Archive for September, 2009

The Coming Labor Shortage

September 23rd, 2009

While on vacation, I enjoyed reading The Next 100 Years by George Friedman.  (It’s a bit like a Guns, Germs, and Steel rolled forward 100 years.)  It is an attempt to predict the course of human history based on demographics, geography and fundamental strategic interests of nation states.

It was intriguing to read about his predicted conflict between Turkey and the U.S. during the 2050s while I was in Turkey.  It was like reading science fiction (which I enjoy) but it was more chilling as it was presented as a possible future.  Yet, that predicted World War 3 is not what I want to write about here.

I think the book was best-grounded in the comments on demographic trends for the next few decades.  While I’m no expert on this, I’ve heard and read a number of times that the developed world is and will continue to get older on average.  And some developed countries already have negative population growth because locals are not have enough children and there is low enough immigration. (I think Italy falls in this category.)

In the book, Friedman predicts that these projects will drive a labor shortage in the 2030s for Europe and the US in particular.  Since it is doubtful we can make grown humans overnight, he predicts the solution will be a 180 in immigration policy and politics.  Developed countries will pay immigrants to come in.  (Maybe some entrepreneurs have figured this out already with the recent call for a founder’s visa.)

Having read Moravec and Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, I was thinking that he didn’t write enough about robots.  Then he did mention them later as an important factor in the 2050s.

Being an entrepreneur and enjoying science fiction, I couldn’t help wonder if we couldn’t make the future come faster.   If we believe the demand for robots will only increase, can we make them better now?  Can we change the dynamics for the 2030s by working on it now?  That’s investing for a longer-term than many of the internet/software start-ups I work spend time with.

It makes me more interested in investing in start-ups in this area.  One company I have heard good hings about is Harvest Automation.  Have any good robot deals or know much about this area?

My Health Kick

September 20th, 2009

I’m on a health kick recently. While on vacation I read Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever. The authors talk about reducing the risk of heart disease by 95%. Given that Heart disease and closely associated stroke are the #1 and #3 causes of death in the U.S., and that I have a family history of such things, that sounds pretty interesting to me.

I had previously read books like The South Beach Heart Program: The 4-Step Plan that Can Save Your Life and Eat More, Weigh Less. Dean Ornish’s book motivated me to lose about 20 lbs and start an exercise habit (like 5 or 6 times a week).

Yet, I still don’t think I really took these topics seriously enough.

Maybe it is because my wife is skeptical of longevity stuff like when I read Living To 100.  I have to admit that the thought of uploading myself or transcending mortality does sound a bit out there. Yet the question remains, how long do you want to live? How long do you think you will live with good quality of life? Do you really want to live a lifestyle that ensures that you won’t live long enough to find out what the future holds?  If nanotech and stem cell research continue apace, there could a lot of amazing options for us.

The recent health kick started when over the summer, I read The End of Overeating. It was good in theory and I started noticing more about my eating habits – yet I did not put it into full practice.

Then my wife that suggested that we do the Clean Program and that helped me really learn about hunger. We did almost 3 weeks of the cleanse program with shakes for two meals and limited types (but not quantities) of foods for the other meal. I realized that much of my “hunger” wasn’t real deep hunger. Before, I knew that intellectually. It was different to experience it.

So, I’m 40 lbs down from my peak and looking to lose more. And I’m wondering if it is sustainable. After reading Transcend, I’m wanting to make sure more of my health is being properly attended to… Here are some glimpses from the last week or so:

  • Zeo Sleep Coach. Today I emailed with Ray Kurzweil (author of Transcend) about how I bought a Zeo to monitor my sleep. He says he picked one up and I am looking forward to seeing how it works. My wife was so excited by the one that I ordered – that guess what – it’s her Zeo now. Hey, works for me. I do tend to sleep better when I do sleep. I got that part down.
  • Looking for a Doc. I spent the weekend researching wellness doctors and preventive cardiologists.
  • Supplements. I was learning about supplements like Red Yeast Rice and polyphenols.  How do I know if these are good for me?
  • Glycemic Load.  I was trying to memorize the list of low-glycemic load food from the book Easy-to-Use Glycemic Index Food Guide.
  • DailyBurn.  Yet, maybe the most obsessive of the weekend was when I signed up for a Pro account on DailyBurn to track daily exercise, body metrics and nutrition. That was only after reviewing and rejecting various other nutrition software systems including those for CRAN.
  • Running.  But let’s not forget that in a moment of expansive energy while on vacation, I told a friend I was in the mode to “Say Yes to Life”. She then tested me by asking me to run a marathon with her in the fall of 2010. What could I say? Yes.

Have I gone too far?