The U.S. and China

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Much ink has been spilled regarding the relationship between the U.S. Federal Government and the Technology Industry. Some of it has been shrill.

That is why I gravitated to a recent op-ed written by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The title of the piece, “Silicon Valley Needs the Government” reveals a lot.

Dr. Schmidt has street creds few others possess. He is the chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and the Defense Innovation Board.

Here is his preamble to his article: “I Used to Run Google. Silicon Valley Could Lose to China. We can’t win the technology wars without the federal government’s help.” Then he continues:

America’s companies and universities innovate like no other places on earth. We are garage start-ups, risk-taking entrepreneurs and intrepid scholars exploring new advances in science and technology. But that is only part of the story.

Many of Silicon Valley’s leaders got their start with grants from the federal government — including me. My graduate work in computer science in the 1970s and ’80s was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

But in recent years, Americans — Silicon Valley leaders included — have put too much faith in the private sector to ensure U.S. global leadership in new technology. Now we are in a technology competition with China that has profound ramifications for our economy and defense — a reality I have come to appreciate as chairman of two government panels on innovation and national security. The government needs to get back in the game in a serious way.

Important trends are not in our favor. America’s lead in artificial intelligence, for example, is precarious. A.I. will open new frontiers in everything from biotechnology to banking, and it is also a Defense Department priority. Leading the world in A.I. is essential to growing our economy and protecting our security. A recent study considering more than 100 metrics finds that the United States is well ahead of China today but will fall behind in five to 10 years. China also has almost twice as many supercomputers and about 15 times as many deployed 5G base stations as the United States. If current trends continue, China’s overall investments in research and development are expected to surpass those of the United States within 10 years, around the same time its economy is projected to become larger than ours.

Unless these trends change, in the 2030s we will be competing with a country that has a bigger economy, more research and development investments, better research, wider deployment of new technologies and stronger computing infrastructure.

You can read the full piece here

Worry?

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Do you worry? Who doesn’t? But how far does worry go…does it lead to stress and even anxiety? Sometimes it’s helpful to try to sort all of this out.

That is why I was drawn to a recent article, “Getting a handle on Worry, Stress and Anxiety.” Here is how it begins:

You probably experience worry, stress or anxiety at least once on any given day. Nearly 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Three out of four Americans reported feeling stressed in the last month, a 2017 study found. But in one of these moments, if asked which you were experiencing — worry, stress or anxiety — would you know the difference?

I reached out to two experts to help us identify — and cope with — all three.

What is worry?

Worry is what happens when your mind dwells on negative thoughts, uncertain outcomes or things that could go wrong. “Worry tends to be repetitive, obsessive thoughts,” said Melanie Greenberg, a clinical psychologist in Mill Valley, Calif., and the author of “The Stress-Proof Brain” (2017). “It’s the cognitive component of anxiety.” Simply put, worry happens only in your mind, not in your body.

What is stress?

Stress is a physiological response connected to an external event. In order for the cycle of stress to begin, there must be a stressor. This is usually some kind of external circumstance, like a work deadline or a scary medical test. “Stress is defined as a reaction to environmental changes or forces that exceed the individual’s resources,”

What is anxiety?

If stress and worry are the symptoms, anxiety is the culmination. Anxiety has a cognitive element (worry) and a physiological response (stress), which means that we experience anxiety in both our mind and our body. “In some ways,” Dr. Marques said, “anxiety is what happens when you’re dealing with a lot of worry and a lot of stress.”

Want more? You can read the article here

What If?

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I write about things that make me wonder. “What Ifs” come naturally from both my military experience as well as my current work in the high-tech world. Here is what inspired The Coronado Conspiracy:

“What if the most senior officers in the United States military are so dissatisfied with the President that they concoct a scheme to have the President direct a major military operation, and then have that operation fail in order to drive the President out of office?”

And here is the review from Wings of Gold:

China and the World

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Much ink has been spilled regarding China’s rise and how its government – meaning the Chinese Communist Party – sees the world.

Sadly, some of the reporting has been shrill, biased, inaccurate, or all three. That is why I enjoyed a recent piece, “The Tenacity of Chinese Communism.”

The subtitle, “How the party revived an ancient philosophy to extol order and compel obedience,” tells you where the piece is going. Here is how it begins:

When Chairman Mao Zedong stepped forward in Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1, 1949, and proclaimed — in standard Chinese but in a thick Hunanese accent — the founding of the People’s Republic of China, many patriots rejoiced. A large number of Chinese who were not Communists were still happy that after years of humiliation by foreign powers, a vicious Japanese invasion and a bloody civil war, China was now finally united. For the first time in roughly a century the Chinese had regained their dignity. Mao was widely credited for this.

Many Chinese patriots would one day regret their enthusiasm. Mao not only turned against what he called “class enemies,” or indeed anyone who did not follow him slavishly, but he also unleashed greater violence on the Chinese people than even the Japanese had. The Cultural Revolution, during which it is believed that up to two million people were murdered, was just the last of his great purges.

And yet, Mao’s feat of unifying the country and restoring national pride is still a reason for many people in China to respect his legacy, and for the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) to justify its continued monopoly on power. The fear of violent disorder runs deep and is consistently drummed into Chinese of all ages. Party propagandists insist that China without Communist rule would descend once more into chaos and fall prey to hostile foreign powers.

There are, however, other reasons the C.C.P. is still in power in China, even after Communist rule has collapsed almost everywhere else.

Want more? You can read the full article here

Too Much Political Passion?

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Few would argue that the level of political discourse in America today is perhaps more toxic than most people remember.

That said, some of us do remember a time in the 1960s and 1970s when things were equally – if not more – toxic.

That all came back when I read Mark Rudd’s Op-ed, “I Was Part of the Weather Underground. Violence Is Not the Answer.”

His subtitle, “Fifty years ago, a deadly explosion in Greenwich Village forced me to confront our warped sense of morality,” tees up his piece. Here is how he begins:

Fifty years ago, on March 6, 1970, an explosion destroyed a townhouse on West 11th Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. Three people — Terry Robbins, 22, Ted Gold, 22, and Diana Oughton, 28, all close friends of mine — were obliterated when bombs they were making exploded prematurely. Two others, Kathy Boudin, 26, and Cathlyn Wilkerson, 25, escaped from the rubble.

I was not there, fortunately. But I knew what was being planned, and I did nothing to stop it.

My friends and I were members of the Weather Underground, a militant outgrowth of the Weathermen, itself a radical faction of the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society. We saw ourselves as contemporary John Browns, full of moral fervor to stop the senseless war in Vietnam. We also wanted to show solidarity with black revolutionaries ruthlessly targeted by the police and the federal government.

Unlike the vast majority of the millions-strong antiwar movement, our tiny band had rejected peaceful protest and politics, clinging to the delusion that violent revolution was imminent. Determined to “Bring the War Home!” we believed that we were reflecting back onto our fellow Americans the extreme violence of the war and of white supremacy. The bombs that detonated the morning of March 6 were intended, to my and my comrades’ shame, for a dance that night at an Army base in New Jersey.

We didn’t realize that the violence we claimed we hated had infected our souls: At the time, I’m not sure we’d have cared. No one is innocent, we thought.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Life Changers

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I am always searching for “THE” book, and perhaps one that will change my life or at least how I look at the world.

I felt like I hit the mother-lode when I opened the New York Times and found this headline:

“The Book That Changed My Life: Our readers offer a heartfelt tribute to the power of the written word, paying homage to Orwell, Thoreau, Betty Friedan, Julia Child and Dr. Seuss, to name but a few.”

Here is how it began:

We asked readers to pick a book that influenced how they think, act or look at the world. The more than 1,300 responses cited hundreds of books, running the gamut from “Go, Dog. Go!” to Kierkegaard.

Many of the readers described how a book guided their spiritual development (“Be Here Now,” “The Violent Bear It Away”) or helped them through a difficult time in their lives (“The Color Purple,” “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” “Being Mortal”).

For others, a book changed how they looked at food (“Diet for a Small Planet,” “Fast Food Nation,” “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”) or war (“Catch-22,” “Johnny Got His Gun”) or love (“Normal People”). And for some, one book led to a lifelong love of the written word.

We thank one of our regular letter writers, William Cole, for suggesting this idea. It clearly struck a chord with our readers.

SUSAN MERMELSTEIN and THOMAS FEYER, Letters Editors

Want to discover which books we are talking about? You can read the full piece here

The Innovation Bible

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Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard professor whose groundbreaking 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” outlined his theories about the impact of what he called “disruptive innovation” on leading companies and catapulted him to superstar status as a management guru, died last month.

“The Innovator’s Dilemma,” which The Economist called one of the six most important business books ever written, was published during the technology boom of the late 1990s. It trumpeted Professor Christensen’s assertion that the factors that help the best companies succeed — listening responsively to customers, investing aggressively in technology products that satisfied customers’ next-generation needs — are the same reasons some of these companies fail.

These corporate giants were so focused on doing the very things that had been taught for generations at the nation’s top business schools, he wrote, that they were blindsided by small, fast-moving, innovative companies that were able to enter markets nimbly with disruptive products and services and grab large chunks of market share. By laying out a blueprint for how executives could identify and respond to these disruptive forces, Professor Christensen, himself an entrepreneur and former management consultant, struck a chord with high-tech corporate leaders.

Want more? You read the full piece here

Time Alone – Good?

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I am a big believer in the Myers Briggs type indicator, a way that we tend to “sort” our deepest inclinations that define who we are.

There are sixteen “types” based on a binary sorting of four criteria. The first one, and the most important according to experts, is whether we are an introvert of extrovert.

Most of you reading this likely put yourself in one of those two categories – and you likely didn’t have to think about it for a long time.

That’s why I was drawn to a recent article, “Why You Should Find Time to Be Alone with Yourself: Don’t confuse loneliness with time by yourself.” Here is how it begins:

Being lonely hurts — it can even negatively impact your health. But the mere act of being alone with oneself doesn’t have to be bad, and experts say it can even benefit your social relationships, improve your creativity and confidence, and help you regulate your emotions so that you can better deal with adverse situations.

“It’s not that solitude is always good, but it can be good” if you’re open to rejecting the idea — common in the west — that time by yourself is always a negative experience you’re being forced into, according to Thuy-vy Nguyen, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Durham University, who studies solitude.

“We have some evidence to show that valuing solitude doesn’t really hurt your social life, in fact, it might add to it,” she said, pointing out that because solitude helps us regulate our emotions, it can have a calming effect that prepares us to better engage with others.

Choosing to spend time doing things by yourself can have mental, emotional and social benefits, but the key to reaping those positive rewards comes from choosing to spend time alone. In a culture where we often confuse being alone for loneliness, the ability to appreciate time by ourselves prevents us from processing the experience as a negative thing. In fact, getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout, said Emily Roberts, a psychotherapist.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Nurturing Creativity

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Find anyone who writes anything and you will find a creative mind. But all writers get stuck, and they usually get stuck at the front end of the creative process.

That’s why I always enjoy the New York Times Better Living columns about creativity. I’ll found several of them online bundled together. Here is how they begin.

First, Give Permission: Tapping into your thoughts, dreams and imaginations is the first step to finding your inner creativity

I think I know what you do before you go to bed every night. Don’t worry, everyone does it. You imagine. You imagine some or another version of: If I only had this much money, I’d spend a weekend in the Caribbean; if I’d had just a second more to think, I know what I would’ve said to that jerk who had too many items in the express checkout aisle; or if I’d had just a second to think about it, I know what I’d have said to that beauty I nearly talked to reading my favorite book at the café.

We all have fantasies or, if you prefer, ideas. I will give them a different word: “Seeds.” These seeds are the germ-line of books, short stories, songs, the faces in a painting. Sometimes, when the idea is for a gadget that might, say, keep that guy in the car next to you from texting and driving, it’s the seed of an app or business. If it’s a doodle made during a boring corporate meeting, it’s the seed of an art project; the mixture of the barbecue sauce with the onions and the lemon might be the seed of the next, great slow-cooking invention.

Want more? You can read several creative tips here

The U.S. and China

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Most think the relationship between the United States and China will be the most important issue of the 21st Century. Many think it already is. I am one of them

Sadly, when most Americans think about China today, if not the Coronavirus, what they think about is trade. But there is so much more to consider.

That is why I gravitated to a piece by Tom Friedman, “The World-Shaking News That You’re Missing.” Here is how he began:

One of the most negative byproducts of the Trump presidency is that all we talk about now is Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong: How can we not be fixated on a president who daily undermines the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust?

But there are some tectonic changes underway behind the Trump noise machine that demand a serious national discussion, like the future of U.S.-China relations. Yet it’s not happening — because all we talk about is Donald Trump.

Consider this: On Nov. 9, European leaders gathered in Berlin to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an anniversary worth celebrating. But no one seemed to notice that almost exactly 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, a new wall — a digital Berlin Wall — had begun to be erected between China and America. And the only thing left to be determined, a Chinese business executive remarked to me, “is how high this wall will be,” and which countries will choose to be on which side.

This new wall, separating a U.S.-led technology and trade zone from a Chinese-led one, will have implications as vast as the wall bisecting Berlin did. Because the peace, prosperity and accelerations in technology and globalization that have so benefited the world over the past 40 years were due, in part, to the interweaving of the U.S. and Chinese economies.

You can read the full piece here