Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Module 8

            Computers have existed through my entire education.  I remember going to the computer lab in elementary school and learning about the internet for the first time, and now, here I sit writing an article for an online class.  I often find myself thinking how different the education system would be without computers, but, on a personal level, I wonder how different my current education would be if it weren’t for online classes.
            In high school, I didn’t use computers for school very much.  Other than the occasional paper that I had to write, most of my school work involved doing problems from textbooks or worksheets.  In college, however, I am at the computer-lab daily doing homework.  Specifically, I have a couple online classes.  Online classes allow you to take more classes because you can do them at your own convenience.  That is not to say that you can put them off.  Every online class I’ve ever had has had deadlines (many of them have been very demanding).  What I mean is that you can juggle them with other classes so that you can manage more classes at once.  Because of this, I usually take at least one online class per semester, which I believe has helped me to become a more focused.  With online classes, I am always thinking about school.  I know that there is work to be done even if I don’t have class.  A perfect example of this was yesterday for Presidents’ Day.  Although I had no classes up at the campus, I had an assignment due for one of my online classes.  It is as if I can never take a break.  It sounds horrible, but it is actually a good thing.  Why?  I am always thinking of school work, and because that is the case, it is really easy for me to focus on homework.  I don’t have to overcome that Monday-morning, back-to-the-old-grind hurdle in order to motivate myself to get back to work, because I am already in the frame of mind to work.  Online classes have been a crucial part of my education, and, as a result, so have computers.       
            In connection with ‘The Wired Society,’ it is kind of a self-fulfilled prophecy that I am taking a class on a computer (online) that emphasizes how widespread computers are becoming.  But it’s true.  When I took my first online class, I was nervous because I didn’t know what it would be like, but I honestly believe that I will see the day when basically all classes are online.  I originally thought that online classes were limited because asking questions and receiving help on specific problems is difficult, but I’ve had a couple online classes that were probably more effective than most of my on-campus classes.  If administered correctly, online classes can be phenomenal. 
            Another thing that online classes have allowed me to do, unrelated to allowing me to be a better student, is have a flexible social life.  If a friend invites me to do something, and I actually want to go, I can usually adjust things around so that I can participate.  A perfect example of this happened a couple weeks ago.  I was doing some homework for my other online class when my friend invited me to go play pickup basketball with him.  Knowing that I could just submit the assignment later that night, I was able to stop what I was doing and go play. 
            Computers really are becoming essential to obtaining an education.  I can’t imagine trying to go to do schoolwork without them.  In reading ‘The World is Flat,’ I have become aware that the world is becoming digital whether people like it or not, and education will follow.  I’m sure it will continue to progress to the point where most students are attending state universities entirely online.  The education system will be flat. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Module 7

            There are many reasons why some countries are better at doing things than others.  Friedman gives numerous reasons and examples, but I am going to focus on what I think is the primary one: government policy.  In the reading, it talks about how Egyptians in the fawanis industry believe that China has an advantage over Egypt because of their superior technology.  However, Friedman makes the implication that it has a lot to do with government policies among other things.  I believe this is his best reason, and in order to find out the root of the problem, one has to take a serious look at human nature.  For instance, Egypt guarantees all college graduates a job each year.  What impact does this have on people?  Surely, it is a well-intentioned policy, but, as Friedman mentions, Egypt has been in poverty for half a century. It’s pretty clear if you think about it.  If you were a college student in Egypt, and you knew you would receive a job upon graduation, why would you work hard or study?  As long as you squeaked by with passing grades, you would be just as well off as someone who worked hard.  Now contrast that with a country like India, where competition is fierce, with tens of thousands of applications flooding in for a single job opening.  Many Indians graduate from college unable to get the job they want because the government guarantees them no such position.  What effect does this have?  Indians work and study vigorously because they can’t make it if they don’t compete.  As a result, they are more ambitious, educated, and capable of acquiring wealth while making contributions to the world in the process.  Now, there is nothing special about the location of India.  The people of India aren’t genetically superior, and they aren’t any more naturally-talented.  However, India has a much-more rapidly growing economy than Egypt does.  It appears, then, that this comes down to government policy.  I’m not taking a political stance.  There are other political aspects that need to be taken into account.  Rather, I am just pointing out human nature.  I think it is sufficient to say that where there is no safety-net available, people will compete, innovate, labor, and do whatever they have to in order to survive, and as they do this, they create wealth in their countries.  Friedman also talks about government policy’s impact in a fair amount of detail.  He explains that countries that have the fastest-growing economies are those that have the lowest government regulation. 
            A self-directed consumer is a consumer who customizes his/her own shopping experience.  Self-directed consumers feel powerful because they are customizing the product, service, etc., but really it is the companies who maintain the power by creating an avenue for the customer feel ‘in control.’  I am definitely a self-directed consumer.  When I am in the market for a product, I research the product online.  I read only the negative reviews, since all of the positive reviews say basically the same thing (i.e. “this product is awesome”).  When I find the specific product I want, I find the cheapest place that I can buy it, which most of the time is Amazon.com.  When the product arrives, I see if I like it, and if I don’t, I send it back.  I feel like I have a huge amount of power when I shop.  Like I mentioned earlier, companies that can provide this type of experience are the ones who have the most power and will be the most successful.  Amazon.com is a perfect example of such a company. 
            Globalization doesn’t necessarily mean Americanization; however, there is definitely a resemblance of Americanization within globalization.  For example, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and other American Corporations have spread worldwide.  On the other hand, there are also foreign companies that have spread, such as Sony and Kodiak; also, most cultures still maintain some form of their original culture while assimilating into an American-based, free-market economy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Module 6

Whenever someone uses the word ‘free’ in relation to economics, it means ‘tax-free,’ and/or ‘free from regulation,’ so free trade simply refers to trade that is free from regulation and taxes.  The government has almost always taxed or regulated trade in some way, but in the digital age, it is very difficult for them to tax and regulate services performed in other countries and transferred back through information systems. 
I think that in an age of heavy government regulation, it is necessary to have barriers to trade in order to keep wealth inside the United States, but I also think that if the government alleviated its regulation on businesses, free trade would be better because wealth tends to gravitate towards free markets.  In other words, if we’re going to have an unregulated economy, let’s have fully-unregulated economy, but if we’re going to have a government-regulated economy, let’s commit ourselves fully to that.  Regardless, free-trade is unlikely to happen in a day when the government needs every penny it can get due to budget deficits.
New middlers are going to have service-related jobs that are ‘untouchable.’  They are going to have to be able to collaborate and orchestrate collaboration within and between companies.  Mainly, they are going to have jobs in sales, marketing, maintenance, and management.  Also, many will involve making supply chains more efficient (supply-chain management). 
There was a part of the reading that talked about the ‘shrinking middle class,’ and it caught my interest, because I often hear that the middle-class is shrinking on the news and from politicians.  However, in my opinion, Friedman’s train of thought about the disappearing middle-class is illogical.  He implies that the ‘flattening’ of the world is causing middle-class jobs to disappear.  To begin with, the ‘flattening’ of the world is basically information technology being available to everyone.  How does this decrease jobs in any way?  When technology increases and is more available to people, jobs don’t decrease.  They increase.  To illustrate, go back about a hundred years and think about what the new-and-exploding automobile industry did for our country.  Yes, many stable-keepers and horseshoe-blacksmiths lost their jobs, but that doesn’t mean that jobs were decreasing.  They were just changing.  Suddenly there was a gigantic demand for assembly-line workers, engineers, businessmen/women, bookkeepers, etc.  New demands for steel, rubber, leather, and plastic would create a myriad of jobs in other industries.  The same thing is happening today.  As information technology is becoming more and more widespread, jobs are increasing (with the exception of the recent recession).  Yes, many currently-available jobs will become obsolete, but many new jobs and skillsets will become highly-demanded.  The need will continually grow for programmers, computer engineers, IT systems analysts, digital forensics experts, etc., as will the need for countless jobs in computer-related industries such as plastics, aluminum, electrical-power, and waste management.  Those who resist this shift in work will not succeed, just as a 20th-century horse-carriage builder wouldn’t have succeeded if he resisted the onslaught of the new automobile industry.  To concede, it is true that many of these new jobs are being outsourced to India, China, and other countries, but as this continues to happen, wealth will grow in those countries.  As wealth grows in them, they will demand new products and services like never before, creating even more jobs from within, and they will continue to grow to the point where they, too, will begin to outsource.  Maybe one day China will be outsourcing to the United States.
CQ (curiosity quotient) + PQ (passion quotient) > IQ (intelligence quotient) means that although intelligence is important for future workers, passion and curiosity are more important.  I couldn’t say enough to emphasize how true this is.  There is no amount of self-discipline or studying that can match the information ingested and retained by a passionate person.  For this reason, it is important that people pursue professions that they are passionate and curious towards.