Monday, December 03, 2007

Educate Women. Destroy (and/or modify) Inferior Cultures

DeAngelis, S.F. (2007). Educating girls and human freedom. Enterprise Resilience Management Blog (Bradd C. Hayes, Ed.). December 3, 2007. Available online: http://enterpriseresilienceblog.typepad.com/enterprise_resilience_man/2007/12/educating-girls.html.

The reason I started blogging was that I was afraid my thoughts were limited by my poor capacity to remember what I think. Working memory is very limited, and I feared that I was not applying principles from one part of my thoughts to another. I was optimistic that blogging would help reveal these faults to me, and help me change my mind.

One of the areas I have improved on is the education of women in the Gap. For a long time, I bought into justifications like this:

As life expectancies have increased along with leisure time and increased opportunities, many cultures are re-visiting how they treat women, including how they educate them. Overall, this is a good thing. What business could thrive if half its employees were uneducated, untrained, and under-utilized? The same is true for societies. A society that undervalues the contribution that can be made by its women finds itself relying on half its brainpower and half its strength.


which, frankly is weak.

I first ran into this line of reasoning in Lewis' The Emergence of Modern Turkey, in the context of Kemalist reforms. The argument made is that only formally educating males reduces the quantity of workers, without affecting their quality. However, a work force that enjoys a childhood with more intensive education -- which could well be the case if every child essentially has an informal teacher in the home, or if boys do not have to compete with girls for the attention of formal teachers -- could well outperform a larger though poorer quality workforce. The answer is then non-obvious. Further, as someone who believes that tradition in largely an accumulation of strategies that worked in the past, such radical change struck me as a recipe for the destruction of a functioning culture and its replacement with something else.

And this brings me back to blogging. The first argument (educate women = a better workforce) is a logical leap. The second argument is true. But the first argument doesn't matter. The Gap is full of inferior cultures. Therefore, their change is a good thing.

"Inferior" of course means worse, and these Gappish low-quality cultures come in two broad kinds. First, the Islamic Gap contains modern cultures that are capable of high-level hostile engagement (physical, mental, moral) against globalization. Whatever problems existed in Islamic civilization a century ago have been exacerbated by exposure to French intellectuals, and we now have a truly bad situation on our hands with no end in sight.

Second, the African Gap contains populations that are simply lacking in the infrastructure required for success. Peoples in the Gap need to be scaffolded, with enough infrastructure provided to them so that they can climb up to the Core. While much of the the Islamic world is experiences a civil war that (hopefully) will end in radical culture transformation, Africa by contrast merely needs a reasonable chance of success.

Educating women is critical to both of these approaches. Through the Uma, educating women can break an otherwise continuous line of cultural transmission which gives us this mess. In Africa, educating women can lead to better educational outcomes. While these goals are different, both require women who are largely taken out of their traditional space and incorporated into the male-oriented formal domain.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Human capital, sustainability, and globalization

Enterprise Resilience Management Blog has an excellent article about the proper way to help Africa. The best paragraph:

Part of the Development-in-a-Box flexible framework involves investment in human capital. After all, unless local workers can sustain development by themselves nothing but economic colonialism can be achieved. Kaberuka concludes with arguments that echo Ghani's: "Lastly, Africa must be given a chance to meaningfully integrate into the global trading environment in order to sustain growth performance." Perhaps the strongest "no" comes from James Shikwati, the founder and director of the Inter Region Economic Network and CEO of The African Executive business magazine. As a businessman and entrepreneur myself, I certainly find myself in sympathy with what Shikwati writes.


Steve (EMRB's writer) and Bradd (the blog's editor) hit the nail on the head.

African developmetn has to focus on three broad areas: human capital, sustainability, and globalization.

Human capital is relatively straightforward. To over simplify the situation, general intelligence, along with economic system, is an excellent predictor for national wealth. Conservative estimates suggest that sub-saharan Africa's mean IQ can be raised by 15 points merely be reducing disease, starvation, and other environmental factors. Programs that feed the hungry and inoculate against disease are not just humanitarian niceties, but vital components in raising sub-Saharan Africa up.

Sustainability is a must. Indeed, sustainability is the watchword behind my concept of a Sysadmin Industrial Complex. Any system that relies on continued goodwill to keep running will run into failure, because that goodwill will eventually be lost, either out of boredom or outright reevaluation. Real engagement with Africa needs to transcend charity and politics, so that the solution is "locked in." Working with China to build up the infrastructures of countries where Beijing acquires natural resources, for instance, is a sustainable mode of development.

Likewise, without globalization no true progress is possible.The world economy not only allows countries to keep compounding their wealth, but it also locks them in to sane economic management. Thomas Friedman refered to globalization as a "golden straightjacket" which brings wealth and removes freedom of action.

Human capital, sustainability, globalization: the prescription for Africa.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What the Core, and Africa, need from China

Two excelent posts this morning: Tom focuses on Chinese growth while Steve and Bradd note African stagnation. From Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog:

China today looks like the U.S. of the 1920s to Marc Faber, a well-known money manager based in Thailand. He notes that just as Chinese investors are confident about their economy, the U.S. economy was surging on hopes about technological changes like the radio and about the rise of a consumer class.

Of course, the 1929 crash set in motion a host of new rule sets in America, prompting “the creation of basic investor safeguards that strengthened the market and probably limited fallout from later tumbles.”

Not “probably,” I would say.

So like I say, China will learn from scandals and crashes. The key for us, is how we mentor them in this process, because we’ve been there and done all that before.

But you look at all that uncertainty and looming new rule sets that the Party knows full well it’ll have to adopt as the country matures and moves through all these inevitable crises, and it’s little surprise to me that China has no desire whatsoever to stick its neck out on the Burmas and Darfurs and Irans and North Koreas of the world. Why pick up the quagmire when you got this much going on at home?


The rest of the Core needs China to do three things:

  1. Do not attack attack Taiwan or otherwise threaten the security of another Core state

  2. Develop a civil society

  3. Bring security to Africa


The first goal is achieved through making it quietly but profoundly clear that the Communist Party could not survive a war with Taiwan. From encouraging the nuclearization of Japan and Taiwan to deepending military relationships with India, America has many tools to complement her navy and air force.

The second part is achieved through economic and cultural openness, both by encouraging civil society organizations to develop within China and convincing China to drop protectionism against civil society organizations without. From Soros' Open Society Institute" to Ratzinger's "Catholic Church," large scale institutions are able and eager to replicate themselves within China.

The last goal is harder. China's deepending engagement with Africa is fueld by her need for raw materials. As this rebel faction or that group of thugs kidnap Chinese workers to gain cash, China will be forced to export security to Africa. It combined with American logistics and UN bureaucratization, a substantial part of Africa's security oversight could be removed from locals and given to the Core.

China is sometimes referred to as the "future of profit" or "future of threat." She may also be the future of Africa.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Two-sigma and Six-sigma solutions

ERMB's recent article on two-sigma solutions deserves a look, as well as a short discussion the whole "sigma" model generally.

Sigma, from a symbol for standard deviation, is a way of talking about variability. In business speak, low variability is high quality and high variablility is low quality. Therefore, when someone talks about a six sigma solution, they want to see something with that doesn't change much from one time or place to another. Likewise, when someone speaks about a two sigma solution, they are saying that it is ok if there's more chaos in the system.

Six sigma, like the zip code, is a way to copeting with the dumbing down of available labor. Or, put more politely, a way of surviving as a business in spite of the ever increasing cost of workers. As real incomes have skyrocketed around the world in the past few centuries -- now surpassing the real income of cavemen for the first time in 10,000 years -- it's harder and harder to find good workers. Once upon a time, you could simply fire a farmhand, leading to the starvation of his family and his extinction from the gene pool. Now workers not only get a 2,000 calorie diet, they get health care, vacations, and even internet for use during breaks (sometimes).

By reducing the worker's freedom of action, six sigma gets around pushy know-it-all workers by letting them be replaced by know-it-less workers. This can be done directly, through scientific management, or indirectly, like when the zip code ended the need of postmaster's to memorize complicated train schedules.

While "six sigma" is sometimes used as a synonym for "high quality," this is only true in the businespeak meaning of "quality" as "lack of variation." Through much of the Gap, intelligences are far, far below globalized levels, and six-sigma solutions will be vital to many mission-critical operations. (The alternative is trusting the locals!) On the other hand, many things are not missino critical, and it will be wise to allow "two sigma" solutions (loyalty militias instead of national security courts, etc.) because getting the job done at all is more important than assuring it is done in a hygenic, globalized, or even humane manner.

In shrinking the gap, the focus is not on quality-as-variability but quality-as-progress.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Rise of Standards and the non-Rise of Microsoft XML

Enteprise Resilience Management blog has an excellent piece on the defeat of Microsoft's attempt to have its own file format, "OpenXML," named as an international standard. I've been following this on my del.icio.us account, but my props to Steve (and Bradd) for putting the defeat of OpenXML into context as I could not.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

From Iraq to Sudan

Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, written by Stephen DeAnglis and edited by Bradd Hayes, links to a recent article in The Economist thatlooks forward to New Sudan. Both The Economist and the ERMB articles are worth reading, but I want to use this opportunity to extend my comparison of Palestine to Iraq.


Another Trifurcation?


Within a decade of 9/11, the world may see the division of the Palestinian territories into Fatah and Hamas states, the division of Iraq into Shia, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab regions, and the division of Sudan into "New Sudan" in the south, Darfur in the west, and a rump Khartoum government in the north.

This is exactly what is needed. 9/11 was a sympton of a malfunctioning Sunni Arab civilization combined with the Sunni Arab's world to divert feedback from itself onto others. Our responses to 9/11 have served to redirect that feedback back to the source, destabilizing a Sunni Arab system already out of kilter instead of accepting a "stability" which generates violence for us.

That's a good thing.

Update: Tom adds his thoughts.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Not rogue. Just not enough.

Enterra has at least three great bloggers on their payroll: Barnett, Deichman, and of course CEO Stephen DeAngelis, writing at Enterprise Resilience Management Blog. ERMB's latest post, on China in Africa, contains this paragraph:

African countries will not experience sustainable economic growth by relying on the export of natural resources. One of the reasons that Tom Barnett and I came up with the idea for Development-in-a-Box™ was to break this cycle of reliance and help countries develop the diverse economic base and create the jobs they need to prosper. Until China understands which of their programs are helpful and which are harmful, their ventures in Africa will continue to bear the rogue label.


The reason that things are labeled in political discourse is, of course, political. China is a pro-business capitalist state, and it is no surprise that she draws attacks from anti-business and anti-capitalist groups. It's chic at best and harmless at worst to have a quirky ideology that ruins your productivity and kills millions of your citizens. But become productive and compete? That makes you rogue.

tdaxps_new_map_md
Africa is not so far away (from China)


That said, if we wish to criticize Beijing for not doing enough, we surely can. Perhaps the greatest technologies in the history of man are the police and ecological homogenization. The benefits of police are clear: a drastic reduction in violence and associated reputation-/pride-/face-/honor- related killings. Ecological homogenization, the reduction in diversity in a climate region, reduces the pathogenic load on a population, increasing average intelligence as the body has to spend less effort resisting diseases during development

If we really wanted China to help in Africa, we would encourage Chinese police to patrol African cities and Chinese industry to engage in continental climate change.

Of course, that would be labeled "rogue," too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Steve DeAngelis on the Sysadmin-Industrial-Complex

Stephen DeAngelis, CEO of Enterra Solutions, says that the government should expand the safety net for contractors in Iraq. I agree completely. Besides being the morally right thing to do, such an expansion would strengthen the sysadmin-industrial complex, that iron triangle of contractors, congress, and government workers needed to keep shrinking the gap.

Outside the Beltway isn't so happy with the scheme. OTB's argument is just as honorable as those who argued we should not care for Vietnam veterans, because they opposed that war. Opponents of shrinking the gap naturally oppose real care for veterans (public-service or private-service), because they correctly recognize that care institutionally supports the broader mission. (Read the comments at Outside the Beltway for less polite formulations of the anti-veteran line.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Creativity

Adding to the swarm of blogtalk about innovation (MountainRunner, the first post at ERM, this blog, Zenpundit once, and Zenpundit twice), Stephen DeAngelis comes to the topic of creativity. He gives some numbered myths about creativity

  1. there is always a "eureka" moment

  2. there is a clear path to innovation

  3. people "dig" new ideas

  4. the lone innovator

  5. most people can't be creative

  6. you'll know innovation when you see it

  7. the best ideas wins

  8. innovation is always good


Those interested in creativity may be interested in my analysis of Coming Anarchy, where I identified several factors necessary for creative success, including:



Finally, I also interviewed Steve's co-worker, Tom Barnett, as a project for the same doctoral class on creativity that generated the CA analysis.

11:51 Posted in Stephen DeAngelis | Permalink | Comments (3) | Tags: creativity

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Corporate Bloggers

The two best blog posts by CEOs this year were posted within 24 hours of each other.

On June 13, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz wrote "An OpenSolaris/Linux Mashup."
The day before, Enterra CEO Steve DeAngelis penned "The Tension Between Creativity and Efficiency."

The posts are admirable for the same reason: they take serious criticism of the basic philosophy of a company head-on.



Other corporations, both companies in the past and companies living in the past, would either ignore these barbs or wrap them in P.R. nothingness. Both Jonathan and Steve realized, however, that many of their customers read the critiques, and even more thought similar things themselves. They responded seriously, acknowledged real drawbacks, and contributed to the discussion.

What's especially interesting about Steve's writing is that it represents an improvement or what he wrote earlier. Last year, I criticized Steve for writing:

that resilience can't be developed sector by sector. It must be developed holistically, with challenges in each sector attacked simultaneously. Otherwise, advances in one sector are canceled out by setbacks in others.


On June 12th's post, he writes:

There have been (and will continue to be) managerial fads -- the next big thing -- but leaders need to remember that these are tools that must be applied correctly. The adage -- if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail -- applies in business as it does elsewhere. You need to fill your kit with more than a single tool.


Indeed. No tool (and, of course, Enterra Solutions' services are a tool) is appropriate everywhere. Schwartz makes a similar point, acknowledging areas where Linux's technologies are better than what Sun could make in house.

Of course, the real questions still remain: Can Sun's OpenSolaris really displace Linux? Can Enterra's "ruleset automation" really cut through tangled regulations?

I don't know these answers -- right now, no one does. But honest communications with customers through blogs is increasingly part of the answer.

I suspect online discussions, such as ZenPundit's, are a part as well.

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