Posts Tagged Technology

WITH THE ACCELERATING ADVANCE OF MACHINES INTO THE WORKPLACE, WHAT WILL THE JOB MARKET LOOK LIKE 10 YEARS FROM NOW? TWENTY YEARS?

Full disclosure:  I am neither a scientist nor a technologist; however, I have researched this topic quite extensively, and am also include somer economic, political and sociological considerations, which I believe are relevant to the topic..

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Fifty years ago, ATMs began to appear outside of banks, and “Bar” Codes appeared on most grocery items.  Although they quickened a customer’s ability to withdraw cash, or speed through the supermarket check-out line, those enhancements cost some bank tellers and grocery cashiers their jobs.

Around that same time, Gordon Moore, before he co-founded Intel, suggested that silicon chip capacity would double every two years for the following ten years.  Well, fifty years later, Moore’s “Law” is still on target, ad widely-cited.  Just try to write the number “1,” and double that (compounded) over those 25 time frames.  There would not be enough room on the page to write those numbers toward the end.

To put it another way: the capacity of a recently outdated iPhone 4 has the same computing capability of a Cray 2 super computer, which was the world’s fastest computer in 1985.  Moore’s Law is an important concept to know in order to appreciate the acceleration of the computational speed, and the capacity of today’s machines.

By Machines, I’m including the total range of computers, from: automation; robotics; algorithm-reading machines; artificial intelligence, etc.  Presently, computers are not as “intelligent” as humans; however, as their speed and capacity grow exponentially, they will soon catch up.  Then what happens when their mental capacity surpasses ours, and they are able to re-program themselves to accomplish more and more-advanced chores?

In past transformations—from hunter-gatherers to agriculture, to the Industrial Age, to service industries, then the Digital Age–new jobs and industries arose. and now, to whatever increasing-advanced technology brings our way.  Will the computers of today be subservient, partner with us, or will they take over—making us their slaves?

Let’s just focus on the growing interest in autonomous, or self-driving, cars and trucks.  A few states have approved them for driving on their roads. What will happen to the 3.5 million truck drivers, and their 5.0 million support staff, who might lose their jobs?  And, what about the millions of taxi drivers?

Similarly, as the general population becomes comfortable with self-driving cars, the average ownership per household might drop from 2.1 cars, to 1.2.  Most autos spend 95% of the time sitting in the garage, or on a road somewhere.

Entrepreneurs would offer some sort of an annual contract that enables customers to call for a ride using an App.  Savings on the cost of the car, insurance, and maintenance could be significant.  But, just think of the many people in the auto industry, as dealerships close, millions more could lose their jobs—auto manufacturers, parts suppliers, dealerships, salespersons, mechanics, insurance companies, etc?

There have been various studies, which have projected which positions might be the first to succumb to the machines, and which might be among the last.  So, what is America’s game plan? The world’s at large?

Politicians and other leaders need to address this oncoming situation; but, no one seems willing to tackle it, since they don’t seem to think for the long-term.  But, it’s not really a long-term problem, and we should be planning for it immediately!

Even many scientists and engineers who are working within the technology industry seem to believe that, after a short disruption, new jobs and industries will magically appear.  But, what if that doesn’t happen?  Workers need assistance in learning new skills, even while they are still working on their old jobs.  Students need to be directed toward the jobs skills that will keep them employed in the years to come.  But, someone needs to provide that guidance!

In years past, job disruption generally arose within one major corporation or industry, and many people found that they could just take their skills to another company, or a similar industry.  This time, however, the machines will be everywhere.  And, don’t expect to take an interim job in a minimum wage job; because, even burger flipping now can be performed by robots.

Also, the technological impact of the machines that can perform many of the routine tasks that, fir instance, an associate attorney does.  In fact, machines have also shown that they can read medical charts more accurately, and faster, than most radiologists.

Every time a hurricane heads toward Florida, the locals stock-up on water, flashlight batteries, canned food, and prepare their homes, boarding-up windows, trimming hanging tree limbs.  So, why shouldn’t we prepare for whatever the Technological Age brings our way?

Community leaders—politicians, business, labor, educators, academics, economists and sociologists—should be called together to study the situation and recommend the various possible outcomes.  The local population of the various job classifications is most important.  Actuaries and financial analysts can than project the range of work force disruption—from worst case to best—with a probability for each.

Additionally, a greater awareness, and understanding, of Artificial Intelligence must eventually become pervasive throughout our society, at least to a basic extent.  Otherwise, we would be back to “square one”!  For instance: when computers were first introduced into elementary schools, many teachers didn’t know how to use them.  And, how can government, school administrators, business and labor leaders, have an appreciation of the potential impact of AI, if they do not understand labor force disruption?

This study should be performed over a period of months, and be assigned a reasonably high priority.

Over the past decade or two, educators have recommended that students focus on the STEM subjects.  That approach, however, would not be the magic salvation, since it would make workers more like the machines.  By adding some Arts and Humanities—shifting to STEAM—the worker would exhibit such skills as: creativity; intuition; relationship building; flexibility; coping; an ability to work comfortably with change, etc.

No one has all of the answers; but, if we devise a wide-ranging plan to deal with the potential impact of work force disruption, we will have alternative options already in our Game Plan!

NOTE:  For additional information, I have listed several books on the Books That I Recommend Tab. The two New Additions and the two listed under Technology, toward the bottom.

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THE MARCH OF THE ROBOTS HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN!

Today, I added “Rise of the Robots”, by Martin Ford, to my Books That I Recommend tab.  Mr. Ford is a technology entrepreneur and a Futurist.  As I begin this post, there are two points that I should make: 1. The terms Robots or Technology both include Robots, Algorithm-reading machines, and other forms of Automation; 2. Moore’s Law, an off-handed comment in 1965, which predicted that technology will double in both speed and capacity every couple of years, has been relevant ever since.  That means that speed and capacity grow exponentially!

Whatever happened to secretaries and office pools, or afternoon newspapers?  Why do some old downtown bank branches have many more teller windows than are ever opened?  Your desktop word processor made clerical workers unnecessary, and who needs the afternoon newspaper when CNN, and the rest of the 24/7 news cycle is more up-to-date?  And, many teller positions became unnecessary, once customers began to use ATMs and on-line banking from their home.

Consider IBM’s Watson Computer that beat Chess Grand Champion Gary Kasparov, and then went-on to beat Ken Jennings, the All-Time Unbeatable Jeopardy Champion—twice.  By 2013, Watson—now twice as fast—has been assisting the Cleveland Clinic and University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Clinic diagnose problems and refine patient cancer treatment plans.  Watson can sift through the 9,000 global medical journals, building its resource database, at light speed.  No group of physicians can match that!

So far, robotics is only considered a threat by those in the industrial sector, where different versions install car doors, lift heavy aircraft engines into place, and apply paint to a varied range of home appliances.  Robots are best-aligned with routine jobs, and are often regarded as potential threats to low-end jobs such as monotonous warehouse or assembly lines jobs.  But, they have mastered various high-end jobs, as well.

Algorithm-reading machines have demonstrated that they can sort through voluminous boxes of documents, weeding-out those that will be relevant to coming court cases, faster than any junior attorney, and more cheaply.  Radiologists too might also feel the threat since computers can read charts just as well as them, and they don’t sleep or ask for a salary.  Writing newspaper articles are already among algorithm-reading machines’ everyday jobs, while composing symphonies are still in the test stages.

Back in early 19th Century England, the Luddites rebelled against the outsourcing of weaving to India; however, in time, these workers found employment in other occupations. This time, jobs at all levels—even burger flippers—are slowly being replace by robots, and in multiple industries.

We often think of Amazon as a retail corporation, which has been causing many retail companies to fold; but, it is also the largest player in cloud computing, and it has a robotics companies that sells its products globally.

Initially, many people thought that some people would still be able to work with, and “supervise”, the robots.  The article (at bottom) describes a woman who is currently doing that at Amazon; however, she realizes that she is actually teaching a robot to do her warehouse job!

In the book, Mr. Ford draws from his own technology background, history and very sound economics.  Over time, as more and more businesses automate, eventually they reverse the outsourcing to lower pay-scale countries, bringing the work back. Basically, many robots work more cheaply than overseas low pay-scale workers!

Many Americans have insufficient retirement funds set aside, and much of credit had been tapped-out in The Great Recession (4Q07-1Q09).  As unemployment increases, college graduates and middle-income employees displace minimum-wage workers.  Also, if banks continue to make bad loans, there could be anther banking crisis.

China cannot become the global economic locomotive, since its economy is 65% based on export.  But, to where?  As the number of workers who are unemployed, or underemployed increases, there will be few consumers left to buy anything other than the bare necessities.  Benevolent business owners who refuse to automate, and keep their current labor forces, they will lose business to the competition, which can undercut them on price.  But even there, without middle-income consumers, who will businesses sell their products to?

Mr. Ford does offer some possible solutions, such as a Guaranteed Income Credit; however, they will take a cooperative bipartisan Congress, and a rational President, to pass any such legislation into law.  Customer-interface businesses, such as plumbers, electricians, and roofers, would be the last to automate.  The most vacant professional positions are nurses, since they provide one-on-one patient care.  But, even these business and occupations cannot prosper in a vacuum!

Now, none of this is going to occur this year, or next, but like ATMs and desktop computers, the range of robots will infiltrate the workforce gradually.  So, if you are currently employed, begin to separate yourself from the pack.  Get your credit straightened out, and build that retirement fund.  And, as I wrote in my last post, add some focus on Technology and Health Care in any investment funds that you might have.

Consider picking-up Rise of the Robots at your Library, or buy the paperback version.  Hopefully, we might see a new day–one of cooperation and common sense–in Congress.  There are solutions; but, it would help to have the whole thing sorted out ahead of time

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CLIMATE CHANGE! WHAT DID EXXON KNOW, AND WHEN DID IT KNOW IT?

I expect to be writing a post tomorrow, which describes a report on Global Warming, which scientists leaked, fearing that it was too important for the Donald Trump Regime to just cover it up.  This re-post cites the fact that, beginning in 1977, Exxon scientists strongly believed that Global Warming is a man-made phenomena, caused by our use of fossil fuels.  The company’s Chief Scientist briefed the Executive Management Committee, in 1977 and again in 1978, and management just ignored it.

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EXXON KNEW THE MAJOR CAUSE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 1977, AND IT HAS BEEN SPENDING MILLIONS, MAYBE BILLIONS, EVER SINCE DENYING IT.

Way back in 1977, Laura Shaw, a 12 year-old, won her class science fair, in Cranford, N. J, with an experiment about the so-called “greenhouse effect”.  She filled two identical vessels with water and a thermometer.  Then, Ms. Shaw covered one with plastic wrap, and turned a lamp on them.

After a period of time, the vessel with the plastic wrap registered a higher temperature than the uncovered one.  She surmised that the plastic wrap created the same effect as carbon dioxide, which traps reflected heat from the Sun, thus warming the Earth.

You or I might have thought that our children were young geniuses to have found that relationship, between a plastic cover and global warming; however, Ms. Shaw had some expert assistance. As it turns out, her father is Henry Shaw, and at that time, he was one of the Exxon scientists who were specifically researching the effects of global warming—more specifically, that which was caused by carbon dioxide, created by man-made emissions.

Exxon (now ExxonMobil) was aware of climate change as early as 1977, eleven years before the problem became known by the general public.  In fact, besides formulating various climate models, the oil company also outfitted a tanker to study how much CO2 was absorbed by the oceans.  And, in July of 1977, Exxon’s senior scientist, James Black, delivered a sobering message on the topic.

Mr. Black advised Exxon’s executive management committee that: “… there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”  One year later, he warned the same group that there was general scientific agreement that the “…doubling of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would influence global warming by two or three degrees.”  Black than suggested—now in 1978, mind you—that mankind had a five to ten year window in which to make hard decisions, since energy strategies might become critical. Exxon needed to act!

Rather than make the hard decisions—developing cleaner-burning fuels, teaming with the coal industry to follow suit, and considering renewable energy–Exxon, Chevron, Mobil, Shell, BP, and Peabody Coal, just stuck their collective heads in the sand.  They formed a the American Petroleum Institute, a non-profit organization to manage the disinformation of declaring that “Climate Change is a Hoax”.  In fact, they hired the same public relations firm that Big Tobacco had hired to deny tobacco’s link to lung cancer, some years before.

To use the old cliche about Nero fiddling while Rome burned would be a very serious understatement.  Considering that five of those energy companies were in the Standard and Poor’s 500, money was of little consequence, especially when it comes to fighting for the Industry’s very survival.

Energy lobbyists convinced Washington not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, from the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (as of 1990 emission levels). As one of world’s two biggest polluters, along with China, it is imperative that the U. S. ratify the Protocol, set meaningful CO2 reduction goals—and stick to them! Will there be more success this week—now 25 years later?

Currently, both Houses of the U. S. Congress, have appointed loyal climate change deniers, from oil-dependent states, to head the various committees that are supposed to oversee science and the environment:

Senator James M. Imhofe (R-OK) is Chairman of the House Committee on the Environment. Last February, Senator Inhofe brought a snowball into the Senate Chamber under the false assumption that that proved that “Climate Change is a Hoax!” (Remember the API Mission Statement?)  On the contrary, however, the snowball merely demonstrated the opposite, as described in a prior blog post.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and also a GOP candidate for President, heads the Sub-Committee on Space, Science and Competition.  Cruz’ sub-committee delayed the updated NASA satellites, which provide vital weather information worldwide.  Smart move, huh?
And, Congressman Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) is Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  When faced with broad testimony by earth scientists that man is definitely accelerating global warming, Smith began investigating the scientists, and thus taking them away from their important research. Attacking the messengers, in other words.

Oddly enough, when those who deny Climate Change wish to provide their own “expert” scientific testimony, they have turned to Wei-Hock Soon. Although Dr. Soon is a respected scientist, he is currently employed by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Over the past decade, Dr. Soon’s research and his funding ($1.2 million) have come largely from fossil fuel interests.  Some of that funding has allegedly been linked to Southern Company (a large utility) and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.  (Mr. Koch is a co-owner of Koch Industries, a very large privately-owned energy company.)

Aside from all of the claims and counter-claims, on both sides of the Climate Change issue, there is basic evidence all around us: melting glaciers; rising tides; wildfires and droughts worldwide; erratic weather patterns; etc.  And, the idea that Big Energy interests would seek “expert” opinion from an astrophysicist, on matters pertaining to earth sciences, is simply ludicrous.  So, if the probable cause behind climate change was so obvious to 12 year-old Laura Shaw, way back in 1977, why can’t many in the U. S. Congress, Big Energy and other climate change deniers still realize that today?

NOTE:  For readers who wish more detailed information on Exxon, its Energy Industry co-conspirators and Climate Change, the attached report, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, should prove quite informative.

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“I HAD BEEN IN RUSSIAN ARMY INTELLIGENCE, BUT I WAS NOT A SPY!”

The titled words were offered by Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who, along with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, and one other Russian, met with members of Donald Trump’s Campaign, on June 6, 2016.  In fact, establishing a secret Kremlin-Trump communications link was allegedly mentioned during the meeting, along wth the attorney providing “dirt” on Hillary.

Trump confidantes at that meeting included: Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and Campaign Manager Paul Manafort.  Ironically, Donald Trump began touting Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing Emails on June 9, just three days later.

This meeting has been reported, reprinted and denied ad nauseum; however, I wish to take exception with Mr. Akhmetshin’s response, assumably to a reporter’s question as to whether he had been in Soviet Intelligence.  It was a poorly worded question, a somewhat evasive answer was given, and a skilled journalist should have asked a follow-up question.

Back in the late (pre-Digital Age) 1960s, I also was in Army Intelligence, as were at least two readers of this blog.  I’m quite sure that none of us were spies.  Now, that was the US Army Security Agency.  But first, what is a spy?

There are two primary types of Military Intelligence: HUMINT, or Human Intelligence; and COMINT, or Communications Intelligence.  The National Security Agency, by the way, was established after WWII because the Army and Navy COMINT agencies preferred to compete with each other, rather than collaborate. (The Air Force and Marines were not separate military branches, as yet.)  Spies, per se, would fall into the HUMINT category.

James Bond, perhaps the most well-known spy, thanks to movies based on Ian Fleming’s novels, was merely for the box office.  Forget the Aston-Martin, beautiful women, and dinner jackets he wore at the Monte Carlo casinos.  Real spying is not flashy:  it includes gathering many bits and pieces of information—yes, thats Intel!—and then, connecting the dots.  That’s even how the real Ian Fleming did it, “back in the day!”

Let’s get back to the Q & A, between Rinat Akhmetshin and the unnamed reporter. The Trump-Russian Collusion Investigation is not based on HUMINT; rather, it’s about COMINT. Really Cyber-Intel, which might be handed-off to a new (if ever formed) Intel Agency, refers to Electronic Intel.  Tapping telephone lines, hacking Email and web sites, data subterfuge, fake news, and the like, surely don’t fall into the “Spy” category.  The person who is force-feeding false information onto an adversary, or collecting it from them, by accessing their computers, is usually sitting at a desk, thousands of miles away!

So, leave the spies alone; because they are a dying breed—becoming more obsolescent as I write this!

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DURING A MARKET SHIFT, BE SURE TO UNDERSTAND ANY CHANGES THAT YOU MAKE, AND WHY!

Last Friday, the NASDAQ opened down by over three percent, and it remained that way, also closing the day around that amount.  The Technology ETF (Symbol: XLK), which tracks the technology “components” (corporations) within the S & P 500 also remained down by three percent through the close of the day.  Since there weren’t any other market sectors exhibiting similar turbulence, and economic and geopolitical news wasn’t out of the ordinary, I just assumed that the sudden drop was due to some investors taking profits.

On Monday, while the NASDAQ and Tech ETF opened down by over three percent again, both began to recover in the late morning.  Although they still closed down again that day, the momentum had definitely shifted positive.  And, I believe that that was confirmed today, when they both opened up by around one-half percent, and closed at a positive 0.73%

The inter-active chart on the Sector SPDR website displays the performance of all ten industrial sectors, represented within the S & P 500.  You can compare different time-frames, by clicking across the top of the Sector-Tracker Chart.  Until Friday, the Tech Sector had led, or almost led for every time-frame represented; however, the recent two-day drop, pushed it back for one-month or less.  I still remain heavily weighted in Tech, and I regard other investors taking profits as positive for the sector.

Technology represents approximately 22% of the S & P 500, and is roughly 50% larger than the Financials, the next largest sector.  While Amazon might be forcing some retailers to downsize, and alternative energy might be eating into the fossil fuels, I just don’t see that happening to technology.  It has become integral to our vey way of life.  And, as we rely more, and more, on Technology, what could replace it—but newer technology?

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WITH DONALD TRUMP “PROTECTING” US, WE DON’T NEED ENEMIES!

Donald Trump frequently proclaims that he is protecting or saving the American People. His earlier racist views, in signing two executive orders, which banned travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, were rightfully rebuked by several Federal Courts.  Part of his reasoning was “to protect the American People”.

Then, on his recent trip to Europe, Donald made a fool out of himself by suggesting that most NATO countries owed money to the American People; which is not the case, since those nations actually underfunded their own respective Defense Budgets.  How ignorant that was to suggest they “owe us” for what they did, or did not do, to their respective budgets!  And then again, in his recent Rose Garden charade, he invoked the asinine “saving the American People money”, when he announced that he would Opt-Out of the Paris Accords on Global Climate Change.

When I think of Climate Change, the first thing that I think of is:  Fossil Fuels—oil, gas and coal.  In a previous post, I wrote that James Black, Exxon’s Senior Scientist, addressed the company’s Executive Committee, back in 1977, and he stated: “… there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

Over the past two years, every nation of the world, except for Nicaragua and Syria, had agreed to sign onto the Paris Accords, some 40 years, after Exxon, and their fossil fuel colleagues , had realized that they were probably contributing to Global Climate Change. The mega-billionaires, who profit handsomely from the oil, gas and coal industries, leave the global society to pay to clean-up the mess that they have profited from.

The two men who have profited most from the Fossil Fuel Industry are Charles and David Koch.  Koch Industries, which has been active in each of the three fossil fuels, had also moved more recently into chemicals, mining and finance.  Several decades back, the Koch’s had formed a group of the very wealthiest Americans to lobby against: the Paris Accords; EPS rules on clean air; mining regulations; workplace safety rules; and offshore drilling, among others.

This Group contributed handsomely to Donald Trump’s so-called “”Self-Financed” Presidential Campaign.  And Donald, for his part, seems to have fallen in line, by advocating for:  huge tax-cuts for the top two percent; the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed in order to rein-in the banks after 2008; continue to freeze the Minimum-Wage; and disrupt all Social Safety Net Programs, such as Affordable Health Care.

So, to paraphrase the old cliche:  With Donald Trump “protecting” us, we don’t need enemies!

NOTE:  For anyone interested in reviewing the Global Climate Change issue more closely, and the reported cover-up, The Climate Deception Dossiers, Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation, produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists, are linked.

 

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AMERICA WILL MOSTLY BY-PASS DONALD TRUMP, AND ABIDE BY THE PARIS ACCORDS; BUT, WHAT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL TECH BUSINESS?

Most real governing, in America, is accomplished at the local level.   Happily, there are a large number of American cities and counties, some states, and many of our largest corporations, that have pledged to abide by the Paris Accords, regarding Global Warming.  Even so, there is the draw-back as to how will America’s remaining $2 billion pledged contribution to the U. N. Green Climate Fund, be made up?

Trump clearly understands neither the Accords, nor the Green Climate Fund.  Unlike the previous Kyoto Accords, Paris does not require any specific actions, and there are no penalties if a country does not meet its own commitments.  Also, the Green Climate Fund is for $10.3 billion—not the $100 billion he cited—into which President Barack Obama had pledged $3 billion, and the U. S. had already paid $1 billion.  Keep in mind that Donald’s complaint are meaningless, since America’s 2016 Federal Budget is $3.9 Trillion. When Trumps states facts, I can only thing: Redact!

It is only right that the largest economy, and second largest polluter, should pay in order to help less-wealthy, developing nations transform themselves from polluters into users of more renewable energy.  As the earth turns, one nation’s dirty air and water will be shared by the next nation, and the next, and so on!

Local governments have been fighting environmental problems for years.  Who wants to live in or visit a city where the air is hazardous to your health, and the water is undrinkable.  Also, businesses realize that they will be required to pay for environmental clean-up through higher taxes, and they will also have trouble recruiting talented employees into a hazardous city.  Capital expenditures for new equipment and facilities will also be more cost-effective for industry in the long run.

With Environmental Technology being the Next Big Thing—and with the need for high-paying jobs skills—how much of that business will come to America?  Although Trump has slammed the door on federal government involvement, the market for these products—in the local and industrial sector.—will still abound.  Just consider that, since the turn of the 21st century, more than half of all U. S. coal-fired power generating facilities have been either closed, or converted to cleaner energy.  That means that American business is already reaping the benefits of clean energy!

With Trump’s vindictiveness, since this was President Obama’s Plan and not his, the U. S. will undoubtedly lose-out on a fair portion of the new technology business.  At the same time, however, America has a proven track record of a viable pipeline—from government or venture capital funding, to superior academic research, and on to creative entrepreneurial development and product placement.

Hopefully, the ultimate question will be:  How much of the new Environmental Technology business will America lose, rather than how much will it get?

NOTE:  “Climate of Hope”,  By Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, is quite apropos to both this blog post, and the Paris Accords.  I had been cited it previously on the Books That I Recommend tab.

 

 

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