Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gung Ho and the RFID Hunting Dogs of Virginia - Signs of our New Economy

Our year-end vacation took us off the beaten path down South where we had an epiphany of sorts about the new economy. Along the way, I read a book which explained that, although Gung Ho usually thought of as a Marine war cry bur it really is a Start-Up’s war cry. It was adopted by a Marine officer who was inspired by the determination of a very spirited guerilla entrepreneurial program in wartime China with that name!

(More about that later – but it may be the greatest irony of our economy that we used a Chinese idea to promote warfare and conquer who? while the Chinese used it to devastate our manufacturing base.)

We may also be so Social Media’d out in NY that we forget the potential for fundamental change occurring in the hinterland (OK I did see 3 people with Occupy Savannah signs, but they may have been leftover Yankees). So, I will give you a list of changes I saw that could outline our future… connect the dots.
  1.    Factory building companies move from Chicago to South Carolina – because, said my engineer friend over dinner in GA “the South is the only place where factories are being build these days.” You can see a nice looking Honda plant from the highway when you drive through North Carolina. No signs promoting unions, plenty talking about the Bible.
  2.    I meet two teachers looking to move to Ashland, N.C because they are virtual teachers working for the State of Florida. To save money, the Florida hired a group of ex-Disney execs to offer their troubled schools a low-cost alternative. The teachers are considering Ashland where costs are lower and the lifestyle pleasant. The schools may be good too.
  3.   The country store talk in VA is about where to take their handheld transmitters in order to missing hunting dogs by locating the transponders. I hear that out West cattle herding is done from a laptop that sends signals out to cattle tags which lightly shock the cows into their pens.
  4.   One of the fastest growing retail chains is a cheap tool supplier called Harbor Freight.
  5.   All that shale gas fracking talk has inspired mineral searches in non-shale gas areas as well as a new fight over well water. Gold has been found in VA...
  6.   I get 4G in the countryside – no problem.
  7.  People love huntin’ and military bases seem to be just about everywhere. Is housing starting to come alive.
  8.   No one talks about robots in farm mechanization but the farms are generally under 100 acres.....and you'd think......will returning solider use their newfound skills with predators and roadside robotics skills on the farms
9.   The point here is that the internet, social media and high tech are now entrenched in the heartland. For the most part, they are not used particularly innovatively. They are “paving the cowpath” – in other words doing traditional things but with better tech. The farmers complain about overregulation – our strawberries had to be tested for sweetness before they could be picked (they were still quite sour on FL) and wineries (yes there are wineries) can’t sell across state lines and so on…

We are still using an old state regulatory pre-internet infrastructure to govern while everywhere else they are bursting at the seams with tech and connectedness. Many regulations could be managed by online reputation and every consumer will have a 4G smartphone to keep them abreast. Yet, when states are desperate like Florida’s schools, they go virtual - no problem

As for innovation, we are sending factories down there because of unions and a supposed work ethic. Supposedly, rural people tend to value production more that urban people and are willing to do the repetitive work.

I can also add that the big Southern cities are mare diverse than you might have thought, but that is another story. The issue is, has the hinterland’s economy changed in a significant way due to the tech economy and the answer is probably no, not really. It’s doing the same only somewhat better.

But it could – and that’s where Gung Ho kicks in.

This is a long forgotten story that Marine connection has overshadowed. When the Japan occupied half of China in WWII, the free Chinese lost their major urban manufacturing and so the Communists and the Nationalists – a bipartisan group – launched a program of guerrilla manufacturing in the rural areas. They even threw in Angel money. Soon, small very nimble operators were making everything from soap and matchsticks to airplane parts in jungle factories that filled supplies, created jobs and kept the country going until it could take on the Japanese. Gung Ho is just an abbreviation for Chinese Industrial Cooperative or  "gōngyè hézuòshè"  shorted as " gōng hé that coincidentally translates as “work together.”

The Communist revolution in China made us overlook this highly distributed form of manufacturing  which underwrote the revolution and then, when the dogma subsided, turned China into the manufacturing superpower it is today. [I write this on a China made PC, distributed through a China made router etc. etc.]

Whoever wants to win the next election should to revisit this story because it is the true source of our recovery. They should be underwriting exactly this kind of nimble manufacturing.

Sure, we are seeing some recovery but it tends to focused on big corporations that can make more money with fewer employees. In order to bring unemployment down we need to spark the creative abilities of agile, fast-changing highly informed low-cost specialty manufacturers. We have the connectedness, the high tech tools (designed here but made in China), the distributed education and the infrastructure to deliver. We need to foster the markets and get out of their way. With 50,000 or so returning troops that pressure but also the possibilities will increase. My guess is that our successes with unmanned flying will spark a revolution in robotics, remote control land & aerial technologies and a resurgence of mineralogical development.

Maybe they will remind their kin that hunting with dogs makes for lousy meat. All the excitement and fear sends adrenaline to the animals and the meat is soured. Wouldn't it be better if they found way to tag animals in the wild and then use to chips t lead them with a surprise?  

Anyone else been out in the country? I would like to compare notes!

PS There is nothing here that explain the mad crowds at Harry Potter World except to say that it is really well done, magical reality (read: cult marketing) is big and people will pay and suffer just to experience it…..

"Occupy" on Cover of Wired vs Our Town Hall Meeting

From our Town Hall meeting to this! Social Media nihilism.

We envisioned a self-organizing, people friendly group as in: Headless Body Seeks Topless Rule. However, at Wired it is: #Riot: Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts—Coming to a City Near You

To understand the phenomenon - more on it negative side - this article is a must read. So is the one in the same issue on the world's informal markets. They are unexpectedly linked.

The bottom line is that Social Media can either be "weaponized" or it can be an underlying force for the new economy. For that, see Marc Andreesen on Software Eating the World. 

Marc essay assumes everyone is on smartphones. The downside, as is widely pointed out - is the net loss of jobs and the rise of a new winner/loser economy that you typically see in "developing countries."

Fortunately, I have been travelling in the rural South where I have farm friends and I see the possibility of something quite different and for that, I ask you to read my next blog on the RFID hunting dogs and the real meaning of Gun Ho (its actually more of an entrepreneur's war cry - not a Marine slogan).