Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Friday, February 27, 2009

Homes: Upcoming Trends

The home of most value in the future will not use technology primarily to automatically control the environment. It will help its occupants learn how to control the environment on their own.

People spend more time in their homes than in any other space. The home ideally provides a safe, comfortable environment in which to relax, communicate, learn, and be entertained. Increasingly, it is where people connect with friends and family, conduct supplementary business, manage resources, learn about the world, and maintain health and autonomy as they age. People invest extraordinary amounts of time, money, and emotional energy to mold their homes into living spaces that meet their needs.

Unfortunately, homes today are ill suited to exploiting the pervasive computing applications being developed in laboratories. Most homes do not easily accommodate even the simplest new technologies, let alone embedded sensor infrastructures and ubiquitous display technologies. Perhaps, homeowners generally believe that computer devices make life more complex and frustrating rather than easier and more relaxing. They are wary of the aesthetic, financial, and cognitive challenges of bringing new technologies into their homes.

If we are to believe most movies, television, and popular press articles that mention home life in the future, we will have complete control over our spaces at the touch of a button. In fact, our homes will be so fully automated and “smart” that we will rarely have to think about everyday tasks at all. We will spend nearly all our time in the home engaged in leisure activities because digital and robotic agents will have taken over the mundane chores of day-to-day life.

Technology will require human effort in ways that keep life as mentally and physically challenging as possible as people age. Environments shall be created that help people live long and healthy lives in their homes; reduce resource consumption and integrate learning into their everyday activity in the home

Computer technology shall be ever-present but in a more subtle way. Information will be presented to people at precisely the time and place they need it. The pervasive technologies to empower people with information will help people make decisions; they will not be stripped of their sense of control as psychologically and physically debilitating.

There will be an environment that uses pervasive computing technology to save energy by automatically controlling the heater-vent-air conditioning system. The environment’s embedded sensors will infer context such as where people are, what they are doing, and what the inside environmental conditions are. The home will contain computer-controlled appliances, windows, and blinds.

To reduce resource consumption homes will be designed that control environmental conditions. The home’s occupant will inform the system via some type of user interface that he or she wishes to stay comfortable while saving as much energy or money as possible. The home will then use a set of optimization algorithms to simultaneously maximize savings and comfort by automatically controlling the systems, windows, and blinds. For instance, on a day when the temperature is predicted to shift from warm to cool, the home might determine that the optimal cooling strategy is to shut down the AC and automatically open a set of blinds and windows so as to create an efficient cross breeze.

There appear to be many situations in which the automatic system might succeed in optimizing temperature comfort yet fail in “doing the right thing”: something noisy is occurring outside, someone is smoking outside the window, someone in the home is allergic to pollen and the pollen count is high, it is raining outside, it is too quiet for a person reading when the hum of the air conditioner is off, someone did not want the blinds open because it throws glare on a computer screen, and so on. No matter how hard the system designer tries to program contingency plans for all possible contexts, invariably the system will sometimes frustrate the home occupant and perform in unexpected and undesirable ways.

In the home of the future, the windows include a tiny light that is either embedded in the window frame (for example, a light-emitting diode) or projected on the window using display technology (for example, an IBM Everywhere Display). The home’s embedded sensors and optimization algorithms compute a strategy for cooling the home by opening a particular set of windows, but they do not proactively implement the strategy.

Imagine that the light on the window subtly illuminates. It does not interrupt the home occupant. When someone in the home notices it, he or she knows the light means “it might be a good idea to open this window right now.” The home thereby unobtrusively informs the user of actions that might be taken to conserve energy or money. In this way, the home teaches the occupant, in an unobtrusive way, how to achieve the optimal settings. The home can take a similar approach when the goal is to improve health or introduce learning into everyday life.

The labor and material cost ratio is irrational today. This will be altered in making future homes. More money shall be devoted to materials, design, engineering, safety, and technologies in the home. Borrowing from recent innovations in the automobile industry, an integrated “chassis–infill” construction system shall be developed capable of rapidly installing with minimal labor. In one integrated assembly, composite beams and columns provide structure, insulation, sensor arrays, lighting, signal and power cable raceways, and ductwork. The beams use special connectors that lock together easily. Infill sections that form the structure’s interior and exterior walls are then “snapped in” to the chassis structure without requiring skilled labor. Finally, interior finishes are snapped on to cover joints and wiring raceways.

The resulting structure will be easier to change than conventional housing, require less expensive labor during construction, allow more money to be spent on higher-quality materials and technologies, and easily accommodate sensing infrastructure and new output technologies. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Thursday, February 26, 2009

GM Food

New technologies play an increasing role in food production, and genetically modified foods (GMF) are at the forefront of the changing nature of our food culture. The promise of GMFs seems almost too good to be true. With a human population of more 6 billion, producing higher yielding foods may be more crucial than ever. Genetically modified (GM) crops are now grown in more than 16 countries. In 2002, farmers around the world planted 60 million hectares of land with dozens of varieties of GM crops. The appearance of GMFs in the marketplace of the West has resulted in a firestorm of public debate, scientific discussion, and media coverage. A variety of ecological and human health concerns come with the new advances made possible by GM.

GM is the technique of changing or inserting genes. Genes carry the instructions for all the characteristics that an organism – a living thing – inherits. They are made up of DNA. GM is done either by altering DNA or by introducing genetic material from one organism into another, which can be either a different variety of the same or a different species. For example, genes can be introduced from one plant to another plant, from a plant to an animal, or from an animal to a plant. Transferring genes between plants and animals is a particular area of controversy. Developing countries have special interests, but fairer trade rules would do more to eliminate hunger than GM crops.

GM foods offer a way to quickly improve crop characteristics such as yield, pest resistance, or herbicide tolerance, often to a degree not possible with traditional methods. Further, GM crops can be manipulated to produce completely artificial substances, from the precursors to plastics to consumable vaccines.

By manipulating the genetic code of organisms that provide food sources, they have created new strains of plants and animals capable of growing larger in less time on less suitable soil. From an ecological perspective, adding more food to a starving population promotes reproduction, exacerbating the very condition scientists are trying to solve.

The policymakers of Pakistan ought to see how GM technology can help produce more food and offer medical, social and economic benefits but without attached threats. Some of the many health advantages of GMF include the edible vaccines, which can help curb various diseases in Pakistan. Nutritionally improved crops with a higher content of proteins and vitamins can supplement the nutritional requirements of the lower strata of the population, who cannot afford a non-vegetarian diet. Pulses constitute a major source of protein in Pakistan. However, the presence of raffinose-like sugars can cause digestive problems. The genetically tailored pulses that contain reduced amounts of raffinose and similar sugars can result in enhanced digestibility. GMF that contain sweet proteins like thaumatin will be good for people with diabetes. And GMFs that have greater iron content can be especially beneficial for Pakistani women, as they are susceptible to anemia.

GM crops can result in enhanced agricultural productivity with lower inputs in terms of plant protection strategies and fertilizer applications, raise the per capita income and, hence, the living standard. Further, the availability of better quality nutrition at affordable costs can also improve the general health of the population, which in turn will raise national productivity.

Contrary to the natty payback, many leading scientists admit that GM is unpredictable, unstable, and potentially dangerous because of the consequences. GMF raises the possibility of human health, environmental, and economic problems, including unanticipated allergic responses to novel substances in foods, the spread of pest resistance or herbicide tolerance to wild plants, inadvertent toxicity to benign wildlife, and increasing control of agriculture by biotechnology corporations.
In Pakistan it will be a tragedy if the multinational corporations pushing genetically engineered crops gain control over crops and seeds. Although the corporations claim biotechnology is needed to feed the world, this is a myth. There is already more than enough food to feed everyone; poverty and inadequate allocation of resources are the major hurdles. According to a FAO report, the world can produce enough food to meet global demand in the year 2030 without the use of GM crops.
Meanwhile, organic farmers are among those most threatened by GMF. One reason is because cultivation of genetically engineered crops on neighboring farms can contaminate their crops via pollen drift. No genetically engineered materials should be used in organic products. Thus, a grower may be unable to sell his or her crop as organic if it has been contaminated
Ultimately, it is the consumer--and all Earth's inhabitants--who have the most to lose in the long run. Because little thought is being given to the consequences of what GM crops will do to the environment and to biodiversity, Earth's ecosystem could be turned upside down. There will be no way to undo the damage or recall new organisms that have been unleashed.
Large seed companies are likely to make large profits from GM crop seeds. This will be exacerbated if they make crops that produce sterile seeds, which cannot be replanted the following year. Consumers and small farmers who are forced to buy seed year after year will lose.
Pakistan needs to adopt a harmonized, uniform and transparent procedure for safety assessment of GMF. Coordinated and comprehensive labeling requirements for GMF should also be prepared with the aim of providing the consumer with a real choice.
Pakistan has a national food poverty rate of 33% and 40% of children under the age of five are underweight, 50% are stunted, and 9% are wasted. The GMF has the capability of overcoming these problems. Its dubious impact, nevertheless, compels us to seriously consider all pros and cons before the risks involved in GMF take the nation by surprise. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The world of today is barely recognizable when compared with the world, which faced our parents when Pakistan was created. And it is a radically different world to the one that challenged our grandparents' generation when they were young adults. Of course, change has always been with us, but the difference today is that the pace of global change is quickening.

Globalization is shaping and reshaping today's world and the world of tomorrow - your world - in extraordinary and far-reaching ways.

The defining feature of globalization is that firms, social networks, political structures and information flows are increasingly being organized along trans-boundary lines with the emphasis on the exercise being undertaken rather than on traditional boundaries. What globalization is teaching us then is that the greatest security we have comes from excellence, innovation and adaptability. It comes from the dynamic ability to deploy and expand our skills and talents as individuals and societies. It comes from knowing that we have the strength and resources to meet any challenges that come our way - not always by ourselves, but often with the help and support of our friends and neighbors.

The real choice for most other people in the world is the extent to which we participate in a wealth-generating process of global proportions, and harness its potential, not whether we participate. That is why the future will belong to those who embrace globalization and are willing to prepare for it. And education is the key to preparing for our shared, global future.

The world of tomorrow will require people with a genuine depth and breadth of talents - not just the formal skills found in the engineering, scientific, economic, legal, medical or other professions - vital though they are - but many other skills as well. The global information and telecommunications revolution is an excellent example of what I am talking about.

New forms of communications technology, emerging by the month, are ensuring that no corner of the world will be untouched by globalization. The notion of a purely domestic market is becoming obsolete with the spreading use of the Internet. Once a product or service is available on the Internet, it can be sold to the world at large.

Recent estimates suggest that the value of goods and services transacted on the Internet will grow from its current value. And before too long, it will be possible to access the Internet not just in English but in the user's own language.

The fast growing services sector is another dynamic part of the global economy, which offers unique challenges and opportunities for tomorrow's professionals. To succeed in this demanding sector, you will need to understand and work in a range of different cultures, languages and legal and financial systems. You will need to think and act in region-wide and global terms.

That is why tomorrow's world will require people who are willing to embrace the world around them and all that it offers. It will require people who can shape global and regional forces to the advantage of their societies and enterprises, and not be cowered and defeated by them.

Above all, the 21st century is the century of the knowledge worker. Universities are sources of the new knowledge, which will be needed by tomorrow's leaders, and are key repositories of the wisdom and insight we have garnered to date.

If the process of global enrichment is to continue unabated, universities and other applied institutions will need to drive the development of global knowledge workers. Pakistan needs to make a strong policy commitment to promoting education, not just for Pakistanis but also for people from throughout the Asia, Africa and beyond, in preparation for the new era.

I know that the new skills and insights people have gained will help them build their own futures with pride, and the futures of our countries with equal pride. But the vital contribution people make to the success and stability of Pakistan will do more than enhance the lives of their friends and families. It will lay the foundations for the well-being and security of people throughout the Asia.

I believe that Pakistan needs to do something to recognize this important link between knowledge and the development of better and more effective relations between countries. We need to harness the intellectual `horse power' of the Pakistan’s university system. We need to place this unique educational asset in the service of our national interests more systematically and productively.

Pakistan has a proud history of educating people. Today we are confronted with the challenge of preparing the worthy custodians of that tradition.

According to UNESCO's global estimate, 1.35 million tertiary students study outside their home countries. And Pakistan hosts a number not worth considering of these students on a per capita basis than other Asian countries. This is a clear indication not just of the quality of our institutions but of the little primacy we attach to education and particularly our national identity established by the West after the 9/11. Lucklessly this identity has been tarnished mostly by the power that considers Pakistan as the major ally in its war against terrorism. Pakistan must do something to scratch out this image.

Pakistan has great institutions with remarkable traditions of excellence in higher learning and personal development. Nobel Laureate Dr Abdul Salam symbolizes this tradition.

A successful global future requires a global education, and it requires deep respect for the cultures, values and experiences of others. It also requires advanced studies in reading the futures, upcoming trends and above all corporate and administrative creativity. They need to tailor courses for our future policy planners to study creativity and innovation.

Being a developing country Pakistan’s industry is emerging and in a buildup stage. Hence informed decision-making in investment is significantly needed. It should use commercial intelligence as a tool to have a nodding acquaintance with future trends and sneak out of stereotyped and monotonous thinking. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Wars of Future

From the strategic use of deceleration against a military apparatus, which relies on stepping up hostilities to the rediscovery of suicide as a threat to inter-change-based societies, the latest changes in the conduct of war are nearly always characterized by asymmetric strategies. It is therefore predictable that future wars will be predominantly asymmetric.

Asymmetrical warfare, the salient feature of the new wars, is based to a large extent on the different velocities at which the parties wage war on each other. Asymmetries of strength are based on a capacity for acceleration, which outstrips that of the enemy, whereas asymmetries of weakness are based on a readiness and ability to slow down the pace of the war. This strategy generally involves a considerable increase in the casualties suffered by one’s own side.

The dramatic superiority the US military apparatus has achieved over all potential enemies in the last two decades is largely due to its capacity to exploit the various opportunities for accelerating the pace at the different combat levels.

The future wars will hardly be a linear extension of the trends of the twentieth century. Greater material resources and a more advanced technological development alone will not automatically tip the scales between victory and defeat. The enormous superiority of the United States in military technology is no guarantee that the USA will emerge victorious from all the wars it seems ever more ready to wage.

It will be an asymmetrical competition between high-tech and low-tech weapons. Since 9/11 we are aware that mere box cutter’s knives, if used to hijack airliners so as to crash them into buildings and cities, can serve to shake a superpower to its foundations. In that case, however, it was not deceleration alone, which enabled the terrorist operatives to attack the USA but a combination of speed and slowness. The infrastructures of the side attacked were exploited by a clandestine group, which was able to go about preparing the attacks quietly and calmly, and then turned aircraft into rockets and jet fuel into explosive.

Current trends suggest that in future large sections of the population may well see their sole chance in waging wars and emerging successful. Growing environmental risks, such as water shortages, increasing desertification and rising sea levels; a greater global inequality in the distribution of consumer goods, in educational opportunities and in living conditions; the imbalance in demographic rates and the related waves of migration; the instability of the international financial markets and the dwindling ability of States to control their own currency and economy; and, finally, in some parts of the world, the rapid disintegration of States — all these are sufficient grounds for assuming that many people will see violent change rather than peaceful development as a better chance to assure their future. Thus the use of force for a better future will become the key element of their political reasoning and they will be ready not only to fight for vital resources but also to begin asymmetrical wars with superior adversaries.

Precisely because of their advanced socio-economic development, these superior adversaries are themselves highly vulnerable and, however great their military superiority, they cannot eliminate this vulnerability. The aim of the US in its various projects to establish a missile defense system is to make itself invulnerable. Such missile defense systems are of course no longer directed against the Soviet Union but against enemies who, though small and relatively weak, pose a serious threat through their possession of nuclear warheads and a few delivery systems. In principle, war has become not only politically but also economically unattractive for the developed countries. The costs outweigh the returns.

Most of the wars with warlords are not fought by well-equipped armies but by the hastily recruited militias of tribal chiefs or heads of clans, plus the armed followers of warlords and the like. Above all, the weapons used in the new wars are cheap — small arms, automatic rifles, anti-personnel mines and machine guns mounted on pick-up trucks.

Two factors play a crucial part in the emergence of the new wars: the ability to finance them from the flows of goods and capital generated by globalization and, more important still, the fact that they have become cheap to wage.

The future wars will be fought only partly by soldiers and, for the most part, will no longer be directed against military objectives. Civilian targets are now taking the place of military objectives in many areas, starting with towns and villages overrun and despoiled by militia leaders and warlords and extending to the symbols of political and economic might that were targeted by terrorist commandos on 9/11. Even the means used to carry out these attacks are less and less of a genuinely military nature.

The term civil war is the symmetrical opposite of the term international war; the asymmetrical antonym is transnational war, i.e. one in which the boundaries drawn by the States no longer play a role. This type of war crosses national borders without being waged as a war between States. It is characterized by a constant switching of friends and foes and by a breakdown of the institutional authorities (such as the military and the police) responsible for ordering and having recourse to the use of force. In this context, acts of war and criminality become indistinguishable and the war drags on with no prospect of a peace accord to end it.

The future wars to a large extent will not be waged with massive firepower and tremendous military capabilities. They will tend to go on smoldering with no clear beginning or end, while the dividing line between the warring parties on the one hand and international organized crime on the other will become more and more blurred. For this reason, some people are already disputing the fact that such situations do indeed constitute war. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Religions

Researchers project the growth of Islam to roughly 2 billion adherents by 2025. That is out of a projected world population of 8 billion. Among world religions, Islam ranks as the fastest growing faith. Worldwide, the number of Muslims has doubled since 1970 to 1.2 billion adherents. A plausible future is one in which Islam makes unprecedented inroads into the Western world. It is assumed that 1 percent of the Christians in Europe, North America, and Oceania defect to Islam every twenty-five years. As such Christians lose 0.9 percent of the world's population (dropping from 37.9 to 37.0 percent while Muslims gain from 22.6 to 23.5 percent) over the 175-year period 2025-2200.

Islam increases from 17.7 percent in 1990 to 22.6 percent by 2200. Nonreligious persons and atheists, on the other hand, grew rapidly over the period 1900-1990, then decrease from a combined percentage of 20.5 percent in 1990 to 16.1 percent by A.D. 2000.

Fundamentalism is a complicated phenomenon, combining political and religious themes, and may not, of itself, lead to increased piety. Rulers and politicians may continue to pay lip service to Islam, while in fact manipulating faith for purely political purposes. As Martin Marty and Scott Applebee note in their five-volume Fundamentalism Project, religious fundamentalism is on the rise, not just within Islam or Christianity, but is also being felt among Buddhism and Judaism.

The last century has witnessed the shift of Christianity from a white to a majority position of non-white followers. Today more than 60% of all Christians come from non-white races outside Europe and America.

This shift in the center of Christian gravity southward into the Third World has come about from evangelical Protestant church growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This produces all kinds of interesting facts, such as the largest Presbyterian church in the world is not found in Scotland, but in Seoul, Korea, or the statistical mean follower of Christ today is under 20 years old, living in Asia, with a per capita income of less than $600 a year.

While much has been said about the decline of the mainline in the US, the resurgence of Pentecostal Christianity has more than made up for it. Estimates put the number of new non-denominational churches in this country at 100,000 since 1980.

The 20th century will no doubt be remembered as a Pentecostal century, given the birth of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and its dramatic growth. In less than three generations, this movement in the West, Africa and Asia has grown to an amazing 520 million making it the second largest expression of faith within the Christian movement, second only to Roman Catholics.

Till 2000, the tribal religions had shrunk from 6.5% in 1900 to 1.6% of world population. There are still some 5,000 ethno, folk or tribal religions among indigenous people of Africa and Asia number. By mid-century many western religionists thought that these ethno-religionists would disappear by 2000. And despite large numbers converting to Islam or Christianity in Africa, the world's ethno-religions remain stable at about 100 million. But in terms of keeping pace with world population, they have shrunk from 6.5% to 1.6% of world population.

While the growth rate of Islam is increasing, the worldwide growth of persons professing no religion, whether agnostics, freethinkers, atheists or non-religious humanists appears to have plateaued since the collapse of communism. Statistically speaking, the non-religious population of the world is holding its own at 15% of the world's population, and will continue in early 21st century.

Another trend, which religionists encounter is growing pluralism. This is particularly so within the West. Driven by multi-culturalism and internationalization of the West, increasing diversity in society is both an opportunity and a challenge for religions. Increasing cultural diversity and interfaith contact can offer opportunities for mutual understanding, growth and dialogue. On the other hand, the challenge of modernity, with its relativism and individualism continues to undermine traditional beliefs that once informed shaped various common creeds, producing culture wars between traditionalists and progressives.

Although there is still resistance to women in pastoral roles, the basic trend of women in church and pastoral leadership continues to grow and appears irreversible. Some suggest the impact of increasing numbers of women in the pastorate will bring more emphasis on nurture and growth, with more holistic models of communities and congregations.

What humans will do in the years just immediately ahead is begin to dissect their religions, looking at them closely, exploring them piece by piece, examining them doctrine by doctrine, to see what makes sense and what doesn't make sense, what is functional and what is dysfunctional, what works and what doesn't work in tomorrow's world.

And alongside religion will stand a new form of human expression of the impulse toward the Divine, an expression that will not be rooted in codified texts and teachings, but in the moment-to-moment experience of each person sincerely seeking God.

While there is no way of knowing the details, it is safe to predict that qualitative secularization will still exist in the near future. Religion will remain important both in society and in the media, but most crucial cultural and political decisions will not be determined by it. In Islamic countries there is no qualitative (nor, of course, quantitative) secularization.

Many non-Muslims and quite a few Muslims, based on what their physical senses dictate, ascribe to the idea that religion is on its way out. The ‘moral decay’ is nearing its peak and they think that soon there is to be a religious revival.

The future trends in Islam breathe about most people who will find it easy to absorb novelty in religion (bidat). Thus they will (unjustly) discover shortcuts in winning the blessings of God. This implies that corruption will become the daily norm. The Bible will be transformed further to suit the needs of some. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Changing Face of Public Management

There will be absolutely changed conditions under which public managers will operate in the future, some of the areas of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they will be required to possess, and some of the pathways public managers might explore in order to move toward the future.

There will be an extraordinary explosion of new knowledge and technological innovations, especially in the areas of information sciences, genetics, materials, instrumentation, automation, and space. Our public managers will wade into an age of extraordinary technological change and have to accommodate themselves and the institutions to dramatically different bodies of knowledge and technological innovations.

They will not only have to cope with and employ their expanded knowledge and technological capacity, they will have to learn to use this knowledge and technological capacity for the benefit of society. In the technological world of the future, there will be even greater temptations for them to be captured by technology, to fall prey to “technological imperative,” and to allow rational technical interests to supercede human concerns and those of values. Finding ways of employing advanced technologies so as to enhance rather than restrict their capacity for leadership, creativity, and personal responsibility will be a serious challenge.

In the future, knowledge and information will prevail. And if information is power, then those who have information will indeed have power. But who will have information? Information will be increasingly centralized and controlled and marketed through traditional economic and political processes. It will be widely distributed throughout society, so that increasing rather than decreasing numbers of people will have information and in turn have power. Such a possibility will lead to “the twilight of hierarchy,” to be inevitable.

Combining these issues, we can safely predict that the knowledge or information that our public managers will be able to access will be tremendous, to the point that the quantity of information will no longer be the most important issue. Rather the key question will be how to organize this information for human purposes. This means that public administration will have to learn to organize information in a fashion that will facilitate the pursuit of important public purposes. The great challenge will be to organize information so that we can enhance the process of democratic decision-making, of consensus building, and of dialogue and deliberation.

There’s no question that we will have the capacity to organize information for dramatic new public purposes, to restructure our structures of governance in dramatic ways. But what will our choices be? Imagine a computer in Islamabad that could reach out into every home, so that on any occasion that a major policy decision was required, an appropriate message could go out to all the citizens and their answers could guide public policy - a process that would approximate pure democracy.

The globalization of society is obvious today, though in twenty-five years or so, we may experience trans-globalization or beyond, as the frontiers of the oceans and space are extended even further. Already we are thinking more in global terms. However, our managers are still thinking in terms of traditional institutions operating in a new global context. They are not yet asking how they reconfigure businesses and governments so as to carry out a global vision. How do they encourage businesses and governments to assume global responsibilities rather than those defined in terms of one’s own self interest? For example, how can Pakistan move toward sustainable development and environmental justice on a global basis?

One obvious casualty of the global age may be the nation-state, replaced not necessarily by a new global or interplanetary federation but possibly by new forms of governance far beyond those we can imagine today.

In future our public administration should know the importance of “responsibilities” rather than “functions” of government. While a large part of the current worldwide debate over privatization or outsourcing speaks to the question of which “functions” belong where, the new debate will necessarily focus on public responsibilities and speak in a language of ethics, citizenship and the public interest.

In reinvented government or the new public management, customers shall replace citizens - or, to put it differently, the integrative role of citizenship has been reduced to the narrow self-interest of customership - in government as in business.

Indeed, we think the job of all public managers will increasingly be more than directing or managing our public organizations. It will be not merely “steering” or “rowing” but “building the boat.” The new public manager will construct networks of varied interests that can work effectively to solve public problems. In doing so, it will be the job of the public administrator to promote pluralism, to create opportunities for constructive dissent, to preserve that which is distinctive about individuals and groups, and to provide an opportunity for diverse groups to share in establishing future directions for the community. The administrator will play a substantial role in diminishing polarization, teaching diversity and respect, building coalitions, resolving disputes, negotiating and mediating. The work of the top public managers will thus be - to build community.

There are two broad areas that public managers will need to explore in order to fashion a response to the trends. These emerging trends will turn public management both “inside-out” and “upside-down.” Public management will be turned “inside-out” as the largely internal focus of management in the past is replaced by an external focus, specifically a focus on citizens and citizenship. Public management will be turned “upside-down” as the traditional top-down orientation of the field is replaced - not necessarily by a bottom-up approach, but by a system of shared leadership.

In the past public administration has been largely focused on what happens within the public bureaucracy. The future will require that it dramatically refocus its attention on the world outside, particularly the world of citizens and citizenship. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Human Factor Engineering

Human engineering or human factors engineering, also called ergonomics, is the science of designing machines, products, and systems to maximize the safety, comfort, and efficiency of the people who use them. This area is a vital component of future.

The comparison between speed and liveliness of current technological advance with the tardiness and unevenness has always marked educational developments. This comparison is between invention and the processes by which people appreciate, accept and use invention.

The human factor engineers draw on the principles of industrial engineering, psychology, anthropometry (the science of human measurement), and biomechanics (the study of muscular activity) to adapt the design of products and workplaces to people’s sizes and shapes and their physical strengths and limitations. They also consider the speed with which humans react and how they process information, and their capacities for dealing with psychological factors, such as stress or isolation. Armed with this complete picture of how humans interact with their environment, human factor engineers develop the best possible design for products and systems, ranging from the handle of a toothbrush to the flight deck of the space shuttle.

The future holds promise for ergonomically designed system to provide optimum performance and takes advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of both its human and machine components.

The ergonomics will prevent workplace illness and accidents resulting from continuous repetition of the same motions. The injuries that may be caused will be exacerbated by awkward postures, such as bending or reaching.

Ergonomists will work to eliminate such health problems by designing workplaces, such as offices or assembly lines, with injury prevention in mind. They will position tools and machinery accessible without twisting, reaching, or bending; design adjustable workbenches, desks, and chairs to comfortably accommodate workers of many different sizes, preventing the need to continuously lean or overextend the arms. They will also determine and design safe workplace environmental conditions, such as correct temperature, lighting, noise, and ventilation to ensure that workers perform under optimal conditions.

Ergonomists will seek to increase worker efficiency and productivity when designing workspaces. They will place those pieces of equipment used most frequently in closest proximity to the worker and arrange systems in ways that are convenient and easy to use. Well-designed workspaces will thus ensure workers perform their jobs in optimal comfort, without experiencing unnecessary physical and mental fatigue that can slow work performance, reduce accuracy, or cause accidents.

They will design individual tools and equipment for use of workers, such as, curved computer keyboards to encourage typists to hold their wrists in a position that is less likely to cause carpal tunnel syndrome; to protect the eyes from incessant glare, ergonomically designed computer monitors will be equipped with glare reduction screens. Ergonomically designed chairs will distribute a person’s body weight evenly to avoid back and neck strain. These chairs adjusted to a user’s height will ensure that the feet rest flat on the ground. In factories and assembly lines, ergonomically designed knobs and levers positioned appropriately so as not to require reaching, and these knobs and levers also require minimal force to trip.

Some ergonomists will practice in the area of job design, thus helping employers assess both the individual tasks necessary to perform a particular job and the skills needed to accomplish each task. By grouping like tasks and skills, jobs will be redesigned to maximize efficiency. An office telephone receptionist, for example, will perform a number of other tasks as varied as filing, sorting mail, and bookkeeping. Grouping these responsibilities, will all be performed in the vicinity of the office telephone system, making use of the receptionist’s time when there are no telephone calls. Ergonomists will help employers evaluate different ways of organizing workdays to increase worker productivity, ensuring that workers have adequate breaks and rest periods, as well as a well-defined set of tasks.

The work of cognitive ergonomists will be particularly evident in public transportation buildings, such as airports or train stations. These buildings are often large, complex, and difficult to navigate. Cognitive ergonomists will develop clear, easy-to-understand navigation aids, such as signs and maps, to help people find their way to their gate as simply and efficiently as possible. Color-coded subway maps, for example, will help subway riders navigate with relative ease through a complicated maze of interconnected underground tunnels.

Ergonomic design will make consumer products safer, easier to use, and more reliable. In many manufacturing industries, ergonomists will work with designers to develop products that fit the bodies and meet the expectations of the people who use them. An ergonomically designed toothbrush, for example, will have a broad handle for easy grip, bent neck for easier access to back teeth, and a bristle head shaped for better tooth surface contact. The shaving razor has already undergone a similar design revolution.

Ergonomics will become increasingly concerned with future marketing. This is the discipline of modeling future social and lifestyle trends in order to inform design and marketing strategy to deliver an offer and a brand image that will appeal to users over the medium to long term.

It is often suggested that the great increase of automatic controls for practical purposes will lead to widespread unemployment. This is unlikely, except perhaps as a temporary phenomenon. The future will still have a vast demand for people to improve, monitor and especially to maintain the necessary instruments. Also there will be an increasing tendency towards shorter working hours and a great increase of leisure time activities, which will absorb a larger and larger amount of employment.

We have got to go all out to learn how to balance reduction of conditions irrelevant to efficiency against increase of efficiency range. Most operatives will be combining two or more jobs, which have generally been regarded as different, and as requiring different performers. This future is in the neighborhood. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Friday, February 20, 2009

Talking about Genomics

Molecular biology has long held out the promise of transforming medicine from a matter of serendipity to a rational pursuit grounded in a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of life. Molecular biology has begun to infiltrate the practice of medicine; genomics will hasten the advance. Within 50 years, we expect comprehensive genomics-based health care to be the norm. We will understand the molecular foundation of diseases, be able to prevent them in many cases and design accurate, individualized therapies for illnesses.

In the next decade, genetic tests will routinely predict individual susceptibility to disease. When the genome is completely open to us, such studies will reveal the roles of genes that individually contribute weakly to diseases but interact with other genes and with environmental influences, like diet, infection and prenatal exposures to affect health.

By 2010 to 2020, gene therapy should also become a common treatment, at least for a small set of conditions. Within 20 years, novel drugs will be available that derive from a detailed molecular understanding of common illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. The drugs will be designer therapies that target molecules logically and are therefore potent without significant side effects. Drugs like those for cancer will routinely be matched to a patient’s likely response, as predicted by molecular fingerprinting. Diagnoses of many conditions will be much more thorough and specific than now. For example, a patient who learns that he has high cholesterol will also know which genes are responsible, what effect the high cholesterol is likely to have, and what diet and pharmacologic measures will work best for him.

By 2050, many potential diseases will be cured at the molecular level before they arise, though large inequities worldwide in access to these advances will continue to stir tensions. When people become sick, gene therapies and drug therapies will home in on individual genes, as they exist in individual people, making for precise and customized medical treatment. The average life span will reach 90 to 95 years, and a detailed understanding of human aging genes will spur efforts to expand the maximum span of human life.

In Future, the complete DNA sequencing of more and more organisms, including humans, will revolutionize biology and medicine. It is predicted that genomics will answer many important questions, such as how organisms evolved, whether synthetic life will ever be possible, and how to treat a wide range of medical disorders.

If, within a few years, scientists can expect to amass a tidy directory of the gene products—RNA as well as proteins—essential for life, they may well be able to make a new organism from scratch by stringing DNA bases together into an invented genome coding for invented products. If this invented genome crafts a cell around itself and the cell reproduces reliably, the exercise would be the ultimate proof that we understand the basic mechanisms of life.

In the last 50 years, a single gene or a single protein often dominated a biologist’s research. In the next 50 years, researchers will shift to studying integrated functions among many genes, the web of interactions among gene pathways, and how outside influences affect the whole system.

Within 50 years, with all genes identified and all possible cellular interactions and reactions charted, pharmacologists are developing a drug or toxicologists trying to predict whether a substance is poisonous may well turn to computer models of cells to answer their questions.

Being able to model a single cell will be impressive, but to fully understand the life forms we are most familiar with, we’ll plainly have to consider additional levels of complexity. We will have to consider how genes and their products behave in place and time—that is, in different parts of the body and in a body that changes over a lifespan.

So far, developmental biologists have striven to find signals that are universally important in establishing an animal's body plan, the arrangement of its limbs and organs. In time, they will also describe the variations—in gene sequence, perhaps in gene regulation—that generate the striking diversity of forms among different species. By comparing species, we’ll learn how genetic circuits have been modified to carry out distinct programs, so that almost equivalent networks of genes fashion, for example, small furry legs in mice and arms with opposable digits in humans.

In 50 years, we will fill in many details about the history of life, though we may still not understand how the first self-replicating organism came about; we will learn when and how – by inventing, adopting, or adapting genes – various lineages acquired, for example, new sets of biochemical reactions and different body plans. The gene-based perspective of life will have taken hold so deeply among scientists that the basic unit they consider will likely no longer be an organism or a species, but a gene. They will chart which genes have traveled together for how long in which genomes.

Scientists will also address the question that has dogged people since Darwin’s day: What makes us human? What distinguishes us as a species? Undoubtedly, many other questions will arise over the next 50 years. As in any fertile scientific field, the data will fuel new hypotheses. Paradoxically, as it grows in importance, genomics may not even be a common concept in 50 years, as it radiates into many other fields and ultimately becomes absorbed as part of the infrastructure of all biomedicine.

Genetic information and technology will afford great opportunities to improve health and alleviate suffering. But any powerful technology comes with risks, and the more powerful the technology, the greater the risks. In the case of genetics, people of ill will today use genetic arguments to try to justify bigoted views about different racial and ethnic groups. How we will come to terms with the explosion of genetic information remains an open question. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Film Production in coming days

In a world of flickering screens, large and small, filmmakers will work inside and outside of the studios and television networks, bring in diverse voices to televisions, cinemas, and computers alike, tell stories ruled not by profit but by art, by conviction, and by people’s need to connect to one another and the world around them. In the same world ignoramus filmmakers of Pakistan—clueless about the modern technologies, the art and science of filmmaking together with the oddments of globalization—will drag on poking holes in technological jumps and thus demonstrating that they were powerless to draw breath in the 21st Century.

Future’s digital technology will transform the way the media is made and consumed. The moment is not far off when critical decisions will be made, in the halls of government and in the marketplace, about how digital technology will be used to create, copy, distribute, and present media in the years to come.

As digital opportunities and challenges change our landscape, one question will stand out: how will the public—and the diversity that filmmakers bring to it—benefit? Filmmakers will depend on a healthy public media ecosystem, and our shared future tied to policy that nurture or weaken that system. They will take creative risks, speak their minds, and champion the many voices that matter most but seldom heard.

For future’s media makers, the essence of digital is this: everything we do to create content can be turned into a series of ones and zeros that our naked eyes can’t decode into pictures and sounds, but that a variety of devices can.

This new digital code will change media making forever. This code will transform the four most important processes for media makers—production, replication, distribution, and presentation.

To produce media, future’s artist will be able to point a digital video camera at a tall mustachioed man scratching his ear and capture this moving image, represented inside the camera as a unique piece of digital code. The artist will manipulate that code to remove the man’s mustache and add a large and hungry dinosaur bearing down behind him (using CGI technology). The artist will then combine this new code with other pieces of code to shape a complex story of images, sound and music (using editing systems such as Avid or Final Cut Pro).

The result will be an enormous sequence of finished code: a movie, say, that will be copied an unlimited number of times, with each copy an exact replica of the original. Any of these copies will then be transmitted through the air, across wires or via a physical container (such as a CD), depending on how large the code is and how much capacity the transmitter has read at the receiving end in many different ways by a wide variety of devices—a computer, a projector, a television, a phone—that translate the code into images and sound.

The possibilities with digital technology will be nearly infinite. The realities will be much more confined. The question with digital will not be what might happen, but what filmmakers actually do with it.

The dizzying pace of digital change will, in fact, catch us all somewhat by surprise. Businesses and lawmakers will scramble to catch up with the changes wrought by this technological explosion. New business models and new policies will be built to deal with it.

Major economic stakeholders in tomorrow’s burgeoning media economy will all work hard to shape the outcome in their own interests. And much will be at stake for them all, because digital technology will challenge the traditional business models that media companies have relied on to profit financially from their work.

But they will not be the only stakeholders. There will also be public—all of us as citizens and parents and children, artists and consumers. When the dust will settle on the new digital economy and society, how will the public have benefited? Will the media policies actually promote freedom of speech and diversity of expression? Will they foster the many facets of the cultures that make up a nation?

The good news is that digital technology will make production cheaper, faster, and more manageable. It will also open up avenues for distribution, such as the Internet and, to a lesser extent, cable and satellite, while drastically reducing the costs of replicating copies of an filmmaker’s work.

And that’s also the bad news. Filmmakers will face challenges in three big areas: ownership, distribution, and funding. Specifically: (1) Ownership: How will filmmakers protect their work from unauthorized use and copying, while still having access to others’ work for legitimate use in their own creations? (2) Distribution: Will new distribution networks give filmmakers more or less access to audiences—and how will that distribution affect production? (3) Public support: How will the public resources now provided—such as spectrum allotments and public funding—change in the digital era?

In the days and age of democracy, stakeholders will assert their interests in the coming changes. Broadcasters, movie studios, technology companies, and other players will try to figure out how to make sure that the answers to these questions benefit them. They will take their issues to legislators, to the courts, and to consumers. The result will be policy.

Filmmakers will also be stakeholders—as well as artists and business people with a job to do. Digitization won’t change everything. The old standbys of good storytelling, the battles over concentrated ownership, the resistance to change by those with power, and conflicts over public support will repeat themselves in the digital age.

Digital will change the ecosystem that the filmmakers live in. The vision that filmmakers bring will be important, as stakeholders thrash out the terms under which they use digital code. Cut and dried, this future has already made an entrance in Hollywood. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Up and coming Fashion

Fashion is really just starting to interact with the world of information technology (IT). Today there are already ‘cool’ gadgets and wearables, but in future, we will see whole new domains where fashion can play a key role. The biggest of these is the duality of appearance - where we may appear one way in the physical world, and have a whole range of digital appearances in the augmented reality and virtual environment worlds. This will lead to many people designing for themselves.

Along the way, electronics will continue to shrink in size to a point where it no longer significantly need affect the form of the object that carries it. Form and function will be separated at least as far IT is concerned.

Fashion is often at the forefront of technology usage. Many new materials and technologies are used in textiles and accessories when they are still too expensive or primitive for other uses. Technology development is accelerating quickly and shows no sign of slowing down in the foreseeable future, so fashion designers will have a lot of fun over the coming years. The next decades will see the gradual convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive technologies. Typical results will be materials with different tensile, thermal and optical properties, integration of IT into fabrics, and linkage of our bodies to the network for medical and communication purposes, via clothing or skin-wearables.

Thin, flexible displays are becoming available already, and we will undoubtedly see them built into clothing with increasing frequency. This will be both for body adornment and functional uses.

A wide range of electronic devices can already be built into clothes and this will increase. New fabrics are already being developed to provide power generation - using solar power, electromagnetic, thermal and mechanical means.

Storage technology is improving extremely quickly and we may expect massive amounts of storage to be available in very small volumes, so that people can take all their files, music and videos with them - integrated invisibly into small devices or clothes.

Haptics technology (the technology of enabling the remote sensation of touch) will also become available as part of clothes. A variety of electro-responsive materials exists already, albeit sometimes in primitive forms (for example, muscles wires, polymer muscles, shape memory alloys, etc), and these will progress quickly into routine fabric technologies.

Clothes will be part of the ambient intelligent environment we will inhabit in a few years’ time. There will be myriads of chips all around us - in building infrastructure, furniture, gadgets, clothes, foods, packaging, even on our skin and inside some peoples’ bodies (for medical and security purposes).

Chips in the environment or on our person will offer processing, storage, sensing identity and communications. The resulting smart environment will know who we are, what we are doing, where we are, to the nearest few millimeters, and all about us, subject only to our own preferences and privacy or security laws.

Chips will be physically very small, so have it in their power to be hidden anywhere, and any functionality that won’t physically fit into a device can be accessed via the smart environment. This means that fashion designers can add a wide range of functions to something without needing to change its design.

Various sensors on and about our person will monitor our behaviors and physical characteristics, and respond accordingly. One of the areas that computers may want to go in with other people’s digital bubbles is that of personality characteristics. An ego badge would alert us to other people that are likely to be of interest to us so that our social and sex lives would improve. A related device is the active contact lens, which uses tiny lasers and micro-mirrors built into a contact lens with circuitry and power supply, to raster scan a high resolution image onto our retinas. This is called direct retinal projection.

Any computer generated images could be superimposed on what we see in the real world. We would be able to modify how we see other people so when you meet people you could change how they look. Come hell or high water, beauty will quite literally inhere in the eye of the beholder.

We will not be limited by the properties of physical materials, or have to have the same appearance for everyone looking at us, nor even have the same appearance all day. Our appearance can be different to each viewer and different each time they look at us. So fashion designers will need to design virtual fashions, and these will need to be dynamic and context sensitive. Through and through, dual appearance dictates dual fashion.

One of the accessories that we might need in such a world is the digital ‘aura generator’. This will act as a sort of wireless web server that radiates our digital appearance into the nearby space. It is almost like the hologram generators that science fiction fans will recognize from Red Dwarf. The main difference is that it will make us look different to different people.

With increasing assistance expected from AI in all walks of life, we should expect that people would often want to design their own clothes - making most of the artistic decisions and letting the computer sort out the technical stuff.

As local production becomes more widespread, self-design may become very popular indeed. How much this affects the market for professional fashion designers will thus depend on how much relative skill and creativity they really have, as well as on how much effort people can be bothered to invest in designing themselves.

These developments bring us to the heart of how fashion will change. Such future is near at hand when we will have to worry about both our digital appearance as well as our physical looks. And on that account indeed our digital appearances can be infinitely diverse. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

English in 21st Century

The future of today’s global language, English, is more complex and less certain. It will retain its excellence in the 21st century and is unlikely to be displaced as the world’s most important language. Its usage is an intricate system in which many factors act together in ways that are not easily foreseeable. Just the same, recent progress in shaping the behavior of complex systems, like weather, could help us understand the patterns that may emerge in the globalization of English.

From north and south and east and west, there are more than 1,400 million people living in countries where English has official status. One out of five of the world’s population speaks English at some level of competence. Demand from the other four fifths is bumping up. English is the main language of books, newspapers, airports and air-traffic control, international business and academic conferences, science technology, diplomacy, sport, international competitions, advertising and pop music.

Almost all those who are professionally associated with the English language worldwide acknowledge that there is no imminent danger to the English language, or to its global attractiveness.

Yet with the emergence of new world order and global transition, the next 20 years or so will be a critical time for the English language and for those who hang upon it. The structures of usage and public attitudes to English will have long-term consequences for its future.

The future of English will be more complex, more demanding of understanding and more challenging for the position of native-speaking countries than has up till now been thought.

The global popularity of English is in no immediate danger, but that it would be unwise to see in the mind’s eye that its predominant position as a world language will not be threatened in some world regions for use as the economic, demographic and political shape of the world as it transforms.

The future of English will however be a complex and plural one. The language will grow in usage and variety; yet simultaneously diminish in relative global importance. To put it in economic terms, the size of the global market for the English language may increase in absolute terms, but its market share will probably decline.

Additional reasons that have resulted the reduced fervor threaten trends of increased usage of English. The growing adoption of English as a second language, where it takes on local forms, is leading to disintegration and multiplicity. No longer will be the case, if it ever was, that English unifies all who speak it.

The future is going to be a bilingual one, in which a growing ratio of the world’s population will be eloquent speakers of more than one language. There is little to help us understand what will happen to English when the majority of the people and institutions who use it do so as a second language.

Native speakers may feel that the language belongs to them, but it will actually be those who speak English as a second language or foreign language who will determine its world future—the fact that 19th century futurologists failed to foresee that the growth in second and foreign language speakers would be a much more important phenomenon.

As the number of people using English grows, second language speakers will be drawn towards the inner circle of first language speakers and foreign language speakers to the outer circle of second language speakers. All through this status migration, attitudes and needs in respect of the language will change; the English language will diversify and other countries will emerge to compete with the older, native-speaking countries in both the English language-teaching industry and in the global market for cultural resources and intellectual property in English.

The future and globalization symbolizes a significant discontinuity with previous periods. The Internet and related information technologies, for example, may upset the traditional patterns of communication upon which institutional and national cultures have been put together.

In four key sectors, the present dominance of English can be expected to give way to a wider mix of languages: first, the global audio-visual market and especially satellite TV; second, the Internet and computer-based communications including language related and document handling software; third, technology transfer and associated processes in economic globalization; fourth, foreign language learning especially in developing countries where growing regional trade may make other languages of growing economic magnitude.

Computer technology has changed the way people act together both locally and globally. At the present we are at the core of personal and group communications. The Internet will remain the flotilla leader of Global English and it will be a quite different language from what it is today. Nevertheless, there seems to be developing a new, global English-speaking market in the knowledge-intensive industries.

At this point in time there is a significant increase in the numbers of people learning and using English, but a closer examination of driving forces suggests that the long term growth of the learning of English is less secure than it appears to be.

Overtly and covertly, the use of English language is most ubiquitous amongst professional groups and middle class families are most likely to embrace English as the language of the home.

By and by, no single language will occupy the monopolistic position in the 21st century, which English has—almost—achieved by the end of the 20th century. As communications infrastructure ameliorates and relative costs plunge, more telephone conversations around the world will be held in languages other than English.

English must keep up a range of corporate roles and identities and must be usable for both team working and service interactions. Not surprisingly, demands on an employee’s competence in English will rise.

The ELT industry needs to respond to changing international social values—to ensure that the reputation of English language is enhanced rather than diminished. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Monday, February 16, 2009

On Cancer

Permit me to embark on this 7-minute journey with Shakespeare’s muse:
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude.

Mr. President, crusaders, doctors and wonderful audience:
Another British poet and painter William Blake mentioned:

In seedtime learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

I must appreciate Dr. Phillip rather than poking holes in his selection of wintertime for a forum on a serious public health issue. Perhaps he enjoys wintertime in launching a crusade against the enemy of humankind.

Implicitly and explicitly, under his leadership the team of philanthropists, oncologists, and physicians deserve a thunderous applause on organizing this event with epic cause successfully. Thus and so, we must proffer bouquets on their endeavor for congregating a moot of professionals, researchers and clinical oncologists. Good show, Dr Phillip!

I am privileged for speaking to this wonderful audience not as a guest of honor but being the part of the majestic cause that is behind this Congress.

Ladies and gentlemen, cancer is a killer disease with more than 100 versions. These versions are characterized by excessive, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, which invade and destroy other tissues. It develops in almost any organ or tissue of the body, but certain types of cancer are more lethal than others. Cancer is growing cause of death everywhere. For reasons not well understood, cancer rates vary by gender, race, and geographic region. For instance, more males have cancer than females. Cancer rates also vary globally—residents of the United States, for example, are nearly three times as likely to develop cancer than are residents of Pakistan.

Cancer usually develops gradually over many years, the result of a complex mix of environmental, nutritional, behavioral, and hereditary factors. Scientists do not completely understand the causes of cancer, but they know that certain lifestyle choices can dramatically reduce the risk of developing most types of cancer. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising moderately for at least 30 minutes each day reduce cancer risk by more than 60 percent.

The Greek physician Hippocrates first made the connection between disease and natural environmental factors in the 4th century BC. His treatise Airs, Waters, and Places described how diseases can result from way of life, climate, impure water, and other environmental factors. For the next 2000 years, it was the most widely used text on public health and epidemiology.

Epidemiologists and other public health officials attempt to break the chain of disease transmission by notifying people who may be at risk for contracting an infectious disease. While the participants may read technical papers, I must emphasize on the need for awareness campaigns for prevention. Behavioral Change Communication must be used in mass awareness.

People need to know that saturated fats from red meats and other animal products are linked with several cancers; high salt intake increases the risk of stomach cancer; adult obesity increases the risk for cancer of the uterus in women and also appears to increase the risk for cancers in the breast, colon, kidney, and gallbladder.

Cancer of the prostate gland is the most cancer among males. People should be made conscious about the need to consult a doctor when they notice unusual health symptoms, such as, changes in bowel or bladder habits, a sore that does not heal, unusual bleeding or discharge, thickening or a lump in the breast or any other part of the body, indigestion or difficulty swallowing, change in appearance of a wart or mole, or a nagging cough or hoarseness.

Scientists estimate that more than 60 percent of cancer deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes.

The society must be educated that lifestyle changes and consumption of such foods that have the potential to protect against cancer. I mean foods comprising broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, soy products, and foods high in vitamins A, C, and E. In addition, green and possibly black teas contain compounds that protect the body from carcinogens. These foods contain substances called antioxidants that block the action of free radicals. Other chemicals in fruits and vegetables are thought to block the cell growth promoting effects of steroid hormones, protecting against cancers of the breast and prostate.

Mr. President, I would specifically be interested to receive the set of papers, which are likely to be read by experts and scholars in subsequent technical sessions. Apart from filling myself with knowledge, I will use necessary data in dissemination.

I epilogue my statement with a Japanese proverb:
One kind word can warm three winter months.

Permit me to modify this proverb as:
One kind deed can gladden the whole winter and the year round and round.
While wishing success to the crusading spirit of this Congress, I thank you for listening.
May God bless you!
Asif J. Mir,
Organizational Transformation

Sunday, February 15, 2009

About Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever, seasonal viral infection characterized by fever, headache, extreme pain in the joints and muscles, and skin rash. A more serious but less common form of the disease, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), may cause severe and fatal internal bleeding. Dengue fever and DHF are caused by any of four different viruses, and are transmitted from one person to another by the female mosquito of two species of the genus Aedes. Outbreaks of the disease usually occur in the summer when the mosquito population is at its peak. The infection cannot be transmitted directly from person to person and not all people who are bitten necessarily contract the disease. Dengue fever and DHF occur in many tropical and sub-tropical areas in Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

The incubation period (time between infection and onset of symptoms) of dengue fever is five to eight days. The fever typically runs its course in six to seven days, but convalescence is usually slow. Treatment for dengue fever is directed at reducing symptoms.

The incubation period of Dengue hemorrhagic is two to seven days. In the early stages the symptoms are very similar to those of dengue fever. The second stage symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The onset of hemorrhagic symptoms rapidly follows—bleeding nose and gums, bruising easily, and sometimes internal bleeding. The amount of blood circulating through the body is reduced, sometimes producing shock, characterized by pale, cold extremities; a rapid, weak pulse; and falling blood pressure. Treatment for these symptoms is a standard fluid rehydration therapy in order to maintain blood pressure. If circulatory failure is not reversed, death may follow.

The most effective preventive measure is the use of mosquito repellent. As yet no successful vaccine for dengue fever has been developed. According to the WHO, dengue fever and DHF are among the most rapidly increasing insect-borne illnesses today. Several factors are believed to contribute to the wide spread of dengue fever. Inadequate water and waste treatment facilities, along with insufficient pest control measures, promote the rapid increase of mosquito populations in certain areas. In addition, dwindling public health resources cannot keep up with the needs of growing urban populations that are susceptible to infection.

Complicating matters further are societal changes. Increased international travel accelerates the spread of both new and old diseases: A person infected with an unusual virus on one continent can arrive—with the virus—on another continent in a matter of hours. Ships, planes, and trucks can transport disease-carrying organisms just as easily. In 1985 tires imported into Texas from Asia carried larvae of the Asian tiger mosquito, which is a carrier of dengue fever and other tropical diseases. Within five years, Asian tiger mosquitoes were living in 17 states. The WHO estimates that there are some 50 million cases of dengue infection worldwide every year.

Out and out, the Dengue conundrum has sprung up as a threat to our people and a challenge to health community. It is pouncing on innocent lives it is curable though. This is because our population is unconscious about the source or symptoms. This calls for the need of awareness campaigns. More than treatment, at this moment in time there is a dire necessity to educate people about preventive methods people ought to adopt. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Some Stray Thoughts on Pakistan

Each dawn comes but once: It announces another opportunity to right the wrongs and build on the success of yesterday.

Like any other country, the sun rises in the morning in Pakistan. Nevertheless, this sun rises behind the dark thick clouds and its rays do not reach the mother earth where innocent people live, suffer—committing suicides, dumping their lived children or becoming the victims of terrorism, bad governance. It is painfully observed that the national dailies are publishing voluminous editions on non-issues but no column depicts public debate on real problems.

More than two thousand years ago, Diogenes walked down a dusty road in ancient Greece. According to the legend, as he walked, he carried a lighted lantern in his hand. He carried the lantern because even in broad daylight it wasn’t easy to find what he was looking for: an honest man.

Today, after all the passing centuries, in Pakistan one reads the morning newspapers or watches the TV news and wonders if Diogenes would find the search any easier. With so many signs of unethical behavior in the society at large, one may question if ethics have any place.

The absolute increase in population in Pakistan, coupled with such trends as urbanization and greater mobility clearly presents serious threats. If the current population growth rate of Pakistan continued for the next 130 years, its population would be equal to that of the whole world today. Needless to say, this will not happen. Either its birth rate will drop or its death rate will rise. Somehow the growth rate has to stop.

Some foreign industries are growing more competitive than their Pakistani counterparts. For the Pakistan as a nation to be competitive, however, it is not required that all Pakistani companies remain competitive in all areas. It however does mean that Pakistan’s business and entrepreneurs must be able to take advantage of opportunities offered by economic developments in other countries to move into other product lines.

Good infrastructure services are essential to achieve economic growth and improve the quality of life. But for Pakistan, despite improvements in access the quantity and quality of services are well below what is demanded.

The state of education in Pakistan is depressing. Today it simply cannot compete with even third-rate countries in standard indicators of academic achievement. Weak curricula and discipline have guaranteed educational failure for tens of millions of our children. In its most extreme manifestations learning literally has come to a halt. This is not to criticize present or past governments. All the same, the nation should look at itself and conclude that something must be done. It is not, however, that the government should reform education fundamentally. Real reforms come from the people.

The health sector requires offensive for offering an inadequate remedy for the serious problems of an outdated and basically unsound system. People must be offered a vision of a revitalized healthcare system that provides incentives for increased quality and technological innovation. While at the same time, reducing costs and uncertainty. Pakistanis today need a system that gives them control over healthcare decisions, while encouraging them to set aside the resources they need to purchase this care.

The poverty rate in Pakistan is increasing fast. Economic expansion can only nullify this trend. Any welfare policy cannot conquer poverty, nor can government alone. To rid Pakistan of poverty, there must be continued economic growth, deregulation, devolution of power, smaller government, elimination of policies that discourage self-improvement, and a stronger focus on education. The importance of the family in keeping poverty at bay may now be widely accepted, but programs are also needed to strengthen the family.

It is hard for Pakistan to win a successful war on poverty when it is so hard to identify the “enemy.” Even leaving aside such complicated notions as “relative” versus “absolute” poverty, the measurement of poverty is a crude process. The root cause of this defect is that the baseline official poverty rate is badly flawed measurement of what is generally understood to be poverty. It is based on reported cash income. Thus, unreported income is not measured. There has to be consumption standard in place of the income standard, quantity and quality of the food, housing, clothing, and other essential items needed to keep a family just cost of obtaining these items locally would then be the benchmark for determining whether the family’s income was below the poverty level.

Any system of laws that is too complex or expensive for people to understand and use, does not deliver justice. This increasingly has become the case with Pakistan’s legal system. It lacks increased use of mediation, conciliation, mini-trials, and where appropriate, arbitration. Decision makers in Pakistan should think about the dilemma to ensure that access to justice is available to all. Efforts to seek alternatives to litigation throughout the legal system need to be forged.

Terrorists, attacking non-combatant targets in Pakistan, threaten the society today. Their fundamental threat is to innocent citizens, social stability and ultimately, to the legitimacy of the elected regime. The threat from terrorism is growing. Terrorists are being organized, better equipped, and more professional than they were some years ago. Modernity should be used in countering terrorism. Multilateral treaties should also be worked out for effective handling of the threat.

By defining these main items designed to spur Pakistan’s progress, prosperity and competitiveness, the Pakistani intelligentsia can suggest solutions, alternatives, innovative ideas and utilitarian actions to help achieve prosperity. It can recommend means for increasing nation’s ability to sell more overseas through increased productivity. It can imply more efficient production techniques in business through new technology, better methods of industrial organization, cheaper sources of capital goods, or more efficient labor. Through increased productivity standards of living will rise, consumer choice will increase, and more opportunities for well-paying jobs will become available. Similarly, solutions can be recommended to miscellaneous problems that are degenerating the vitals of our national life.

Beyond doubt, the resources of knowledge, experience and expertise if harnessed and suggested means for the revitalization of the dormant energies in all sectors of human endeavor, Pakistan can emerge as a land of opportunities and haven of peace. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in Hamlet:
Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. Until 1969, the Catholic Church formally recognized eleven Valentine's Days. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae). The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.

By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the fourteenth century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.

There are diverse views about Valentine’s Day. Some say that it started in memory of St. Valentine, a Roman who was killed on dismissing Christianity on February 14, 269 A.D. The Early Medieval acts of either Saint Valentine were excerpted by Bede and briefly expounded in Legenda Aurea.

Legenda Aurea providing no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. In an embellishment to The Golden Legend, on the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved, as the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed, or both. It was a note that read "From your Valentine."

In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius marked February 14 for honoring St. Valentine. In course of time, February 14 transformed into a day for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine acquired recognition as the patron saint of lovers. The day subsequently acquired recognition of romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

People celebrate Valentine’s Day by sending love poems, presents and flowers. They also organize balls and throw parties. Lovers send valentines cards with sentimental verses. This implies that it is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes. Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.

Valentine's Day has regional traditions in the UK. In Norfolk, a character called 'Jack' Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children. Although he was leaving treats, many children were scared of this mystical person. In Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen's Day) on January 25 instead of or as well as St Valentine's Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers. In France, a traditionally Catholic country, Valentine's Day is known simply as "Saint Valentin", and is celebrated in much the same way as other western countries. In Spain Valentine's Day is known as "San Valentín" and is celebrated the same way as in the U.K, although in Catalonia it is largely superseded by similar festivities of rose and/or book giving on La Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George's Day). In Portugal referred to it as "Dia dos Namorados" (Boy/Girlfriend's Day).

Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards. The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates those approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, behind Christmas. The association estimates that, in the US, men spend in average twice as much money as women.

In Denmark and Norway, Valentine's Day (14 Feb) is known as Valentinsdag. It is not celebrated to a large extent, but a lot people take time to eat a romantic dinner with their partner, to send a card to a secret love or give a red rose to their loved one. In Sweden it is called Alla hjärtans dag ("All Hearts' Day") and was launched in the 1960s by the flower industry's commercial interests, and due to influence of American culture. It is not an official holiday, but its celebration is recognized and sales of cosmetics and flowers for this holiday are only bested by those for Mother's Day.

In Finland Valentine's Day is called Ystävänpäivä which translates into "Friend's day". As the name indicates, this day is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones. In Estonia Valentine's Day is called Sõbrapäev, which has a similar meaning.

In Slovenia, a proverb says that "St Valentine brings the keys of roots," so on February 14, plants and flowers start to grow. Valentine's Day has been celebrated as the day when the first works in the vineyards and on the fields commence. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day. Nevertheless, it has only recently been celebrated as the day of love. The day of love is traditionally March 12, the Saint Gregory's day. Another proverb says "Valentin - prvi spomladin" ("Valentine — first saint of spring"), as in some places (especially White Carniola) Saint Valentine marks the beginning of spring.

In Romania, the traditional holiday for lovers is Dragobete, which is celebrated on February 24. It is named after a character from Romanian folklore who was supposed to be the son of Baba Dochia. Part of his name is the word drag ("dear"), which can also be found in the word dragoste ("love"). In recent years, Romania has also started celebrating Valentine's Day, despite already having Dragobete as a traditional holiday. This has drawn backlash from many groups, reputable persons and institutions but also nationalist organizations like Noua Dreaptǎ, who condemn Valentine's Day for being superficial, commercialist and imported Western kitsch.

Valentine's Day is called Sevgililer Günü in Turkey, which translates into "Sweethearts' Day".
According to Jewish tradition the 15th day of the month of Av - Tu B'Av (usually late August) is the festival of love. In ancient times girls would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, where the boys would be waiting for them (Mishna Taanith end of Chapter 4). In modern Israeli culture this is a popular day to pronounce love, propose marriage and give gifts like cards or flowers.

In Japan, in 1960, Morinaga, one of the biggest Japanese confectionery companies, originated the present custom that only women may give chocolates to men. In particular, office ladies will give chocolate to their co-workers. One month later, in March 14, there is the White Day, created by the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association as a "reply day", where men are expected to return the favor to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day. Unlike western countries, gifts such as candies, flowers, or dinner dates are uncommon. It has become an obligation for many women to give chocolates to all male co-workers. A man's popularity can be measured for how many chocolate they receive on that day; the amount of chocolate received is a touchy issue for men, and they will only comment on it after getting assurances that the amount won't be made public. This is known as giri-choko, from the words giri ("obligation") and choko, ("chocolate"), with unpopular co-workers receiving only "ultra-obligatory" chō-giri choko cheap chocolate. This contrasts with honmei-choko; chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko; from tomo meaning "friend".

In South Korea, women give chocolate to men on February 14, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14. On April 14 (Black Day), those who did not receive anything on the 14th of Feb or March go to a Chinese restaurant to eat black noodles and "mourn" their single life. Koreans also celebrate Pepero Day on November 11, when young couples give each other Pepero cookies. The date '11/11' is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie. The 14th of every month marks a love-related day in Korea, although most of them are obscure. From January to December: Candle Day, Valentine's Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day.

In China, the common situation is the man gives chocolate, flowers or both to the woman that he loves. In the Philippines, Valentine's Day is called "Araw ng mga Puso" or "Hearts Day". It is usually marked by a steep increase in the prices of flowers.

In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.

Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire. (Most of the content has been used from Wikipedia) Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Friday, February 13, 2009

About Pakistan-China Relationship

Out and out, good neighborly relations not only aid and abet regional peace but also cohere world peace at large. Sustaining from the last quite a few decades, the tried and true Pakistan-China bonds of friendship have not been scrutinized much as a case study. As a consequence the classic example of unprecedented model in international relations could not be brought to the fore.

Inspired from the associated dynamism that this model offered, I singled out ‘Pakistan-China Boundary Settlement’ as the subject matter. While carrying through this work, as a sine qua non, I cut across some such mines of logical information, which were rare and inaccessible to few and far between.

I picked out China as a subject of thought in my authorship, centering on the evolution and growth of Pakistan-China relations.

Word for word, this paper dissertates about the unparalleled and distinctive features of Sino Pakistan relationship. It arguably asserts that the relationship between a bigger and smaller nation based on bilateralism is indeed exceptional and unprecedented. Despite firm external opposition, this relationship has not just withstood elegantly, it has also sustained warmth and fervor.

China’s economic assistance to Pakistan has always been altruistic, with no strings attached and devoid of any expectations of a quid pro quo. In times of need, China has always come up to the expectations of Pakistan and provided crucial support. World is beholden to its admired role during the 1965 Pakistan-India war followed by its creditable diplomatic support in 1971 war.

We have also witnessed with grateful heart the generosity demonstrated by China in the boundary demarcation with Pakistan in Northern Areas that virtually ceded 1250 sq km territory and relinquished its ripe old age claim on Hunza and surrounding territories. Over and above, Pakistan’s claim on all the Passes along the Karakorum Range was also recognized by China. In point of fact, China is the only country that really made Pakistan self-reliant in industrial sector. It did so not through economic aid but transfer of technology. Its technical support in establishing a sound base for rapid industrialization is simply superb. Last but not the least, China was the first and foremost country that ruptured the so-called nuclear blockade imposed on Pakistan under US pressure from 1976 onward and installed Nuclear Power Plants in the country.

Backwards and forwards, despite considerably under Western predominance, Pakistan never compromised its support for China. Indeed, it was Pakistan’s unswerving diplomatic support that helped China in squatting at the right and proper place in the United Nations. And who can disremember Pakistan’s via media role in founding American – China diplomatic relations in late 70s?

In the post cold war era, China is no more depending on few friends and extending relations with every country across world, courtesy its foreign policy based on bilateralism. Both, history of China and its national character demonstrate that they never give up friends and benefactors. Heaven be praised! Pakistan proudly stands tall in Chinese perceptions.

I also focus on China’s internal dynamics and shed light on Chinese political system, present constitution, confronting challenges, and its emergence as a potential global Power of the 21st century. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

Mish-mash Relationships

A doctor on inspection of a lunatic asylum asked a mental patient: “You seem to be quite serious and sensible. I wonder what brought you here?”
The patient replied solemnly: “You are right doctor. I was a sane person previously. Some years ago, I married a widow who had an eighteen years old daughter. Coincidentally, my father liked the girl and married her.
Their marriage made my wife the mother-in-law of my father and me father-in-law of my own father.
After sometime, my wife’s daughter who was the wife of my father gave birth to a son. That child was my brother and at the same time my wife’s grandson was obviously my grandson. So I became the grandfather of my own brother.
My wife also gave birth to son. My father’s wife became the sister and grandmother of her brother.
Think for a while doctor, how could my son become his grandmother’s brother?
My wife’s daughter was my stepmother and my son’s sister. In this scene my son was my uncle also and I was grandfather of myself. Then my father’s son, who was the son of my wife’s daughter and who was my grandson . . . . . ”
Doctor (holding his head) said: “Oh stop this nonsense. Damn you mad man, I am getting mad too . . . ”
Asif J. Mir,
Organizational Transformation