Archive for the ‘The World’ Category

The Future of Success

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

“The Future of Successs” now an age-old classic, is one of the plethora of books written by Robert Reich, a reputed labor economist known for his analysis of the “New Economy” and its ramifications.

Golden: Reich tells us knowledge workers - a term developed by Peter Ferdinand Drucker - will be the prized workers of the 21st century.

Never suffering from a dearth of observations, Reich proclaims in “The Future of Success” that the “New Economy” is fundamentally different from the “Old Economy.” While the latter focused on the mass-production of labor-intensive goods, the more contemporary former term conveys an economy more focused with knowledge-intensive goods.

The shift from labor-intensive to knowledge-intensive goods may not seem at all too radical. But labor economist Robert Reich will be quick to tell you that it has grave consequences for the labor market.

Under the “Old Economy,” many a skilled hand could be put to use in manufacturing goods. The secondary sector (economic jargon for the industrial sector) was able to handle the swelling of its ranks because an increase in consumption was linked to an increase in the number of employees.

Unfortunately for job-seekers, the rules of the game have fundamentally changed under the “New Economy.” Knowledge-intensive goods do not require a large number of workers; in fact, a small number of innovative thinkers can propel a company towards success. What does this mean for companies’ employment strategies?

Shed. Shed. Shed.

Reich lists the changing rules of employment in his taxonomy as follows:

Old Economy (mid-twentieth century)
-Steady work with predictably rising pay
-Limited effort
-Wage compression, and the expansion of the middle class

New Economy
-The end of steady work
-The necessity of continuous effort
-Widening inequality”
(pp. 93-101).

Reich also notes that the New Economy has lasting implications for how we perceive education:

“The real value of a college education to one’s job prospects has less to do with what is learned than with who is met. The parents of one’s classmates, and the friends of their parents, provide connections to summer jobs and first jobs, then later to clients and business customers. Loyal alumni offer further deals. The more prestigious the university, the more valuable such connections are likely to be. To the extent that an Ivy League education has superior value, that value has less to do with the grandeur of its libraries or the cleverness of its professoriat than with the superiority of its connections.” (p.134)

His observations go beyond the scope of the merits of university education at a prestigious university:

“[P]eople at or near the top are doing remarkably well, to be sure. They possess just the right combination of talents and connections, and have sol themselves adeptly. But they are not winning it all; they are sharing some of their winnings with talented people arrayed around them on whom they depend, and those people in turn are sharing some of their winnings with others on whom they depend, and so on, extending outward and downward in a vast network of interconnections. As talented people make names in their fields, they’re worth more.”
(p.153)

To top it all off, Reich draws upon a quote from Tom Peters, who provides readers with a maxim telling of just how commoditized our world has become in his article “The Brand Called You”:

“starting today you are a brand. You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop […] the most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you.”
(Fast Company, August-September 1997. pp. 83-94).

Now, more than ever, the competition to succeed is becoming increasingly ruthless. Those marginal few who make it to the top will, according to Reich, reap astronomical rewards, while the great majority of people will toil in semi-skilled and manual labor, earning pennies compared to their super-lavish, sophisticated counterparts.

So much for equality.

//By Ryo TAKAHASHI

 

Kahn he Remain?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director at the IMF, was considered by many to succeed French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections. Kahn enjoyed popular support at home as well as his seeming aura of invincibility as a sagacious leader of the IMF.

Though Kahn helped the global economy stay afloat during his tenure at the IMF, his own reputation is now reeling from the accusations of assault that have been leveled against him. With the 2011 G8/G20 Summit just weeks ahead, the French are finding themselves in a terrible public relations strait.

Few doubt that Kahn did a superb role as Managing Director of the Fund—even the Nobel-Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, long known for his scathing criticism of the “Washington Consensus”—the now-notorious term coined by John Williamson in describing the Fund’s oft-ill-boding structural reform policies, has heaped praise for Strauss-Kahn’s recognition of the link between inequality and instability. Thanks to Strauss-Kahn, Stiglitz notes, the IMF was finally making headway—albeit slowly—towards reform for the better.

But whatever credibility and prestige Strauss-Kahn had amalgamated over the years has cracked due to the latest allegations of his misconduct. It doesn’t help for Strauss-Kahn that this is not the first time his ethical decision-making has been put under question.

While untimely for France, this may be a window of opportunity for under-represented nations at the IMF to rally for more “chairs and shares,” a term used to describe their egregious lack of representation at the Fund. The IMF has long maintained its custom of appointing a European as head of the Fund, and the United States remains the sole member-state who wields de facto veto power. Although Europe has ceded two seats of the Fund’s Executive Board to developing countries, real reform in governance has still not been made.

Ironically, perhaps Strauss-Kahn’s greatest reform lay in the public’s scrutiny of his alleged misconduct. Consciously or unconsciously, Strauss-Kahn has certainly triggered a serious look at who really deserves to be the chief of the IMF.

North Korea’s Forgotten Crisis

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

An Op-Ed article, “North Korea’s forgotten crisis,” written by the author of this website, has been published in print in The Japan Times.

Readers may also click the following link to read the article: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20110110a2.html

//By Ryo TAKAHASHI

The Post-Google World

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Google. If we live in the “Age of Information,” then the world is centered around Google, the gatekeeper to all of man’s digitalized knowledge available on the Internet.

But that was a long time ago.

Today, the perception of Google as the God of the information age is fading into so much thin air. Yes, it is true that no search engine comes close to Google in terms of the total number of users worldwide.

Yet much to the surprise of many Google-advocates, the company has recently been toppled on two fronts.

A decisive “loss” for Google was the company’s loss in market share in China to Baidu. The Chinese search engine company is owned by an often impeccably dressed Robin Yanhong Li. A native of a town in Shanxi province, Li was born fourth in line and both of his parents were factory workers. His intelligence and insatiable curiosity to learn about “searching,” which—surprise!—is what search engines do, led him to found Baidu in 2000.

Yes, Li’s story imparts the typical “rags to riches story,” and yes, it does tell us that smart people with perseverance can do some darn amazing things (like beating Google). But what’s particularly frightening to Google is that even one smart man can topple the thousands of whizzes working on behalf of Google.

Google may have the power in numbers, but merely having wicked smart employees doesn’t mean that Google is invulnerable to new market entrants on its own turf.

Speaking of new entrants, there are some newcomers who refuse to play by Google’s rules. Would Google ever have guessed that its biggest headache would be conceived in a Harvard undergrad’s room?

Mark Zuckerberg has changed the Internet landscape forever. Facebook—Zuckerberg’s creation that was launched while he was still studying at Harvard—is easily the biggest, most infectious, well-thought social networking site to date.

And Facebook isn’t playing by Google’s rules.

Google’s goal was always to disseminate information to the world. If the information exists, then it’s Google’s job to make it available to everyone. In a sense, it’s a democratic movement, and it also empowers people as well.

Yet for all if its philanthropic ideals, Google’s goal has one crucial fault: the more information it collects, the less Google will reflect an accurate representation of the real world since people reveal information to their peers according to varying levels of intimacy.

In this sense, Zuckerberg has got the winning formula—Facebook users can choose to reveal their information according to a carefully tiered system of friendship.

But what does this have to do with Google?

Simple. If Google is trying to map “all” of the world, then Facebook is trying to recreate the “real” world. Imagine what would happen if Facebook users’ pictures appeared in Google image searches—an untold number of people would be laid off for misconduct outside of working hours and an even larger number of people would be fuming at Google, provided that they weren’t storming its headquarters.

By making user contents not appear on Google search results, Facebook has made Google’s quest for mapping the world unachievable. This made the crux of influence over the Internet shift decisively in Facebook’s favor.

Yes, Google is still important when it comes to looking up the nearest pet store, but nothing beats Facebook when it comes to networking and staying in touch with real people.

Li showed that Google’s being challenged at its own game. Zuckerberg showed that Google will have to rethink its corporate ideals from scratch if it plans to stay around.

So what do Li and Zuckerberg show combined?

It shows that a Post-Google World isn’t just a fantasy, but an ever-increasing probability. We seem to forget that Google is just another company. If it falls out of favor with consumers, then it will be the one that will disappear from the map.

//By Ryo TAKAHASHI