The Curse of the Krel is Among Us

The ever popular and growing social media, that seems just a harmless recreation, has a growing dark side to it reminiscent of science fiction.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

The 1956 science fiction movie, ‘Forbidden Planet’ is a classic film of space travel and science fiction, indeed some claim it was the first real space science fiction movie, which pioneered excellent special effects combined with great cinema graphics and story line. Earth men travel to the distant planet Altair-4 finding Dr. Morbius and his daughter, living in a world once inhabited by a very advance people with a technology far beyond the earthlings. These people, the Krel, had gone extinct thousands of years ago, but their advance technology continued to sustain itself on its own. The Krel had developed an advance technology that let any and all of its people create anything they desired just by thinking of it. But the Krel hadn’t considered the secret dark side of an individual’s mind, which went on to create monsters that attacked and killed others. The Krel, with their new technology, unleashed the destruction of their people and civilization. Unable to control the hidden emotions of petty jealousy, envy, resentments and insecurities buried deep within us, those emotions manifest themselves into hunter-killers which attacked the other Krels until none were left.

We too have developed a technology which can do the same thing to us as with the Krel . . . well almost. It’s our social media! This relatively new technology also allows our deep hidden dark side to emerge into the open of the internet. To also attack, hurt, humiliate, degrade, vilify and destroy others, both friend and foe. Not having to face others, we feel free, with no restraints, to say whatever is on our mind without any consideration. When new to the social media such as Tweeter or Facebook, we are cautious and reflective of what we say, but as time goes on, we become relaxed and slowly lower our guard. We become impulsive, beginning to say (write) what is really on our minds without consideration of the consequences on our relationships with others. While we are careful not to say how we really feel when face to face with others, with social media we just ‘let it all hang out’. No forethought or consideration of how our writings will be received by others. We lose all our in-habitations, and so . . .

The Krel are among us . . . and they are US!

My neighbor related a recent experience with social media that inspired this article, a comment on a cousin’s page which caused a pointless dustup of emotions, which fortunately the two were able to back away from and stop damage to their relationship . . . this time. But how about the next time? Now in the habit of no ‘inhibitions’, of impulsive thoughts unleashed without any time taken for reflection, without the facial expressions and body language feedback to warn and guide our thought process as we speak, what can happen? And that’s when we hurt or insult others. That’s the Krel among us, the social media which easily brings our darker side out without us really realizing it, until its too late. The Krel’s ‘monsters of the id’ set loose to began the process of eating away and destroying our interpersonal relationships.

Social Mitosis

Social mitosis is the process of a people, a uniform social group, slowly pulling against each other trying to go in different directions, much as two cats leashed together inevitably pulling in opposite directions. External forces start to polarize the people, often causing subgroups to form, wanting to go in different directions. This tends to be a slow drifting apart process, which is often imperceptible to the people while it is happening, but they are still one people acting largely as one. There is still a high degree of identification and empathy between individuals. But as the people are pulling apart, they become more identifiable as subgroups. More and more, the subgroups pull in different directions, with more strain building between the subgroups, so incidents of friction between the two subgroups become more frequent, but at first isn’t usually severe. However, the friction incidents serve to continue dividing the people until the subgroups become very distinct, each with their own culture. Two new cultures and peoples develop, becoming more distinct and separate, identifying less with each other.

Left unattended, the two people continue to pull apart, continue to become more distinct and different. At some time, there is a rupture and those people become two separate and distinct cultures and societies, and that rupture is usually of a violent nature. ‘Revolution’. ‘Insurrection’. People fighting to be free and out from under the other, to do and think whatever they wish. Very romantic sounding, but the reality is usually very different and far from romantic. The social mitosis of America started when I was a boy in the sixties with the emergence of the counter culture (the hippies), and has continued ever since. While the split has wax and waned over the years, the problem of obsolete people in the last few decades and their displacement from the social-economic system has caused significant strain between people, the rife between them growing deeper as they evolve into separate societies. We see this growing riff every night watching the national news and the political infighting in Washington.

The Krel of our social media is now deepening the split in social mitosis, causing further strain and conflict and at an accelerated rate. Like the Krel in the movie, we are unleashing our inner darker side onto others, to attack and eat away at our relationships, unaware what is happening. The Krel social media is a hidden evil that we have no real control over. We can only rely on the self control of individuals . . . millions of individuals acting independently. The vast majority completely unaware of the Krel syndrom of social media, what they are unconsciously doing as they tap out another posting. The destructive power they hold literally in their hands . . . the power to drive people apart with unforseen consequences. To attack. All without any thinking. So we would do well to consider . . .

A Corollary of War:
Never attack without having a specific objective-
Never attack without a reasonable expectation of achieving that objective.

To ask the questions about a posting- Why are you attacking? What do you expect to gain for the cost of attacking? (cost-benefit) What exactly do you expect to achieve from you’re attack? And most important, do you really think you can gain what you’re expecting to get?

But then, if you don’t realize you’re attacking, it’s rather hard to ask and answer these questions, isn’t it!

The Major Factor in Black Lives Matter!

As so often the case with social problems, the obsolescence of people is ignored which makes finding any real solutions impossible.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

The problems for American Blacks, as well as many other minorities, is boiled down to one simple all encompassing word that ignores some very powerful forces at work in society today. That word is ‘Racism’. It’s the systemic centuries old racism, particularly by the privileged white people, which is the curse of Black people that keeps holding them back in society. Lets explore that for a minute, but first a little background so you can understand what I’m saying.

We hear repeatedly that the American Civil War freed the slaves! But in actuality it didn’t. The winning of the war did end titled slavery, where people actually owned other people as property. After the war, the plantations still needed cheap labor to produce tobacco and cotton, so this titled slavery was replaced by a serfdom system of share croppers. These were farm labors, mostly Black, who worked small plots of land for a portion of the crops raised. Forty acres and a mule, the share cropper and his family worked long hard hours to raise the labor intensive crops of cotton and tobacco to earn just enough to subside on. For the year, he lived off credit from the local store, paying it back after harvest, with very little to nothing left. Being left in debt, he couldn’t leave for any better opportunities, facing a systematic program of terrorism designed to keep him on the land working.

But then came World War II, and the massive expansion of American industry and its ability to design and manufacture sophisticated machines. Before the war, there had been much interest in automation for agriculture including cotton and tobacco, and after the war ended, new machines to automate their cultivation were introduced, just as had been done with wheat and corn crops. Suddenly, farmers no longer wanted all those little 40 acre plots, they wanted fields that went for a mile or more, and were half as wide. They didn’t want any obstructions on the land, they wanted smooth continuous fields where a combine could be driven with a minimum of turning.

They no longer wanted those share croppers with their small shacks and out buildings. They no longer had any use for their serfdom slaves, therefore they wanted all the share croppers off the land, but in the process finally set the Blacks free. In turn, this allowed real progress to be made with civil rights, because the monied powerful no longer cared about retaining the serfdom system of sharecroppers. The way was open, so starting in the fifties, civil rights began to make real progress.
The thing that truly freed the slaves wasn’t the Civil War, it was technology that made them obsolete as cheap human labor. The Black people were displaced by machines! They were now free to go out and make their way in the American economic system, to have their part of the American dream.

Trouble was, just as technology made them obsolete and free, technology was also beginning to take away jobs in industry . . . you know, those factory jobs where previous Americans had started their climb up the economic ladder. They were walking right into another round of even bigger displacement by technology. So it was like they were climbing a huge hill trying to reach the top and be with those ‘privileged whites’, except that hill was made up of gravel (our picture upper right). Every time they took a step, they slide backwards some amount. And the gravel they struggled against was technology which was taking away jobs.

No one realized that at the same time, many of those ‘privileged whites’ were starting to slip off the hill, sliding down, scrambling to regain what they had lost, but also taking one step forward and sliding two back as technology forced them down and out. The newly freed Blacks didn’t realize they were NOT in competition with the white people for a place in the economic sun, they were in competition against the machines. This continues today, but at a faster pace. And the machines don’t know or care anything about race, color or creed! It’s evident by the gravel hill analogy just how important technology displacement is to the advancement of Blacks or any other people. If technology is continually eroding away the steps to advancement, by doing away with jobs, then you must consider it if you’re going to make any real progress, yet every political activist working to advance the Blacks ignores this very important, indeed essential fact of life.

That’s why all of them have basically failed to make any progress.

We now have another political movement spawned to try again and lift up the Blacks, and again they are depending solely on political activism to achieve their goals instead of working the problem by analysis, research and understanding what is driving the situation. The same methodology that’s been used since the 1960’s and therefore most certainly will have the same results. The leaders of this political activism, in their drive for equality, don’t realize that Blacks are just as equal to the other Americans . . . because they are just as equally obsolete before they ever get started. And that’s the crux of the problem.

This applies to other minorities besides Black people. The exact same thing happened with the liberation of women. What actually liberated women was technology . . . technology made women obsolete as women, freeing them to go out into the work force and make their way, but they quickly found the way blocked. Like the Blacks, they came out into the workforce just when automation was beginning to make inroads in eliminating jobs, taking away jobs leaving women to also climb the crumbling hill of gravel. You can read another article I wrote titled, “The Fallacy of Women’s Liberation” on my website, scrolling down to article number 32 and clicking on the title or the ‘PDF Download’ to read. It will give you a better understanding of the complexity of the problem.

Problems don’t get solved by pretending, they get solved by working them, by using real problem solving skills of understanding that only comes from research, analysis, modeling and intellect instead of by emotion. By THINKING! As long as we depend on political activism to solve our problems no one will ever have any real viable solutions.

We will always have those problems plaguing us.


By: Economic & Finance Report

With the national protests occurring in the United States. There has long been an issue about the income inequality among minorities and investment inequalities among minorities, especially African Americans.

Analytics and data collected from The Federal Reserve indicate that over 60% of white families have stock share holdings while only 30% of black families have stock holdings. Indicated is that only a third of African American families are seeing the benefits from the stock market rally, currently occurring.

The wealth gap between minorities and white families is also very wide. Median white family net worth is $171,000 while African American family median net worth is approx $18,000. These wealth gaps tend to have economical effect on minority and black families as they are not given a fighting chance to improve financially and economically amongst their counterparts. -SB

Source: Yahoo Finance; Federal Reserve Survey Consumer Finances (2016); Image Source:

The Crocodile Phenomena!

How people perceive the crocodile of a totalitarian state not as really being a crocodile simply because it’s sleeping quietly.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

It’s an amazing phenomena, the way people and modern governments perceive a totalitarian state as safe and harmless, much as if they think a crocodile laying out in the water, peacefully sleeping, its eyes, nostrils and a few bumps along its spine protruding just above the still water . . . that it’s somehow safe. People actually come to think that the crocodile isn’t really a crocodile! As long as it isn’t attacking, it isn’t biting, sinking those numerous sharp teeth into flesh, isn’t trashing about trying to drag a helpless victim underwater to eat . . . then it really isn’t a crocodile at all! As long as it lays quietly in the water, then the crocodile isn’t a threat, simply because it isn’t a crocodile. People consider it’s safe to play and bath in the water with no concern for the ‘non-crocodile’ laying quietly out in the water.

Now just how do people come to such a childish simplistic notion?

Sooner or later, of course . . . the non-crocodile stirs, silently pushing it’s way through the water with only the smallest ripples to betray its movement, and of course, the people ignore the warning signs of those ripples. And before you know it, the harmless, not to worry about crocodile is among the people, snapping and biting, crunching down on flesh and bone, dragging off its new meal to enjoy a nice crocodile dinner. And the people are stunned at what happened! Completely baffled over how a crocodile could suddenly, unexpectedly appear out of nowhere to attack them! After all, there wasn’t any crocodiles around, right?

You’re left standing there asking, ‘Now just what was going through their minds!’

As silly as all this sounds, people and governments . . . especially modern governments, do this all the time. But the crocodile isn’t some large horrific reptile living in the water, they are totalitarian states. Countries controlled by repressive totalitarian governments, who are a curse to their people, and often other peoples about the world. It’s phenomenal how nations forget what totalitarian states really are and what they do. Just like that crocodile sleeping peacefully out in the water, its evil looks largely hidden from view, people and nations come to think of it as being harmless and non-threatening. To think of those nations as being just like themselves, only a little more coarse and unsophisticated in manner.

These last few years, this phenomena has become readily apparent with China . . . Red China- Communist China. For years now, the western nations have looked upon China as an emerging nation, advancing rapidly and becoming a modern nation like themselves, putting behind them the millions of their own citizens they murdered with millions more dying from neglect under Moa Zedong and his revolution. There were those warning ripples in the water, stories about secret police, frequent executions and re-education camps. And, of course, Tiananmen Square. But everyone thought that China was past that, and therefore on her way to becoming a modern nation, but without changing over to a modern government. Everything seemed to be going fine, relations with China and the free world becoming closer and closer, but then China began to change, first by seizing some rocks, the island chains of Paracel and Spratly, in the shallows of the South China Sea and claiming the territory as their own. Then they began building up those rocks into small islands to station troops, guns, missiles and warplanes. Then they started demanding that other nations, including the United States, keep their distance, even in international waters, harassing any ships or airplanes who ventured too close, to the point of actually collision with a Chinese fighterjet.

Despite rulings by the international courts that China does not own the islands, China continues it’s belligerent behavior towards any and all who challenges their ownership. This isn’t the only incident of the crocodile awakening. There’s the Uighor or Muslim suppression, China’s extensive expansion into the Third world using massive loans to gain control of small undeveloped nations’ natural resources . . . and now Hong Kong with naked suppression to subjugate the free people of Hong Kong.

And surprise, surprise . . . everyone is shocked that a crocodile is eating people!

Everyone forgot that the totalitarian government of China was still there and unchanged from when they earlier snuffed out millions of lives. Assumed that because the crocodile was peaceful and sleeping, it was no longer a totalitarian state frothed with all the dangers and horrors associated with an outlaw archaean government. No respect or consideration for the individual in or out of China, so like any other outlaw, the government takes and does whatever it wants, for them there is no law . . . they respect no law.

But the crocodile hasn’t bitten yet. Instead they are building the crocodile’s teeth, a massive blue water navy to challenge America plus expanding and modernize both their army and air force. China has publicly stated they intend to dominate the world by 2050, making ripples in the water as the crocodile slips in to enjoy a feast. History continually repeats itself such as Hitler and Chamberlain (peace in our time) while Churchill warned any and all who wouldn’t listen. Not until Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 did anyone see the crocodile as it bit deeply into the unprotected flesh of the democracies.

We just never learn our lesson, we always have to learn the hard way.

The Future for Millennials and Generation-Z

Right now, and for the next few years, the economic future for the Millennials and Generation-Z is being determined.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

Only the most rabid Trump-hater would deny how dramatically America’s economy has prospered. While many others might concede to the improved economy, they would object to President Trump being the reason for the good times, but many Americans consider the President and his policies, to be the sole reason for America’s return to prosperity. Until the coronavirus, President Trump was considered a ‘shoe in’ for reelection. But in the realm of political dynamics, memories are short with the President’s poll numbers progressively sliding downwards from the pandemic and the need to shut down to save lives. It’s beginning to look like reelection may not be so easy after all, maybe even impossible! This begs the question, what will happen to economic prosperity with a new administration? What economic future does the millennials and generation-Z have, as well as us baby-boomers who depend on a strong stable economy to continue our lives, . . . if there’s no Trump! After all, people on fixed incomes are the first to get clobbered when the economy collapses.

But there’s still hope!

What originally got the President elected was his promise to reform Washington- he would Drain the Swamp. This appealed to many Americans who were so fed up with the continual non-performance of the governments (note plural). They wanted a functional government which would start addressing the problems they face in life. Candidate Trump promised them that . . . he promised he’d drain the Washington swamp and make a government, which catered to the peoples needs and problems, and in turn would revitalize the economy and return the people to prosperity. And he surprised so many of us by doing much of what he promised, unlike so many of the professional politicians who say only what the polls tell them to say to get elected.

As the coming elections started to warm up, it looked like President Trump couldn’t lose, that with the economy going great guns, with so many American’s happy and satisfied with the economy, that he was a shoe-in for a second term. Then a small semi-living bundle of DNA called coronavirus or Covid-19 came out of China as a life threatening pandemic to spread across the world with the blazing speed of a crowned forest fire. And like such a fire, the only option was to set ‘back fires’, and by deliberately causing damage would ultimately limit the total damage. The only way to stop the virus was to shut the economies down across the world. To trade extensive economic damage for minimum virus damage to people. While there are growing numbers who now want to blame the new recession on the President, the measures he took were taken world wide by many nations. It was unavoidable no matter who was president!
But even if there hadn’t been a pandemic and the President is reelected, the swamp is destined to refill. In four years Trump will have to leave, and the chances of getting another outsider, willing to fight the Washington mob, to keep the swamp dry is very doubtful. Things are destine to return to the old statues quo, back to being governed by the same ‘old guard’ as before.


Back on the day of his retirement, Speaker Tip O’Neill, a democrat, stood on the Capital steps and warned about the new generation of representatives coming to Washington, people he called ‘sound biters’, people who were very skilled at giving perfect 15 or 30 second sound bites for the news media. People very skilled at manipulating and using the print and electronic media to cultivate images instead of actually working and solving problems. The well refined technologies of mass media and mass marketing were vigorously applied to the election process erasing those checks and balances so necessary for a modern government to function. We now create our governments using the same exact marketing techniques used to sell tampons, hemorrhoid medications, laxatives and toilet paper. The result is the ability of the Congress to address complex difficult problems has been eroded to the point of being dysfunctional . . . to the discuss of the people.

And the American people have some serious problems on the horizon, which will need the attention of professional problem solvers. Experts in automation and AI (Artificial Intelligence) predict that in 15 to 25 years as much as 50% of the jobs will disappear. (Go Google these three words- Osborne, report, and pdf). ‘Reading the law’ is the education of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, it’s the education from the 16th to the early 19th century. While lawyers are an important and necessary part of society, a law degree doesn’t prepare someone for the 21st century. The bulk of the elected members of the House and Senate are lawyers or political science, which is just a watered down law degree.

Reforming the government means creating an environment to get those kinds of people who have the intellectual skills to analyze and solve complex difficult problems, those problems that more and more Americans are facing with obsolescence and technology displacement. Problems far beyond the abilities of the present members of the Congress. It’s like if you have a lump that keeps growing or an open sore which will not heal. Now do you want a doctor with all the technical degrees required to become a licensed physician . . . and knows what he is doing? Or do you want the old kind of doctor . . . the witch doctors, medicine men, shamans or voodoo priests who dances around the ‘examination room’ naked, shaking a stick at the sky, mumbling magical incantations while sprinkling magical powders to cure your ailment? These shamans and witch doctors are what we are now getting for congressmen and senators. They have only their skills of using mass media and marketing, their version of those ‘magical powders’, of images and illusions. Like the shaman medicine men, our congressmen and senators can only create the images and illusions that your future is ‘well’, so therefore you have nothing to worry about.

The one thing that President Trump’s tenure in office has shown is just how little our representatives in congress can really do, hence why they are constantly bickering and fighting amongst themselves. Why there’s the constant Machiavellian back stabbing posturing, with their only real goal of bringing more power to themselves and their particular party. Never any real concern or activity towards real problems facing so many Americans. It’s so prevalent in our politics I think history, 25 or 50 years from now, will call this the ‘age of the great pretenders’. People are constantly asking, why can’t they do more than just fight like little kids on the playground, why can’t they do something about the problems we are facing, and the answer is: Because they don’t know how to do anything else! So in turn, this has lead to the all too familiar dysfunction of our government.

The only way to resolve this situation is by creating an environment conducive to attracting capable qualified people, twentieth century people who have some real understanding of a high technology world, who have the education and experience and therefore have glean the intellectual, analytical and problem solving skills necessary to make real progress towards the obsolescence that so many Americans now face. This means having four constitutional amendments: 1) Line item veto, 2) Term limits for congressmen and senators, 3) Ban participation in elections, in coin or in kind, unless qualified to vote in the election, 4) Give both House and Senate power to demise federal employees via vote. The amendments are presented in detail at by clicking on | The Amendments | on the top menu bar, as well as the problems of government dysfunction by clicking | Our Government’s Abilities | on the same menu bar.

Presently, there isn’t any real acknowledgment of obsolete people and their displacement by machines, let alone any real analysis or problem solving by our congress, which is charged by the Constitution with governing the domestic America arena, while the President is responsible for the international. To have any progress resolving the problems we now face, we need and must have the best and brightest people America has to offer, instead of opportunist of limited abilities who only see congress as a way to enrich themselves. A means to go from rags to riches by living off the people for 20, 30 or 50 years without actually doing anything tangible. We want people with real educations just as we do with our physicians, who we entrust with our lives and health. Presently, we have people who are only skilled with words, and word games do not solve problems, they don’t even add to the solving process. It’s just play . . . just entertainment of illusions and images, the same as stage magicians with their smoke and mirrors.

President Trump has the ability to reform simply by using his social media skills, the power he has developed with Tweeter to ask questions and explore the possibilities for real reform. I’m sure he would be surprised by the number of people drawn to the possibility of real permanent reforms with a return to functionality to give a real government. The President would see that his real goal should be to rally the people around him, as he’s done with his ‘Make America Great Again’ rallies, just by drawing attention to what the people can do to reform our political process. If the American people are rallied to a real common goal, they will do the rest themselves. They will form the local grassroots committees to raise funds and do the door to door political canvassing work to form city and county committees that elect delegates for state conventions, who in turn would have a national constitution convention as provided by our Constitution. Then do the advocating work at state levels to campaign for ratification of each amendment in their state legislative bodies, thus adding the much needed amendments to our Constitution.

Only then will the Millennials and Generation-Z have an economic future by actually draining the swamp.

HEB and the Great Race in the Grocery Stores

There is now a great ongoing race between the supermarkets, a race of technologies to see who will fully automate . . . and who will eventually go out of business.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

It’s not a race to win a trophy or a gold star, it’s a race to develop the machines to fully automate your grocery shopping and close down those ‘dinosaurs’ you are presently shopping in called the supermarket. The machines, like any others of automation, are designed to replace all those workers and cashiers you see whenever you walk into the store. You see, whoever is able to replace those workers with machines will be able to drastically cut their operating cost, and therefore be able to sell their groceries cheaper.

To the right, you see a picture of robots gliding along a matrix of tracks with tote bins or boxes below, so a robot is able to drop something in the box just by parking over it, to ultimately be delivered to a customer. You see five robots in the picture, two with blue tops and three with black. Each has two sets of four wheels, where the robot can raise one set and lower the other to change directions, allowing it to easily go back and forth or up and down the track rows at will.

The totes sit on conveyers, so totes can be moved out from underneath the robots to other conveyers allowing the computer to group totes together for delivery to the customer. If you look closely, you can see tote boxes having multiple items in them. Through the controlling computer, robots know which tote is for which customer’s order, and so they can go to a tote to drop an item in. This method of using robots for sorting is call ‘swarm robots’, and much like a nest of ants, you have a large number of individuals working independent, yet together in a common cause, to get a job done.

Walmart and Kroger are doing extensive work with robotic systems to develop online grocery shopping, which is not only more convenient with less shrinkage than traditional retail stores, but also cheaper, a great incentive for shoppers to use the service. Using human labor to fill grocery orders is much too expensive, so robots are needed that can quickly and accurately fill each person’s grocery order at a minimum cost. These companies tend to be tight lipped about what they’re doing, nevertheless enough has been said to indicate that great progress has been made to bring automated grocery stores to reality. But such research is expensive requiring strong cash reserves to undertake, so the question is, ‘Does HEB have the kind of resources needed to build similar automation?’

The H.E. Butt Grocery Co. of San Antonio, is a long established (1905) grocery retailer that has been very successful over the decades, and now is a large chain of ‘super’ supermarkets across Texas and several adjacent states. Years ago, when Walmart moved in with their super-stores, including grocery, one company official made a snide remark to the newspaper, that HEB should just give up, because Walmart was going to run over HEB. What the official didn’t realize was Walmart’s success came from being so highly automated, and furthermore . . . he didn’t realize that HEB was just as highly automated. Not only did HEB survive Walmart, but it thrived!

Like the other grocery retailers, HEB has a stopgap shopping service where employees drag these blue wire frame carts around the store filling orders by picking items off the shelves for later pickup. Very labor intensive and very expensive, a cost that HEB cannot absorb, so customers must pay five dollars for this custom service. But a quick peruse across the internet turned up pictures, such as the one above, of Kroger and Walmart’s robotic efforts . . . massive expensive technological machines that can automatically fill a person’s grocery shopping list and send it on it’s way without all that expensive manual labor. However, I turned up very little about HEB. Certainly, no pictures of similar robotic warehouses, just news articles about how HEB is implementing a new in-store inventory-control and payment-processing system to enhance store automation, a second-generation autonomous delivery vehicle for robot delivery trials, the opening of a new Austin technology hub plus the hiring of about 1,500 digital technical people. All needed, but far from what the others are already doing to fully automate grocery shopping and ultimately dispense with all those massive labor hungry stores, and thereby becoming one of the survivors of the Great Race.

These Walmart robots are very expensive to develop requiring large numbers of highly educated and skill technologist to implement and make workable. And while HEB is a big company, I’m left wondering if this race may be a little too big for them to compete, especially the money part. Does HEB have the cash reserves to undertake such a massive technological project? Do they have the corporate culture to take the company so far into the twenty-first century? For the last several years, I’ve noticed gaggles of middle and low level managers touring the stores, having conference meetings in the aisles. I have the impression that HEB’s tooth-to-tail ratio is dropping, and bloated management introduces inertia and resistance to new ways and things. Does HEB have plans for such sophisticated robotic technology or are they just a late starter? In a race, and HEB is defiantly in a race for survival, such a late start can be just as fatal as not making the effort. The whole consumer landscape is changing with forecast of a 100,000 retail stores to close in the next five years, so the whole game is changing for everyone at all levels and segments of all markets. Those who are not fleet footed, will be left behind to wither on the vine. It’s happened in the past, so we can expect it to happen again.

The challenges of assimilating new technologies into a business can be daunting, even for small businesses. An example is a favorite Tex-Mex restaurant of mine, El Chaparral of Helotes Texas, which I frequent . . . a family own business since 1972, that has been a very successful business growing over the years. Like so many other restaurants, El Chaparral decided to compensate for lost coronavirus business by offering takeout, and so they hung out a large banner offering takeout service. I was delighted, and several times called in an order on the way out of town . . . only to have no one answer the phone. So, I sat in rather long takeout lines of other restaurants, for many minutes waiting for my food, but as I drove by El Chaparral I’ve found no cars waiting. This didn’t come as a surprise, because I had also gone to their website for their menu, only to find the ‘boob’ they hired to do their website wrote code that only works with play phones! (I say ‘play phone’ because I’m always seeing millennials and generation-Zs sitting on their butts playing with their smart phones while waiting to be replaced by a machine) so therefore, people using real computers couldn’t use their website! This only shows the challenge facing so many non-technology based businesses as they try to quickly assimilate technologies they don’t have skills at. At a time when survival for so many small businesses is in peril, when every sale is desperately needed, they’re at an even greater risk from not being able to quickly assimilate and use technology. You don’t have to be a large corporation to stumble in the world of technology.

Several years ago, some politician was going around, crowing about how he wanted to fundamentally change America, but not being a twentieth century person, didn’t realize there has already been a fundamental change in America . . . and that change didn’t include a large number of Americans. Now that change is becoming readily apparent, as the new social-economic system sluffs off so many people because they are not prepared for the twenty-first century. It’s going to be very hard to address problems in a fair and equitable manner. In addition to those 100,000 stores closing in the next five years, it’s forecast that technology will eliminate up to 50% of American jobs in the next 15 to 25 years. Everywhere, for everyone, the Great Race is on! So . . .

This is not the time for people or businesses to doddle around.

It will be interesting to watch HEB and others as they struggle to find their place in the twenty-first century. As for me, I look forward to foregoing the weekly chore of grocery shopping, irrespective of who wins the grocery race. More to follow.


Photo Image Credit: Wikipedia

By: Economic & Finance Report

Vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger has indicated that the recession that has been displayed because of the Coronavirus; has had drastic effect on the US and global economy as a whole.

Vice chair Munger has indicated executives from top S&P 500 companies are not seeking a government bailout aka “government intervention”, because in his opinion they are “too frozen” to do so. He has spoken that the airline industry has done very little to bring increase scrutiny on where they lie ahead of their financial stats and balance sheets. -SB

Coronavirus – Recession: Jobs Lost to Machines!

A recession will bring another round of technology displacement with job loses for Millennials and Generation-Z.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

It’s now a considered fact that the U.S. will experience a recession resulting from the coronavirus threat across the world. It stands to reason, as first whole cities in China, then areas and finally whole countries like Italy and Spain, are sheltering in place with nations shutting down and effectively exiting the world economy. Even if America wasn’t taking isolation steps, the rest of the slowing world economy would certainly drag America’s economy down. A recession always means the lost of jobs from layoffs as business strives to save money and stay in business.

But another overlooked aspect of employment in a recession is the ‘fertile fields’ created within an economy for new technologies to sprout and grow, and therefore propagate as labor saving devices. New technologies that businesses can use to save money, in particular to save money by reducing labor cost.

Machines to replace people.

Recessions spur technology displacement of people by eliminating their jobs . . . permanently! Once lost to machines, those jobs never come back. We saw many examples of that in the 2008 Great Recession where high price corporate executives were laid off. There were a number of news reports about those professionals, who previously could find a new job in just days to weeks, but after being laid off, had gone first months, then years with nothing. And they just couldn’t understand why suddenly . . . no one wanted them any more! Turns out the answer was simple. While times had been good, computer and telecommunications technologies had developed, but laid relatively dormant in the background. Then came the financial crisis and resulting downturn for business. Corporations needed to reduce cost to preserve themselves, and they found that by using those new technologies they could reorganize themselves and eliminated much of their high priced executive talent . . . you know . . . cost savings. As a few companies did this and reduced their operating cost, the strategy of using technology and reorganization quickly spread to other corporations, so suddenly, there was a massive surplus in this career field- with no jobs to be had.

Recessions replace people with machines.

And this holds true across the spectrum of American career fields. Today, in America, no one is immune from job displacement by technology. But this time, things will be much worst. Since the ‘08 recession, the technologies of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and artificial vision have made huge advancements. These technologies allows more to be done in designing machines to do the jobs which people are now doing. So, we can expect deep inroads to be made in automation and robotic systems, therefore a recession will purge the economy of people having limited abilities in a technologically advanced society.

As the shutdown continues, with people working at home, businesses will find ways to do the work with fewer people and they will mostly do this by using new technologies. They will reorganize, simplify and streamline their operations to save money. They will do their work with fewer people needing fewer skills and less education, and therefore with a lower labor cost.

In the ‘79 recession, which resulted from the second oil crisis, there were 11 million people who lost their jobs, but only about 7 million of those jobs ever came back. This happened just as microprocessor-computers were coming into their own. With the advancements made in microprocessors and computer technology since then, automation has become much easier to do and therefore has proliferated. The specter of unemployment is the alarming numbers of joblessness: but the real question is ‘How many of those jobs will ever come back?’ Judging from past recent recessions, we can expect that a significant number wont come back. The work force will again contract, able to do the same work and at a lower cost.

I remember a visit to my sister-in-law several years ago, and we were watching the evening news with an announcement that a large technology company was laying off 15,000 people. My sister-in-law, who was a technology challenged person, exclaimed: “Why do they do that? Who’s going to do the work? They will just have to hire them back because they can’t do the work without them!” I then explained to her that with new computers and telecommunication systems, not only will they be able to do the work without them, but most likely they would do it cheaper, faster and more accurate than when using humans. Those jobs were gone for good! And while the company, as so often the case, eliminated the jobs by retirements and natural attrition to minimize the impact on people, nevertheless those jobs were gone. For the young people coming up, those positions were now gone, leaving them with fewer opportunities.

This is a natural process that has been going on since the mid-twentieth century or earlier, both during boom times and bust. The thing is, a recession greatly accelerates the process of automation over a broader spectrum of career fields. It’s just this time it will be deeper and more pervasive, leaving many at the bottom of the heap . . . those living in tents we now see on so many American city streets.

The impact of the oil supplies will be the ‘joker in the deck’.

The New Electric Cars and Automotive Repairing by Future Auto Mechanics

Another opportunity to watch a career field being unintentionally reduced by a new technological advance.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

When people speak of the technology displacement of jobs, they speak in terms of someone designing a machine from the onset, to replace workers. However, often as not, it’s technology developed for other purposes that inadvertently causes job displacement. That means there isn’t some individual or small group who are striving to replace workers with machines, rather it’s just an unforseen consequence. We’re seeing an example of that today . . . right before our eyes. If you haven’t noticed, all the major automobile manufactures are rushing to design and build electric cars for us, the consumer. General Motors, Ford, Toyota have ongoing programs to manufacture and market both electric cars and small trucks for our personal transportation needs.

However, the UAW (United Auto Workers) is concerned that EVs (Electric Vehicles) will hurt the union because they require less manpower to assemble. In other words, fewer jobs! EVs are simpler machines having fewer mechanical parts, that are also smaller, lighter, but more importantly, they don’t have reciprocating motion. Parts are not going back and forth, up and down at high speeds, the kind of motion that creates lots of wear and tear on machines. The petroleum fueled engines (internal combustion reciprocating engines) used in our modern cars, have a high failure rate compared to electric motors. Those engines also have a number of accessories attached, such as carburetors, fuel pump, oil pump, starter motor, water pump and distributor . . . all of which can fail and need replacing by an automotive mechanic. The engine itself can have hundreds of moving parts, each being worn down by the engine motion while running, each a possible source of failure. Same with the transmission that couples the engine’s power to the wheels thereby pushing the car forward.

A whole industry has been created to repair automobiles, from supplying repair parts to actually fixing a broken car. I dare say, there is virtually no car owner that hasn’t taken their car in for repairs. It’s just part of living in a high technology society, and no one thinks anything of it, they just accept it as a fact of life. The more complex a machine, the more often it fails and needs repairs. But if electric cars are simpler than gas powered cars, requiring fewer people to manufacture, it stands to reason EVs will break down less often, now doesn’t it? Of course! As EVs become more prevalent, with automakers like Ford and General Motors now intent on making them prevalent, then auto mechanics can expect less work and therefore less money.

Lets face it- an electric car is a big battery, four electric motors and some electronic box to control those motors. You can’t get much simpler than that! The conventional car engine/transmission/power train has a mirid of moving parts, all subject to wear and tear, and therefore breaking and failing. That’s why everyone, over their lifetime, will periodically take their cars in for repairs. It’s self evident that the more complex a machine, the more things that can go wrong (break), and conversely, the simpler the machine- the less repair required. True, one of those electric motors will fail, but since its motion isn’t reciprocating, they will last longer. Furthermore, the motor is a modular component that will be replaced . . . just pull the wheel off, change the motor out, put the wheel back on and you’re done. Indeed, it’s likely to be a job most home mechanics can and will do.

Bottom line- the electric cars will put a lot of automobile mechanics out of work simply because there won’t be the need for the number of mechanics America now has. And the thing is, no one intended to eliminate those mechanic jobs, it will just be the consequence of addressing the unrelated problems of energy and pollution. Jobs will also be lost in the supplying and selling of auto parts, all those auto parts stores you see along major streets.

The EV is a perfect example of how emergence of one technology, can inadvertently eliminate jobs in a related field, even though not intended to and often no one even thought of. There is no intent in eliminating auto mechanic jobs, no individual or small groups working to ‘deep six’ the auto mechanic. Very few people have even considered the impact on jobs that the EV will have. Even though the electric car won’t displace all mechanics, it will create a surplus of qualified people, and that will cause their pay to drop so those working will find it harder to make a living.
This indirect job displacement is a growing phenomena, which will increasingly threaten the livelihood of both millennials and generation-Z as time marches on. Even more important is where several unrelated technologies come together to eliminate a job. As technology continues to grow exponentially, this form of displacement is becoming increasingly common. So much of the displacement of people is in fact, unintentional. The thing to know and remember is:

Today, no one is immune from technology displacement.

The electric car isn’t the only technology that auto mechanics face. Since the nineties, cars have had integral computers designed into them, especially the engine and transmission. As those computers became more sophisticated and more involved in the operation of the car, they have been programmed to also diagnose automotive systems. Now when a customer comes into a repair shop, the mechanic plugs a small hand held computer into the car’s computer, which allows the car to TELL the mechanic what is wrong. This means the repairman spends less time troubleshooting what is wrong, and so he can do the correct repair job right off. But any time you reduce the skill/intellectual levels required to do a job, you reduce the cost of labor because now there are more people who can do the job.

That’s job displacement!