Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Grab Bag: Motorized Wheelchairs, etc.

It's Friday, which means it's time for the Grab Bag.  These random thoughts descend like parachutists during a practice jump, lazily drifting around-ward while drifting downward in the fresh springtime air.

1.  A stunt woman in Sydney broke a Guinness World Record last week by riding a motorized toilet at a speed of 46 mph.  When you gotta go, you gotta go, I guess.  (from Sports Illustrated, under the title "Sign of the Apocalypse", May 14, 2012)

2.  As I thought about the Innovation Economy and reflected on my own youthful (should I say "immature"?) perceptions of young people's aspirations, I asked myself this question: when did business go from being "establishment" to being "revolutionary"?

3.  This morning, for the first time in a while, I saw the sun, and it was good.

4.  An MIT person recently made the following observation to me.  We are in a global game of very high stakes.  China effectively has driven down the cost of labor to zero, thereby undermining America's need or ability to compete on creating widgets. The added value of the American portion comes from our idea factory, minting new geniuses in our universities and our research institutes and then allowing them to combine with other geniuses and resources to create the future.  These explosions of creativity, where randomly-occurring interactions lead to new breakthroughs and insights, need to happen on American soil.  This is the Innovation Economy.

In his view, the U.S. typically gets the 50-year sine wave right. He means that the big picture strategic choices in the U.S. are correct, benefited by the many voices and inputs that go into making them. But they take a very long time to realize.  We are being completely out-competed on the immediate tactical battling where large investments and national commitments can have huge short-term impacts and tilt the playing field significantly in one's favor, a place where China has an intense advantage.  America after all is a democracy, and democracies require a lot of process in any public decision-making.  China is an autocracy, run since the 1980s by increasingly skilled technocrats (see Fareed Zakaria on this topic in Time Magazine, May 14 issue), and there decisions are not debated, they are put into action. 

5.  Finally, this quote from today's Boston Globe obituary of Elliott Wilbur, former member of Concord's Board of Selectmen.  In 1994, he wrote a letter to the Globe in which he rebutted the idea that low- and moderate-income families might pose a danger in a proposed housing project in his town: "Where is it written that anti-social behavior is related to income?  I have been an elected town official for 16 years; some of the most unpleasant behavior problems I've seen, or been made aware of, were among the families of the wealthy and the privileged!"  Rest In Peace, Elliot Wilbur.  (Thanks to Ann Smith for the quote.)