Competition by Fragmentation of the Assembly Line

To make money making things in labor-costlyAmerica one company has built a factory that makes small runs of many different high value items. A story in the Wall Street Journal, (10/8/03, Marketplace B1) by William M. Bulkeley describes the success Plexus Corp. has had with low high — "low volume production of a high mixture of things." Again, information technology plays a central role in this strategy to avoid the drain of manufacturing opportunities to other parts of the world. Quick-change reprogramming of parts-placement robots, shifting of parts-inventory costs to clients and suppliers, and flexible-tasked, interchangeable work teams all contribute to this factories success with this new strategy which is the opposite of manufacturing's normal big-run, long-run repetition. Bulkeley reports that Plexus is making 2.5 times the revenue of 10 years ago using one half the workforce.


Einstein & Picasso

Robert Pepperell reviews Arthur I. Miller's book. "As we approach the centenary of the birth of both cubism and relativity it seems the possibility of their having had some contemporary symbiosis continues to fascinate."

"If anything, cubism was less to parallel relativity theory than to foreshadow the stark incomprehensibility of quantum theory, with its stress on the probabilistic nature of an unknowable physical world."


Simultaneous Multiple Operating Systems

Intel Corp is working on new chip technologies that will allow a computer to run various different OS's at the same time. The Wall Street Journal's Dan Clark reports that this new chip will offer greater speed, security, and stability. The technology is code named Vanderpool. The technique is called virtualization. The company also plans eventually to build chips that have multiple microprocessor "cores" on one piece of silicon. "Mr. Otellini also confirmed that Intel plans to later develop an even more multifacted version of the Itanium 2, which analysts expect to have as many as 16 cores."

June 2, 2003

Cell-phone Cameras Cut Holes in Bigmedia Curtain

Simultaneous multiple perspective is the essence of cell-phone blogging at protest events. The G8 Summit in June 03 saw the use of web-enabled cell phones and PDA's by protesters to submit text and pictures immediately to the websites of bloggers who wanted to deliver a different perspective on the events. Elisa Batista reports this story in WiredNews.

"Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, said cell-phone use already has allowed protesters to better organize themselves. However, once next-generation 3G videophones become ubiquitous, protesters will be able to submit video instantly to blogs and provide an alternative viewpoint to challenge mainstream coverage."

The phone bloggers individual perspectives may shift only slightly from each other. But the point is the technological shift from the old model of how the planet sees breaking news. Millions of independent, networked eyes constitute a new human organism, which is only slightly aware of itself.

Others have pointed out at this technology creates new vistas for social embarrassment. Your gaffe can now be recorded and transmitted while your still trying to recover your composure.

May 27, 2003

"Disconnectedness defines danger " — U.S. Troop Deployment Fractures Along New Lines

The diffusion of power to irregular warriors through new technologies and the vulnerability of technological society has led to a new fragmented approach to military deployment, as reported by the Wall Street Journal's Greg Jaffe, May 27, 2003. Rather than worrying about and preparing for big wars, they now expect numerous smaller, messy conflicts. Jaffe quotes DOD analyst Thomas Barret as saying: "Disconnectedness defines danger." Groups who are not connected to the global economy are more likely to be the source conflict. So Rumsfeld's Pentagon is starting to place troops in a new and greater variety of locations, to be better prepared for the dangers of this new world.

April 20, 2003

Café WiFi: a Cubotech Appreciation

The cubists painted "le quotidien," and for them the everyday meant cafés, tables, newspapers, cups, bottles, seltzer, and the Parisian café's simultaneous inclusion of street action and seated observation. The burgeoning wireless technology called WiFi is now taking the world's biggest collage, the internet, beyond the office and home, and plunking it down into this zone. Internet cafes are not new, of course, but metering your way on someone else's computer seems a bit unattractive and dutiful, like using the machines in a laundromat. It lacks the civilized elegance of wifi, which allows you the comfort of your own chosen table with your own custom computing environment. The multilayered attractions of the street and café combine with your personal wandering, cutting dynamically across a whole world of human expression. WiFi sites have proliferated fourfold in 2002, spreading a layer of internet across our cities sidewalks. (See " A New Wave of Wireless" Yuki Noguchi, Washington Post, 4/20/03)

April 22, 2003

Buried Under Cultural Debris

Greg Sandow, in The Wall Street Journal (In the Fray, 4/22/03) writes of the practice of artists making their art out of previous artists work. He is commenting on Eric Gibson's article in the WSJ (4/22/03) about "cultural vandalism." Mr. Sandow ostensibly approves of artistic quoting and collaging, citing it's natural place in music. He manages to come up with some likable quotes for the cubist analysis of the artistic challenges of this climate.

"There's so much art around, so many classics of all styles and periods, that soon it's like immovable debris, especially to artists struggling to be themselves."

On Luciano Berio's "Sinfonia," which quotes Mahler's Second Symphony:

"The Mahler rushes through it like a ghostly river, splitting into fragments, rippling with singing... The past and present seem to flow along each other, never touching, never sure they haven't touched."

Then, on postpunk Pussy Galore's 1986 rerecording of the Stones' Exile on Main Street:

"To me, this is desperation, however stylized, the work of people buried under cultural debris who listen for their own authentic voice (but like so many of us) hear only echoes from the stifling world around them."


Slice of War: Embedded Reports of the Elephant

Wall Street Journal writers Matthew Rose and John Fialka quote Donald Rumsfeld, commenting on the reporting of the Iraq war: "What we are seeing is not the war in Iraq. What we're seeing are slices of the war in Iraq. We're seeing that particularlized perspective that that reporter, or that commentator, or that television camera happens to be able to see at that moment. And it is not what is taking place." TV's flood of reporting appears to lead to confusion on the part of viewers. Rose and Fialka say "We know more than we ever did before, yet we may not be any closer to the truth." The reporter with his hands on the trunk may think we're being hosed. But some one's bound to find the tale.


Complex Layering: Gadget Printers

New Scientist writer Duncan Graham-Rowe reports that Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley said in a worskhop on robotic algorithms held in Nice, France, that they were working on a device that could print layers that included "electoactive" polymers. The resulting technology would allow the "printing" of complete electronic devices. The casing and the electronics would created in the same process.

The likely uses include throw-away gadgets and also robots.


Reminder: The New World Coming

The Hart-Rudman report, published on September 15, 1999, is a worthy read for anyone interested in global fragmentation and the new world disorder.

"8. Fragmentation or failure of states will occur, with destabilizing effects on neighboring states.

Global and regional dynamics will normally bind states together, but events in major countries will still drive whether the world is peaceful or violent. States will differ in their ability to seize technological and economic opportunities, establish the social and political infrastructure necessary for economic growth, build political institutions responsive to the aspirations of their citizens, and find the leadership necessary to guide them through an era of uncertainty and risk. Some important states may not be able to manage these challenges and could fragment or fail. The result will be an increase in the rise of suppressed nationalisms, ethnic or religious violence, humanitarian disasters, major catalytic regional crises, and the spread of dangerous weapons."


Park Avenue Cubists

NYU's Gray Gallery is showing the work of four American artists of the 1930's.