Category Archives: The World

Want to change the world? Fix yourself.

You should be a student of history.

One of the best things about living in the UK is access to BBC documentaries. Excellently produced, very educational, a lack of overt bias (though not a lack of bias).

I’ve just finished watching Royal Cousins at War. Three first cousins, all Queen Victoria’s grandchildren, all on European thrones, utterly failed to prevent World War I. Three very flawed human beings.

How? Continue reading

“What the hell is going on?”

Ah. Remember that line? The Donald?

I have this desperate, innate desire to feel that everything is under control.

My control.

I desperately want to feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the world. Nobody’s going to come along and upset my apple cart. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world, yadda, yadda. (My world, at least.)

I desperately want to feel like I know what’s going on.

Desire is the wrong word. More like, a guttural, animalistic urge.

And when this urge is unsatisfied for long enough, when there’s too much change that I hadn’t foreseen, my instinctive reaction is, What the hell is going on?

You have this same urge.

The Idiot in you says, Somebody DO something. Continue reading

True, Stop Stealing Dreams, but Keep up the Foundations, too!

I was one of the purported 60,000 people who downloaded Seth Godin’s latest publication Stop Stealing Dreams on its first day. It’s vintage Godin, and though clearly aimed at a primarily American audience, his argument will resonate in most developed economies. I recommend downloading and reading it. (It’s free.)

The essence of his argument:

  • Our publicly-funded school systems were set up a century ago. They were never set up with an altruistic desire to better the lives of children. They were set up to supply the then-modern factories with plenty of cheap, compliant, skilled workers. They were set up primarily for the benefit of the people at the top of the food chain, not those at the bottom. (Although those at the bottom have also benefitted.)
  • But the rules of the game have now changed. The mass-production industrial era is ending. In its place is coming a new era that rewards passionate, initiative-taking people, who build connections and work with their hearts as well as their brains.
  • Our school systems (and the governments that funds them) have not recognised the change, and are not evolving to  equip our youngsters with the skills and attitudes to succeed in the new era. They are still churning out compliant youngsters suited to jobs that have disappeared.

Continue reading

The Chinese aren’t coming, they’re here

The NY Times recently published an article that should give everyone in the western world pause for thought. It documents the story of why Apple make the iPhone in China, not the USA.

The key points:

  • The Chinese factory that won the bid to produce the iPhone’s glass screen were building a factory, hiring engineers, and building worker housing, before they even knew if they’d won the work.
  • China is producing appropriately-qualified engineers (note, not necessarily highly-qualified engineers) at a scale the US (and I suspect, the whole western world) cannot match.
  • Those engineers (and workers in general) are lean, eager and controllable. They are willing to work crazy hours and be manipulated to a degree that western workers will not. (We would have done so 100 years ago, maybe even 30 years ago in some places, but not any more.)
  • Apple (and I suspect, most large multinational companies) feel no obligation to solve anyone’s economic woes except their own. They feel no obligation to hire people from their own town, country, ethnic group, race, or tribe. (Should they? I’m not sure.)
  • They do feel an obligation to be faithful to their own purposes. (Which might be as simple as producing the best possible piece of art that moonlights as a smartphone.)

Continue reading

Damn the journalists, full steam ahead

The radio comes on in my bedroom at 6am.

It usually takes 30 minutes before the irritating sound of BBC 4 finally moves me to haul my carcass out of bed. Lately it’s been only 20 minutes, as I’m now having to chauffeur one offspring unit to a new school, which calls for a 10-minute sleep-in deficit. (Growl)

This morning, it only took 15 minutes.

Cause I was mad at the flippin’ radio.

Doom. Gloom. The markets have fallen again. Politicians wringing their hands and covering their backsides. Commentators pessimistic about the economic data, short-term and long-term. All of them hopeless, and focussed on money, money, money.

Oh shut up, the bunch of you.

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To change or not to change

A couple of days ago, a freelance colleague asked me if I know any freelance engineers who are currently out of work.

I don’t. (A year ago, I knew a few that were out of work. None today, in the UK at any rate.)

He replied to the same effect, then added that a recruiter friend of his had over a thousand openings for permanent-staff engineers that he simply couldn’t fill.

From a purely selfish standpoint, this is good news. I’m on the winning side of that equation. I’m as busy as a freelancer could wish to be, and I regularly have to disappoint recruiters calling in search of a solution to their particular problem.

It isn’t good news, of course. This is a big problem. The economies of the western world are struggling to grow, governments are (seemingly futilely) trying to balance their budgets, skilled and unskilled people are out of work.

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This is your captain speaking. We can expect some turbulence soon, folks . . . .

Baby-boomers retiring at 65.

Or 60, if they possibly can.

Wanting to live to 95 in the same manner to which they have become accustomed.

On full pension, with plenty of health care.

With lots of “young” people taking care of them.

The generation that inconvenienced their seniors, and brought about so much change.

Now seeking to avoid inconvenience and suppress change.

Continue reading

Time to look at world problems through world lenses

Some bright sparks from Stanford University have invented a new economic index, called the Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index.

Do we really need yet another economic indicator? There seem to be too many as it is, the mathematics underlying them is hidden from view, and they never seem to make any difference to government policy anyway. That, of course, is my Inner Cynic speaking.

What fascinates me about this particular one, however, is the reaction of the US media to it. They’re all up in arms over the poor showing of the US in the standings. Ranking 28th out of 34 nations evaluated. Only 16 years from a major economic catastrophe. What? Blasphemy! The sky is falling! The US never ranks so badly. We’ve gotta do something!

That should, of course, be significant reason for concern to US policymakers.

I suppose, being Canadian and British, I should take comfort that my respective loyalties come in 11th and 9th.

Continue reading