Category Archives: Economics

Making Modern World : Materials and Dematerialization

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By Vaclav Smil  (2013)

Makingmodernworld Over the course  of time, the modern world has become dependent on  unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rate.

I am still at the beginning of the book. I think it is a little dry though it does start to explore the history of how organisms use materials.

The use of materials fall into 5 major categories :

1) Rarest to inconsequential category : use collected natural materials as tools. Chimpanzees use blades of grass or twigs to collect termites or small stones and they use stone anvils to crack open nuts.

2) Use of secreted materials to build protective / prey catching structures. Spider silk is one of the most remarkable secreted material, with a tensile strength similar to that of good quality steel.

 

3) Removal of biomass and man made materials to create remarkably designed structures example from beaver dams to intricate nests. Leafcutter ants (genus Atta) harvest leaves, drag them underground into nests to cultivate fungus. Beavers are active harvesters of wood used to build their dams. Birds’ nests offer the most varied and sometimes spectacular examples of construction using natural materials.

 

4) Removal and repositioning of soils  and clays (termite mounds, intricate rodent burrow) Some bower birds of Australia and New Guinea attract females using colorful natural objects such as shells, berries, leaves and flowers, but also discarded bits of plastic, metal or glass. Termites are the greatest aggregate movers and users of soils in subtropical and tropical environments as they construct often impressively tall and voluminous mounds that not only shelter the massive colonies, but also provide induced ventilation driven by pressure differences.

 

5) Extraction of minerals from water, mostly to build ecoskeleton example corals, phytoplankton.  The largest use of natural materials are the marine biomineralizers that are able to secrete the inorganic compounds they produce from chemicals absorbed from water. Great Barrier Reef may be the world’s largest structured built by largest animals.

 

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American Girls

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americangirlsSocial Media and the secret lives of teenagers
By Nancy Jo Sales (2016)

The author writes very authentically on the idea of how social media affects American girls nowadays. It is very painful to read this book. It gives you a very sad picture of what is happening in America and the future generation.

If I ever have a child whether boy or girl (especially if its a girl), I will not want to raise him or her up in America.

The young teenage girls are crazy over Kim Kardashian and wants to be like her. Kim launches her book “Selfish”, a collection of selfies and nudes. It was Kim naked in a bathroom mirror, clutching her naked breast, leaning naked over a bathroom sink…

Kim had become social media’s biggest star. In 2006, she had just 856 friends on Myspace, now she had over 31 million followers on Instagram. Kim’s fame actually started due to a leaked sex tape with her boyfriend then. Kim successfully used the technological tools now available to almost everyone to get what everyone wanted. I find it very sad that the book even mentioned one line “You are a role model for my daughters,” said someone’s mother.

In a 2014 survey, YouTube Stars are more popular than mainstream celebs among U.S Teens.Beauty gurus are popular with American girls. Girls are more hookup on social media than guys. In a 2015 study at University College London found a possible link between anxiety in girls ages 11-13 and seeing images of women being sexually objectified on social media. Girls this age were more likely to feel nervous or show lack of confidence than they were 5 years ago. There is also a sharp spike in emotional problems among girls.

The problem of cyber bullying was prevalent too. Girls are more often the victims of cyberbullying than boys. Even on social media example Instagram pictures, if you don’t like or comment on them, someone can get offended and it can cause some drama.

I think America is a great country, but to read it in more details, it is very depressing. In fact, I only finished 3/4 of the book, and couldn’t continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meatball Sundae

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meatballsundaeBy Seth Godin (2007)

I guess I prefer his previous books like Linchpin and Poke the Box, cos they are easier to read. For this one, it is very confusing. Maybe too much words for his style? I donna…

He talks about certain trends, that was way back in 2007. Now it is 2014. Hence certain things have already been realized and still happening as of now..

Trend 1 :There is direct communication between producers and consumers. Thus eliminating the middle man.

Trend 2 : Amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities.  In a market where everyone is a critic, the need to create products that appeal to and satisfy critics becomes urgent. The same is true for after-purchase issues of services and quality.

Trend 3 : Need for an authentic story as the number of sources increase.

Trend 4 : Extremely short attention span due to clutter.

Trend 5 : The Long Tail. Domination by hit products is fading, consumers reward providers that offer the most choices, and the economics of creating and selling a product have fundamentally changed. Find a market that hasn’t been found yet, create something so remarkable that people in the market are compelled to find you. String together enough of these markets so that you can make it into a business.

 

Trend 6 : Outsourcing. It is not just possible to find someone to make/code/do something for you quickly and cheaply. It is now easy. Production of physical goods  and intellectual property is based on talent and efficiency instead.

Trend 7 : Google and the dicing of everything. Now it is a pick and choose, component based solution.

Trend 8 : Infinite channels of communication.

Trend 9: Direct communication and commerce between consumers and consumers?

Trend 10 : The shifts in scarcity and abundance. Your organization is based on exploiting scarcity. Create and sell something scarce and you can earn a profit. But when scarce things become common, and common things become scarce, you need to alter what you can do all day.

What used to be abundant
1. Spare time
2. Attention
3. Ability to pollute without consequences
4. Trust
5. Sufficiently trained workers
6. Open space, clean water, and other natural resources.

Trend 11 : The triumph of big ideas. New Marketing demands ideas that force people to sit up and take notice. But big ideas can be simple.

Trend 12 : The shift from “How many” to “who”? The focus on mass is understandable if you assume that all consumers are the same but they are not.

Trend 13: The wealthy are like us. It seems like you offer very cheap things and you have good business. Or if you triple your rates and add amenities and value, you will also have good business.

Trend 14 : New gatekeepers, no gatekeepers. Now almost everyone is approachable when using the new medium. But approachable doesn’t mean you can gain by spamming folks, no matter how generous your offer might be.

 

Mavericks at Work

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mavericks By William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre (2006)

After a long time that I stopped reading, it is refreshing to read such a book again on disruptive technology. I am surprised that back in 2006, there was already a lot of creativity towards many areas to create disruptive technology.

It’s a very informative and insightful book.
Disruptive points of view come in all shapes, sizes and sentiments. Advocacy is about strategic clarity, not the business world’s version of political correctness. It is NOT another “me too” mindset company. CEO Chris Albrecht of HBO said “We have to be more aggressive and take bigger risk than before.” “We’re actively looking for new cliffs to jump off. We’re doing things nobody else will do, because they can’t chase us into those spaces. We didn’t get here by playing the rules of the game. We got here by setting the rules of the game.”
The book even showed up an interesting story of the the former CEO Rob McEwen of Goldcorp Inc. Rob McEwen was running out of ideas of where to mine gold on his 55,000 acre site, but the answer is “where?” It has been more than 5 years since he’d made a gamble to acquire the mine. McEwen and his geologists didn’t know. In the end, he decided to use the internet to post all of its data on the mine – 50 years worth of maps, report and raw geological information – along with software that displayed two dimension and three dimension. It would then invite scientists and engineers from all over the world to download the data, analyze it as they saw fit, and submit drilling plans to Goldcorp, which would convene a panel of judges to evaluate the submissions. The goal would be to help the company find its next 6 million ounces of gold. There would be a reward – prize money of $500,000 to be divided among 25 semifinalists and 3 finalists chosen by the judges.

McEwen was ecstatic. Many of his colleagues were horrified.  How could Goldcorp share its most proprietary data with the outside world? However as word got out to the world, more than 1400 qualified participants downloaded Goldcorp’s treasure trove of data and submit detailed drilling plans. Several years after the completion of the Challenge, Goldcorp was still drilling targets identified by the winners.

More striking was the number of ideas that streamed into Toronto were the diversity and originality of the ideas. Goldcorp got access to fields of research and styles of thinking to which it would never have had access otherwise.

There’s also international coding competitions held, such as those of TopCoder that attracted lots of talented people to compete. Even rich and famous companies need to look beyond their labs for other scientists to do research work. It is pretty obvious that 200 can invent better than one.

 

SustainAgility

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ImageHow Smart Innovation and Agile Companies will help protect our future (2010) By Patrick Dixon and Johan Gorecki

This is a book with a lot of information, very detailed. Though I may not be able to grasp all the information mentioned, but there were quite a lot of interesting things that I learn.

The book mentioned that most green tech is profitable if oil prices stay above $75 a barrel – profits may more than double with every additional $25 above that basic ceiling. Today, oil price is more than $100 a barrel, hence green tech companies will be making good money for the cost savings.

Alternative energy such as solar, wind, tides, waves, geothermal energy should be explored. Seawater can also make electricity by osmosis. Every cubic meter of river water that flows into the sea could be used to generate electricity. Fill a reservoir with sea water and another with river water. Connect the two with a large semi-permeable membrane, which allows water but not salt to pass through. Water moves across to dilute the salty reservoir, and the salty reservoir rises. Now let the salty water flow down to sea level, driving a turbine as it does so.

Carbon capture is the only way to burn fossil fuels without damaging the environment and our future may depend on it. This technology is very attractive to large energy companies because it allows them to continue their business in a less polluting way. But some scientists worry that the underground stores of carbon may leak, and that the whole idea may be a dangerous waste of effort.

There are ways to save energy and emissions on travel and logistics. Review all logistics and give teams tough energy saving targets. Make every effort to use empty lorries by selling space to other organizations.

One of the world’s greatest challenge is the lack of clean water. Wallenius has developed a way to purify water instantly without using any chemicals, killing all bacteria and viruses. It can work for public water supplies, swimming pools or in any other situation. The secret is ultraviolet light shinning into the water as it passes over a specially treated metal plate.

Gridlock Economy

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ImageHow too much ownership wrecks markets, stops innovation, and cost lives by Michael Heller (2008)

I never know that too much ownership in terms of physical property, bandwidth and intellectual ownership can create a lot of gridlocks and stop innovation as the innovator may face too many legal liabilities in creating a new product. It is very disturbing to know that, but I am glad the author points it out of such areas. I have taken some extracts out from the book. There are more examples that the author has given. If one is patient, you can slowly read on his other examples, I find it pretty interesting. Such gridlock can affect a country’s economic, technological advance.

 

Example The Golden Rice Story

The thread of gridlock erodes the incentive to produce drugs particularly for diseases that afflict the poorest people with the least ability to fend for themselves. The tale involves a breakthrough in health technology that was invented some time ago but delayed on the path to saving lives because of a tragedy of the anticommons.

According to the WHO, dietary vitamin A deficiency causes some 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind each year. More than half of those children who lose their sight also die within a year. One early hope from gene research was to reduce blindness in developing countries by genetically modifying rice to produce vitamin A. By 1999, a group led by Professors Peter Boyer and Ingo Potrykus had created a prototype of vitamin A – enhanced rice, an impressive scientific achievement. But after they invented this “Golden Rice”, the project stalled.

To bring the rice to market and begin saving both sight and lives, Boyer and Potrykus had to negotiate licenses to as many as several U.S. patents. (there were fewer valid patents outside the United States). In addition, they needed access to fifteen other types of technical property. In total, they had to negotiate with more than thirty companies, universities and other institutions. Identifying and negotiating with all these parties was time-consuming and expensive, even though all the owners understood that the final product may avert millions of unnecessary cases of blindness and death.

With Golden Rice, the humanitarian benefits were clear, moral outrage at patent gridlock was high, and the private owners could contribute their patents for third world health without imperilling profits in their first world markets.

After much back-and-forth, the intellectual property owners involved in Golden Rice reached agreement to help bring this lifesaving crop to market. One company Syngenta (then Zeneca) took the lead in assembling the rights, developing the technology and donating the results to farmers in the afflicted countries. It arranged for intellectual property controlled by competitors such as Novartis, Bayer, Monsanto and Japan Tobacco to be licensed free of charged for the sole purpose of promoting Golden RIce.

Golden RIce is succeeding because it had forceful advocates who invented the product before they got the permission and later cajoled owners into cooperation. Inspired leadership makes a difference, and shame can be a potent tool for forcing agreement. Reputation matters : firms like to advertise their involvement in successful humanitarian ventures.

For this high profile, non profit use, private patent owners were persuaded that they should join. Their financial risks were relatively low because Golden Rice will be used primarily in poor, developing countries. Finally, American “land grant” colleges owned much of the relevant intellectual property ; these colleges have had a long tradition of public spirited agricultural technology transfer. This conjunction of factors is fortuitous and ad hoc. When the stakes are higher, then cooperation often fails and easy solutions give way.

 

However, the author has also written an example that a drug company scientists had found a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. But they couldn’t bring it to the market unless the company bought access to dozens of patents. Any single patent owner could demand a huge payoff, some blocked the whole deal. This story does not have a happy ending. The drug sits on the shelf though it might have saved millions of lives and earned billions of dollars.

 

 

Hoodwinked

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ImageAn Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them by John Perkins (2009)

After reading this book, you will have another perspective that once a company or individual has lots and lots of money, there is a lot of things that can be done, which includes hiring a band of thugs to disrupt a country, forcing a government to be overthrown.

Former economic hit man John Perkins has experienced today’s economic collapse before. The banking industry and sub-prime mortgage fiascos, the rising tide of unemployment, and the shuttering of businesses are all too familiar in the Third World countries where he worked. He was both an observer and a perpetrator of events that have now sent the US – in fact the entire planet – spiraling toward disaster. The real cause of our global financial meltdown is what Perkins calls predatory capitalism – the mutant form of an economic system that encourages widespread exploitation of the few to benefit a small number of already very wealthy people.

Here, Perkins pulls back the curtain on the real cause of the current global financial meltdown. He shows how we’ve been hoodwinked by the CEOs who run the corporatocracy—those few corporations that control the vast amounts of capital, land, and resources around the globe—and the politicians they manipulate. These corporate fat cats, Perkins explains, have sold us all on what he calls predatory capitalism, a misguided form of geopolitics and capitalism that encourages a widespread exploitation of the many to benefit a small number of the already very wealthy. Their arrogance, gluttony, and mismanagement have brought us to this perilous edge. The solution is not a “return to normal.” But that each and every of us can do our part to boycott the company and in turn force them to correct their actions.

John Perkins met another senior colleague Ms Claudine Martin who showed him some ropes into their profession.

Unfolding a map, she described Iran as a crucial piece on the Cold War chessboard. “The country’s loaded with oil, but…,” she pointed at the map, “even more important, look at its immediate neighbours : the Soviet Union, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Besides that, whoever controls Iran rules the Persian Gulf – Arabian Gulf if you speak Arabic – and can easily attack Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria with missles,”  She went on to say that in the 1951 democratic elections for prime minister, Iranians choose Mohammed Mossadegh (Time magazine’s Man of the Year” in 1951), a prominent parliamentarian who promised to force foreign oil companies to share more of their profits with the Iranian people, or face expropriation. “He honoured his campaign promise. ” She refolded the map. “The bastard nationalized Iran’s petroleum assets.” Then she grinned. “And incurred the wrath of British and US intelligence. A big mistake.”

After Mossadegh nationalized oil, the CIA”s director, Allen Dulles, demanded action. However, because of Iran’s proximity to the USSR, President Eisenhower ruled against risking a nuclear war by launching an invasion. Instead, a CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt was dispatched with millions of dollars. He hired a band of thugs to disrupt the country. Riots and violent demonstrations followed, creating the impression that Mossadegh was both unpopular and inept. In 1953, he was overthrown, imprisoned for a while and then spend the resf of his life under house arrest. The CIA’s choice for a replacement, the pro-oil company, pro-Washington Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was brough in and crowned Shahan Shah (“Kings of Kings”)