Monthly Archives: September 2010

America’s Racially Segregated Cities

Digital cartographer Eric Fischer had made color coded maps of 100 American cities showing racial and ethnic population spreads.  Each colored dot represents 25 people.  Red is White, blue is Black, green is Asian, orange is Hispanic and gray is Other.  Although the data is from the 2000 census it does provide good information for discussion about how some cities are segregated by race and ethnicity.

Click here for the TIME NEWSFEED article with links.

Click here to see the Jackson, Mississippi map.

Top 10 Forecasts for 2011 from World Future Society

In order to keep up with trends I find the World Future Society to be thought-provoking and enlightening.  Membership for one year is only $59.  Click here for membership information.   Each October the organization lists its predictions/forecasts for the upcoming year.

Here are the top ten forecasts from Outlook 2011:

1. Physicists could become the leading economic forecasters of tomorrow. Unlike mainstream economists, who rely on averages, econophysicists study complex systems, feedback loops, cascading effects, irrational decision making, and other destabilizing influences, which may help them to foresee economic upheavals.

2. Environmentalists may embrace genetically modified crops as a carbon-reduction technology. Like nuclear power, genetically modified crops have long been the bane of environmentalists, but Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline, argues that there are myriad benefits to them as C02 sinks.

3. Search engines will soon include spoken results, not just text. Television broadcasts and other recordings could be compiled and converted using programs developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis.

4. Will there be garbage wars in the future? Trash producers in the developed world will ship much more of their debris to repositories in developing countries. This will inspire protests in the receiving lands. Beyond 2025 or so, the developing countries will close their repositories to foreign waste, forcing producers to develop more waste-to-energy and recycling technologies.

5. The notion of class time as separate from non-class time will vanish. The Net generation uses technologies both for socializing and for working and learning, so their approach to tasks is less about competing and more about working as teams. In this way, social networking is already facilitating collaborative forms of learning outside of classrooms and beyond formal class schedules.

6. The future is crowded with PhDs. The number of doctorate degrees awarded in the United States has risen for six straight years, reaching record 48,802 in 2008, according to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates. One-third of these degrees (33.1%) went to temporary visa holders, up from 23.3% in 1998.

7. Cities in developed countries could learn sustainability from so-called slums in the developing world. Dwellers of “slums,” favelas, and ghettos have learned to use and reuse resources and commodities more efficiently than their wealthier counterparts. The neighborhoods are high-density and walkable, mixing commercial and residential areas rather than segregating these functions. In many of these informal cities, participants play a role in communal commercial endeavors such as growing food or raising livestock.

8. Cooperatively owned smart cars and roads will replace dumb, individual gas guzzlers. With 800 million cars on the planet to serve 7.8 billion people, personal transportation is a dominant force in our lives. But the emergence of car-sharing and bike-sharing schemes in urban areas in both the United States and Europe have established alternative models and markets for fractional or on-demand mobility, says MIT’s Ryan C.C. Chin. He and his fellow engineers with the MIT Media Lab have designed a car system that could serve as a model for future cities.

9. Fighting the global threat of climate change could unite countries— or inflame rivalries. Nations with more sophisticated environmental monitoring systems could use data to their advantage, perhaps weakening an enemy by failing to warn it of an oncoming storm or other catastrophe. They could also fudge their own, or their rivals’, carbon output numbers to manipulate International legislation says forecaster Roger Howard.

10. We may not be able to move mountains with our minds, but robots will await our mental commands. Brain-based control of conventional keyboards, allowing individuals to type without physically touching the keys, has been demonstrated at the universities of Wisconsin and Michigan. In the near future, brain e-mailing and tweeting will become far more common, say experts. A group of undergraduates at Northeastern University demonstrated in June that they could steer a robot via thought.


Advice to CEO’s: Watch some television

Most CEO’s of businesses that I know are not avid viewers of prime time television.  They are simply too busy.  Neverthless, there are two so-called reality shows about business that are so good that I use some of them in my management course for MBA students.

The Apprentice, featuring the “love him or hate him” Donald Trump, does a good job of illustrating the ice cold nature of business.  If you have ever heard anyone say that they really like somebody, but that their losing a deal was “just business” then you will appreciate The Apprentice.  In the show two groups are given a project to accomplish in a short amount of time.  A group leader is appointed.  Last week’s project was to design and furnish a front office for a certain type of company.  Next week the project is about which group can sell the most ice cream.  After the project is completed there is an after-project critique in the board room.  Trump asks hard questions of the individual team members, especially the kind about who worked hard and smart and who did not.  Each week someone gets fired. Viewers will discover that the most likeable team members are not the best team members.  The prize at the end of the season is a menteeship in Trump’s organization.  This show does a good job of illustrating how business can sometimes be cold and hard for the CEO.

Undercover Boss on the other hand depicts how CEO’s can become disconnected from their employees and their customers.  In each episode a CEO goes undercover and works in various aspects of the company, often using management trainee as the cover.  Every episode I’ve seen has not only enlightened the CEO, but changed one of his or her approaches to management.  For example, on last night’s episode the Seven-Eleven CEO learned that it make take up to a month to get lights replaced in a store.  He changed the store support system.  He also learned that we should not take living in this country for granted.  While delivering supplies with one of his employees from another country he was told that America is still the greatest country in the world.  One of the better episodes was the one about the Roto-Rooter CEO.  It is practically a tear-jerker at the end.  One of the messages from Undercover Boss is that CEO’s forget how valuable employees are and how important customer service is.

Two shows about CEO’s and management.  One reveals the cold nature of business; one reveals the warm nature of business.  Both are worthwhile.

The Apprentice appears on NBC.  Undercover Boss is on CBS.  If you don’t have time to watch them live you can go to the network Web site and watch them on your computer.

Main Street wants it simple. Congress delivers it complex.

“While Congress delivered the complex and opaque, Main Street yearns for the simple and transparent,” says James S. Henry and Laurence J. Kotlikoff in their July 21, 2010 column in Forbes magazine.  I could not agree more.

Take income taxes, for example. Deliver your income tax information to three accountants and the IRS for preparation or assistance and you’ll get four different amounts of income tax that you owe.  That should be no surprise considering that there are now some 17,000 pages of tax regulations that one must be able to understand.  I don’t have any sympathy for tax cheaters, and I must admit that I said ,”uh huh” when I read in the Washington Post last week that the White staff apparently owes over $800,000 in back taxes for 2009.  But then I began to wonder how much of that amount was due to confusing tax laws and regulations.  Why can’t income taxes be more simple?  Well, the answer is simple: every special interest affected by a change in tax law pounds Congress with reasons that it should not be affected.  The result is complexity in the tax laws.  That really is not surprising given that we use taxes to incentivize and penalize economic behavior in the United States.

Main Street therefore is in limbo right now because it does not know what Congress is going to do about a variety of issues, such as health care, financial reform, business incentives, etc.  One thing Main Street knows from past experience is that whatever Congress does it will not be simple.  So Main Street businesses does not hire, Main Street consumers do not spend and Main Street investors do not invest.  Main Street is on hold.

Unemployment in rural America.

The image says it all.  Well, most of it anyway.  When unemployment is high in a community it is difficult to sell real estate.  Special appreciation to Bill Bishop and the folks at Daily Yonder who focus on rural America issues.  For more info read this post on the Daily Yonder Web site.

Watch what you tweet – and blog – and say.

Readers of this blog know that I almost always source everything I write about on this blog.  That’s because I understand that misinformation can harm people even when it is mentioned as a joke or in fun.  Sometimes I wonder if my Facebook friends realize that what they post can get them into serious trouble.   Some of their posts and tweets border on slander.

A columnist for the Washington Post found out the hard way that intentionally posting misinformation could lead to problems.  In his case, he was suspended for 30 days by the Post.  All he was doing was attempting to generate interest in his radio show.

Click here to read a blog post by Sam Diaz of about the situation.