iraq, and in David Petraeus found a general able to help the military relearncounterinsurgency. Since the “Surge” broke the insurgency’s back, the partnership between Iraq and America has yielded tangible security benefits. Of Iraq’s 18 provinces, only two still see enough violence to qualify as unstable.

 

Despite a historical trend for increased violence during Ramadan, August was the first month since our invasion that not a single American soldier was killed in action. The volatile region between Kurdish and Arab Iraq maintains a tenuous truce despite the removal of American soldiers from the Combined Security Mechanism. Prime Minister Maliki finally ended political gridlock by appointing Ministers of Interior and Defense. What’s more, the Arab Spring proved that yearning for democracy comes just as naturally and is felt just as powerfully throughout the Arab world as in other parts of the globe. Iraq’s military now boasts powerful Abrams battle tanks, APCs, and artillery that combine with expert American training to shape it into an effective guarantor of both national sovereignty and a convincing counterweight to Iran. Just as important, with the price of oil still over $100 a barrel and the world’s second largest proven oil reserves, Iraq has the resources to invest in the infrastructure it so desperately needs.

 

As Syria’s Assad continues to machine gun demonstrators and Egypt’s military struggles to manage a transition to democracy, the region can look to Iraq for valuable lessons learned. Was everything done as well as it should have been? No, but great undertakings are rarely perfect from the start. One of the proudest American traditions is reinvention, and our success in Iraq proves that it is alive and well. Even after a decade of war and no matter what some people say, the United States hasn’t lost its soft power appeal: we are still considered the coolest country in the world by far. Seeing the difficult road in Iraq to completion is a testament to our men and women, both uniformed and civilian, tirelessly striving to make a difference. History will show that they have.

 

— end of letter  —

 

Thanks Walter for the insights and unexpected view of a far away place.

 

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads

Democracy’s Challenge

There are many elements of society and government that the USA shares with Singapore.  These include –

  • rule of law
  • common language – English
  • high value on higher education
  • broad home ownership as a way to promote strong middle class
  • open financial system

And Singapore argues for its form of democracy.  The last election here, for the first time, an opposition party won all the seats in an entire ward.  But for the most part the democracy here is rule by a single party.  And this allows Singapore to make decisions that many times may not be popular but are practical and logical.

In the USA right now there is intense debate about how to reduce the national government budget deficit.  In this debate there is wringing of hands about so many ways to cut defense, to cut education.  But if you could ask anyone in Washington behind closed doors they all know how it can be done and be done fairly.

You must strongly cut entitlements – social security, medicare, medicade.  Why here?  Because these are the largest elements of the budget.  The way to make the cuts is also clear.  You re-adjust the retirement ages, the ages for different payouts from the system and you limit the payouts on the medical side on a per person basis for their lifetime.

Simple put, people live much longer today than when the system was set up.  Perhaps on average another 15-20 years.  But we have kept the structure the same in spite of this huge demographic shift.  If we raised the retirement age to 72 from 62-65 it would mean that our citizens pay into the system for another 7 years and take out 7 years less.  The financial impact of this shift is massive.

Same with medical payments in medicare and medicade.  We now spend more on the last few years of life than we do on the first 20 years.  So we are investing more in the dying than the education of our young people.  To fix this we have to agree that at some point we will not do everything possible to prolong life, at least not with taxpayer dollars.  We cannot afford it.

But in both of these cases we can now see the problem.  It is easier for politicians to destroy their opponents who favor such changes by labeling them killers of the old, breakers of a promise that has stood for decades.  And so get elected.  Today both Republicans and Democrats refuse to take these steps because they know the outcome.

And now we find ourselves competing with “democracies” in Asia where such decisions are made differently.  They are made by single party systems where it is possible to take the politically difficult but economically essential steps.

I wonder if the case can be made that as democracies mature and offer their citizens broad and committed input to the system and its future, if at that moment they are opening the door to the long term problem of the citizens of today using this same political system to pay themselves benefits and rob future generations of theirs.  It is politically possible and convenient to do just this.

Which approach is best?  Still not clear.  But it is clear that in the USA we are using the political process to borrow now to pay our selves and to stick the bill with future generations who we have under educated and under funded just to keep the current generation alive for a few extra months.

Ouch.

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Singapore Incubator, Spiritual Threads

Top Down Singapore and Change

As many of you know, I live a majority of my time in Singapore.  Singapore is a city-state that has transformed itself over the past 45 years since being founded in 1965.  Like many Asian countries the system of government is a single party democracy.  And more importantly, it is a a country that has very strong central planning.

Centrally planned countries, economies and such involve careful top down planning.  And that approach to governance and growth has served Singapore very well.  But I believe that this must change.

Top down planning works best when you have the ability to study the results of others and select solutions from among those that have worked for others.  You look at education and pull some from Japan, some from the USA some from the UK.  Hopefully the best from each place.  Top down or central planning is VERY efficient when the models you adopt are clearly successful.  You can have public debate or not, you can engage in discourse but ultimately you can make difficult decisions, ones that may not be short term popular but which you know are long term effective for transforming your country and its economy.

Where the top down approach fails is when the path is not well known.  For example, one of the stated or public goals for Singapore is to transform itself from a “skills” based to a “knowledge” based economy.  Translated this means that Singapore has progressed from being a country that has a large manufacturing sector to one that wants to do more inventing, creating and design instead.  Driving this is the fact that Singapore has been so successful that now they are a leading first world country and as such have GDP per capita and incomes that no longer allow manufacturing to be competitive here.  Manufacturing plants move out of Singapore to nearby Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines.  A skills based economy implies manufacturing but a knowledge based economy implies something more like Silicon Valley.

So now Singapore has embarked upon a series of initiatives to encourage their population to become more entrepreneurial.   What Small World Group does here is operate and manage an incubator for small companies as a part of this transformation mission.  We are much like the mouse in the Aesop fable of the lion and the mouse.  We are small but perhaps our steady limited actions can be a helpful part of the overall solution.  To complete this metaphor, we gnaw away to set the lion free by starting little high tech companies in the area of clean tech.  And our presence here and our work was enabled by top down planning.

But …

Top down planning won’t work if the ecosystem which they hope we help to create has to be planned.  This has to grow organically.  And it has to be free to take technology in directions that the startups and their entrepreneurial leaders feel is significant, can be profitable, etc.

The act of starting a company is filled with missteps, changes of directions, pivots and such.  Entrepreneurs feel their way in to success.  As Steve Blank likes to say – “no business plan survives first contact with customers”.

Moreover as this transformation occurs – moving from a skills to a knowledge based economy – overall the entire country will be come less manageable by top down methods.  That is why the USA and Singapore are so very different.  The USA is planned bottoms up.  It can pivot surprisingly fast for a country of 350M people.  If something is not working we can all agree to drop it.  But in a centrally planned top down approach – like the now defunct Soviet Union – quick pivots result in no change or revolution.

In the USA we don’t have to have a revolution in order to make fast changes.

So as I finish this essay, I wonder what is in the future for Singapore as they embrace this more unpredictable and certainly less planned future?

 

Posted in Essays, Investing, Personal Stories, Singapore Incubator, Spiritual Threads

Great Questions!

Like all of us, I get asked to fill out surveys so very frequently.  All surveys ask questions like – “please rate this service from 1 to 5 where 5 is great and 1 is terrible”.  And if the service or functions I am asked to rate matters to me I try to complete them.  But honestly this is rare because the results of such surveys are not very helpful because the survey is designed to confirm things that the sponsoring organization or person already believes true.

There are better ways to construct surveys.  To me one of the very best is along the lines of Meyers-Briggs tests.  In these tests you are asked a series of questions that force choices.  The best example is – “Do you prefer mercy or justice?”  Now, of course, nearly all people prefer to be associated with both qualities.  But in this test you can only choose one or the other.  In making this choice you are forced to reveal some aspect about yourself and your thinking.  (let’s hold this thought for just a moment!)

LinkedIn is basically an online resume service.  Yes it has people connections but …

When you get a LinkedIn request don’t you accept most of them without much thinking?  Why not increase your “network”.  So what if many of the links that build up have little value or reflect connections that you honestly trust.

So along comes Mixtent and this provides Meyers-Briggs like focus to the relationships you have on LinkedIn.  Wow.  It takes time but there is a way to clean up things on LinkedIn and it remains anonymous.

I encourage many of you to give it a try!

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads

Space Travel

The cover story in this month’s Popular Science is entitled “After Earth”.  In it they speculate, as only PopSci can, about how more people will live off earth than on it in the near future.  Maybe.

I confess that I still love the magazine and not for its future accuracy but rather for the American style of inspiration it provides to so many, especially young people.  That alone is worth the cover price.

Now why am I telling you this?

Turns out that there is another point of view for how we colonize space and I have not seen it published before (but that does not mean it hasn’t).

What I expect is that as we leave the earth it will be “people” whose consciousness has been ported to a silicon based version of our selves.  This silicon version will have a robot skeleton and be very capable.  But this “body” won’t need –

  • air to breathe
  • CO2 to be recycled
  • organic matter to be grown for its food
  • different organic matter to be recycled into fertilizer
  • water to drink
  • to be kept at 98.6F
  • sleep

And this will make the living and the very long trips manageable.  Ray Kurzweil has speculated (1), (2), (3) and there is growing belief that we are tracking to some parts of this unusual but happening in our lifetime prediction.

If this is right, then space travel will be made somewhat easier because we will be able to send intelligent sentient beings with our space probes.  And if we send one “person” I suspect we will send several.  Why?  Because even with the “porting” of humanity from carbon to silicon substrates, I believe the beings will remain and want to remain social with others.  It is defining for us all.

So for now, read the PopSci article but as you do think about what the humans that travel on that journey really might look like!

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads