Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Avoiding Technology Surprise for Tomorrow's Warfighter

Avoiding Technology Surprise for Tomorrow's Warfighter, by Admiral James R. Hogg
In: Avoiding Technology Surprise for Tomorrow's Warfighter--Symposium 2010. Committee for the Symposium on Avoiding Technology Surprise for Tomorrow's Warfighter--2010; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; National Research Council
December 10, 2010

I think we can agree that [avoiding technology surprise] is a terrific objective and an enormous challenge, both in importance and complexity. Especially so, given that we know little about avoiding Technology Surprise today, no matter how hard we try, let alone tomorrow. Yet, more so than others, this group is composed in a way that gives it a chance. We have here today Warfighters, Technologists, and Intelligence experts, joined together.

Among you, we need linguists. Linguists who understand the cultures of the ethnic groups whose languages they translate. So, a show of hands, please. How many of you are culturallyaware linguists in the Muslim or Asian languages and dialects? Numbers are small. That's no surprise! And that explains a fundamental weakness in our Western approach to problem solving.

I say that because we will only be able to avoid Technology Surprise by thinking differently than what I will call the "Western norm." We will only do it by thinking the way a Muslim or an Asian thinks, not the way we in the West "think they think.”

If we can't figure out how to get inside, way inside, their cultural mind-sets, then for sure, we will not recognize Technology Surprise until it is too late. For example, how many of us in this room ever thought a large commercial passenger jet aircraft could generate Technology Surprise? Probably none of us. Let's just say few, if any. Why? Simply because Technology Surprise is generated by two things: disruptive technology and disruptive thinking or, even more challenging, a combination of the two!

I am going to focus now on disruptive thinking, because nations or radical groups that are incapable of developing disruptive technology will continue to "take us to the edge" through disruptive thinking. It goes like this: We in the West, in the main, tend to solve problems in a deductive manner, with precision, definition, and rule sets. This is prevalent among engineers, for example, who are taught to "bound" problems in order to define and then more easily solve them. That makes sense.

Muslims and Asians, on the other hand, tend to approach problems in an inductive manner.  With logic, based on ethnic and cultural beliefs, and without rule sets as we understand them. No rules. Anything goes! This inductive approach is amenable to continuous exploration. It is not bound by anything—in any way, in any dimension.

A rationale conclusion is that a combination of the two is the best approach. To think inductively at first for exploration and discovery; then, to think deductively in order to come up with practical solutions. This sets up a balance between the open space that spawns creative thinking, and the defined space that enables construction of solutions.

So, with all this in mind, and returning to the challenge of avoiding Technology Surprise, there is no immediate solution, but there is a way ahead. Every significant military command needs an "innovation cell" dedicated full-time to an inductive-deductive thinking process that is focused like a laser on Technology Surprise. By that, I mean Technology Surprise that might be generated by either disruptive technology or disruptive thinking. The composition of these innovation cells must be diverse in every possible way, including language and cultural skills. In addition, they must be netted, each a node in a DoD-wide web, ensuring seamless information flow and collaboration.

Over time, similar webs should be established in the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and across all agencies in the National Intelligence Directorate [Office of the Director of National Intelligence]. Let's call this approach "Deep Red" for now. It’s a new way to organize, to think, to analyze, and to collaborate in order to anticipate and counter Technology Surprise during its developing stage and, absolutely, before its deployment.

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The Fed's Policy Is Working. By Jeremy Siegel
The rise of long-term Treasury interest rates is evidence that investors are bullish on growth
WSJ, Dec 14, 2010

The recent surge in long-term Treasury yields has led many to say that the Fed's second round of quantitative easing is a failure. The critics predict that QE2 may end up hurting rather than helping the economic recovery, as higher rates nip in the bud any rebound in the housing market and dampen capital spending. But the rise in long-term Treasury rates does not signal that the Fed's policy has backfired. It is a sign that the Fed's policy is succeeding.

Long-term Treasury rates are influenced positively by economic growth—which encourages consumers to borrow in anticipation of higher incomes and causes firms to seek funds to expand capacity—and by inflationary expectations. Long-term Treasury rates are affected negatively by risk aversion: Seeking a safe haven, investors pile into Treasury bonds, running up their prices and lowering their yields.

The Fed's QE2 program has raised expectations of growth and inflation, sending long-term Treasury rates up. It has also lowered risk aversion, which implies rising long-term rates. The evidence for a decline in risk aversion among investors is the shrinkage in the spreads between Treasury and other fixed-income securities, the strong performance of the stock market, and the decline in VIX, the indicator of future stock-market volatility. This means that expectations of accelerating economic growth—and a reduction in the fear of a double-dip recession—are the driving forces behind the rise in rates.

Those who look only at interest rates to judge whether monetary policy is too loose or too tight are making a mistake that monetary economists have long warned against. As a colleague of Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago in the 1970s, I remember him stressing that the extremely low interest rates of the early 1930s were not indicative of an easy monetary policy. They were instead the result of the Fed's drastically tight policy, which did not provide enough reserves to failing banks and drove the economy into the Great Depression.

Similarly, the double-digit interest rates that we witnessed in the 1970s were not indicative of the Fed's brave stance against inflation but of a far-too-easy policy that inflated the money supply and heightened inflationary expectations.

I admit that expectations of economic growth recently have been boosted by President Obama's agreement with congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts. But long-term Treasury rates were rising even before Mr. Obama announced his policy switch. The combined impact of the tax cuts and the Fed's QE2 policy will continue to stimulate the economy and send long-term interest rates higher. For this reason, it is likely that the Fed will not complete all of its purchases by the middle of next year. It may instead begin the process of draining reserves and raising short-term rates much earlier than most forecasters now anticipate. But monetary tightening will only begin if the pace of the economic recovery accelerates significantly next year, which I believe is increasingly likely.

We should not look only at interest rates to judge whether monetary policy is working. Indeed, in the present situation, if long-term rates were not rising, it would be a sign that the economy is in serious trouble—a sign that investors are worried about deflation and a decline in economic activity.

Mr. Siegel is a professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

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