How do I manage my time? A time-bending view on time management.

Friends and other people who follow me on social media often ask me: “How do you manage your time?” referring to my apparently restless lifestyle and routine which combines a full-time office job, a freelance home-based job, a distance learning degree program at a University of Applied Sciences, running a social initiative (the Free Hugs Vienna group), rather frequent travelling, constant partying and gathering with friends, a highly active social media life, more than enough ‘me-time’ and well, taking care of my cute little Chihuahua, Besty.

My straightforward answer to this question is: I want it! And I want it all hard enough to make them happen! In other words: I have time for all these and other things that I passionately want. And if I seem not to have the time for something, it only means I haven’t yet placed my heart on that particular subject.

To start with: It amazes me to read about some multi-million businesses that were born at a coffee house table, bands that started their world-wide known musical career in a garage somewhere, writers whose drafts were written down on restaurant napkins and world-acclaimed artists who claim to have put drafts down on paper while sitting on the toilet. When I hear these stories, I can only think of how great these people were/are in managing their time. They did not miss the right time and place to get started on their dreams. They anticipated their future by making it happen right in front of them, no matter where they were.

And I continue: we live in a world that demands a lot from us. To get what we want (aka. make our dreams come true), we must give (aka. study/work/sacrifice) and make use of our talents (inborn), skills (learned) as well as of the available resources each one of us has. Resources range from natural through human to financial resources. And all of what is available for each one of us comes in different measurable amounts, except one: time resources. On one hand, we can say that time is the only resource available for us equally, for we all have exactly 24h in a day, 7 days in a week and 365 days in a year to make things happen. On the other hand, it is impossible for us to measure how much time we actually have, for our lives are limited and as much as estimations about life spans give us expectations about our future, no one knows the future with certainty.

Now if two people want the same thing in life and both have the same amount of resources available, why does the constant resource ‘time’ make such a difference? And the answer is a rather silly statement: what each one decides to do with it.

Wait! It can get even sillier! At this point, I seem to disregard basic variables such as the opportunities that present themselves to people in different ways, or let us just call it ‘luck’? No, I do not disregard them. While I do agree several variables come in different amounts, from money to luck, I defend the point of view that blaming the world, faith, luck or whatnot for not having is just a lot easier than the pursuit of having some or all of these things in the first place, for it takes efforts! And while we all have different amounts of money and luck, time is the available resource we all have equally, and since many of us cannot deal with the fact we do not possess X, Y, or Z despite having time, we prefer to let go of the feeling of lack of accomplishment for not possessing them through blaming.

Now back to the initial question, by getting all Jewish on it: I will use a parable!

How do I decide what I do with my time? To answer this question, I ask: how do I decide what I do with my money? We have a limited amount of money available and we must plan ahead how much we can spend, right? We estimate the pleasure and value gained from the money spent before we decide to give it. By investing our money in things that make us happy and things that we truly want, we see our dreams get shaped in front of our eyes. And the same principle applies to time as a resource available to us. The only difference between money and time in this context is: money can be regained, but time cannot. Money that was wasted can be recovered to cater for the real pleasurable things, but wasted time never comes back!

When talking about time, there are so many perspectives one can take to it. Some call time the 4th dimension. And like the other dimensions, we live inside it. Others simply define it as the measure of things from past through present towards future.

Fine, but now let me get really weird on the subject…

My understanding of time goes into a rather philosophical understanding of it: we do not live within time. We are time! In other words, the past exists in the present and the future is the state of foreseeing a potential happening. Thus, the concern for a potential future occurrence allows the future to exist in the present. We are not stuck in a sequential timeline of things. We have the ability to be our past and experience our future while living the present. And this ability is given by the power of our thoughts. And the power of our mind is energy. And energy transcends the common sequential understanding of time – it is constantly transformed, but never created or destroyed. It simply IS.

And what does it all have to do with time management in the first place? Simple! If we understand that the power of our thoughts is a power we possess to break the common notion of sequential time, we can anticipate the ‘life of our dreams’ (the future) and make it exist in the present. And this is the ‘wanting something hard enough’ part of the opening of this text. We CHOOSE what to think! We choose what to bring from the past as experience and what to wish for the future in order to make our present be that what we want. And by anticipating the joy of WHAT WE WANT HARD ENOUGH for the future, we can make it all happen today, and when we do, we experience the joy and well-being of ALREADY HAVING it.

To sum it up: all it takes to have the time for all that we want is to want these things hard enough and project them into our future to be able to experience them happening today!

Charity, Productivity, Poverty and Gift-giving – the Intersection.

Helping people in need is an authentic and noble sentiment among people. Be it through acts of kindness, charity, volunteering, or any other means of providing something of value for people who lack that what we possess in excess or have at least enough to share.

Many thoughts cross my mind on the subject “charity”: one can be quite critical on things such as “how selfish acts of charity can be”: do people give for the sake of giving or in seek of the reward for being acknowledged as the ‘giver’ – the one in possession of a certain kind of power’? One can also be critical on “how to quantify the value of charity”: how to compare the value of a person’s X hours of volunteering versus another’s X dollars/euro worth of money-value invested in a cause? Is the input or the output value that really counts? Or should this even be measured at all?

Anyway, among these and other points of discussion on the topic, one particular discussion I recently had over coffee with some friends motivated me to write this text. And it is: the role of first-world (rich) charity in helping third-world (poor) nations fight poverty.

To start with, I choose to go back in time and think of the history of mankind as a social being. It is in our nature as human beings to provide for our own needs by making use of our skills. From the very beginning, the work of our own efforts – our own hands – has given us the product of our immediate consumption. Productivity, so to say, was there to cater for our own needs and there was no need for savings or accumulation of resources.

As mankind started to develop tools, machines – and up to modern-day society – computers and hi-tech equipment capable of assisting in increasing productivity manifold, we started having reserves. Since we became more productive, we started trading, which turned the accumulation of resources into an accumulation of capital, which allowed us to save and invest in ever more productive capital goods (such as machinery and technology), which ultimately increased our productivity even more.

And that is exactly where the difference between a rich nation and a poor nation lies: certain groups (rich nations) accumulated capital goods at a much faster pace while other (poor nations) lagged behind.

And what is the point I wish to make with this? It is not money that makes a nation richer. It’s how much Capital Goods they have! And this is how I connect this to the subject of charity money inflows from rich nations into poor nations.

[Please excuse the exceptions. It might sound more generalizing that it actually is.] The ability to produce more than needed for immediate consumption, which then triggers the ability to accumulate resources and savings and ultimately revert this accumulation into capital goods which will foster production (returning to step 1 of this cycle) is the only way one can generate wealth.

Having this said, imagine that a billionaire decides to share all his/her wealth equally among all the population of a poor country in order to take them out of poverty. While it might sound silly, visualizing this idea illustrates the idea quite well. The inflow of capital will provide for an immediate rise in life standards, which will be generated by immediate consumption.

[So poverty has been beaten, right? WRONG!]

Taking the people out of their level of poverty by providing them capital to consume more does not guarantee that these same people will be producing more. There is no accumulation of resources – no savings! Bottom-line: Increasing a poor nation’s ability to consume is not a synonym of beating poverty in this context. On the contrary, it is fostering poverty. It is prolonging its existence. The increase in life standards might disguise the phenomenon, but in the long run, consequences are inevitable.

In order for a nation to beat poverty, it does not require inflows of money. It requires inflows of Capital Goods, that is, the technology, knowledge, equipment, know-how, and all other forms of investments allowing its people to increase productivity. When individuals produce more, they will be eventually generating the gear of a nation’s rise from poverty: savings and more investments in capital goods!

I think my macro view on the subject might as well be an extrapolation of a rather simple concept: instead of feeding the poor, we should provide them the resources for them to be able to feed themselves.

To go back to where I started, my point is that I do have a very critical view on the charity work done by rich nations in poor countries. The money inflow to aid the poor are highly aligned with Adam Smith’s theory that distribution of wealth fosters social classes, which defend the rich and harm the poor.

While I do believe charity work is the engine of a brighter future with more equality, I highlight the importance of one’s interest in assessing the right way of giving. As aforementioned, the simple redistribution of wealth fosters poverty. Thus, we have to make sure we are not supporting any kind of demagogic appeal for eliminating poverty.

I might sounds silly, but it is indeed comparable to one of those typical gift-giving dilemmas: are we gifting the receiver with something he/she really needs or are we just offering them something we will eventually also draw benefit from?

What is the true value of a life?

The last couple of days I’ve walked to work facing the same headlines in the newspapers. All of them had it printed in large: “900 dead”. The refugees’ catastrophe in the Mediterranean Sea has cost 900 lives! [And as I write it, I can’t avoid the goose bumps and the urge to shed a tear again].

This is not the first catastrophe of this kind in the Mediterranean. In the last couple of years only, these numbers have been accumulating drastically: June 2011 (270 deaths), August 2011 (125 deaths), June 2012 (54 deaths), October 2013 (366 deaths), July 2014 (150 deaths), September 2014 (500 deaths), November 2014 (24 deaths), February 2015 (330 deaths) and now April 2015 (900 deaths). Altogether, this accounts for 2719 reported deaths in less than 4 years.

As I arrive to work and start with my daily portion of Internet-based reading, I realize the news is also featured in the international media. The Guardian, CNN, BBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, Euronews, Russia Today, and many other media houses all report on the tragedy. They are just doing their job: feeding the information-hungry society with the most excruciating details on yet another disaster, which claimed several lives.

Some weeks ago, 148 students were murdered in Kenya by terrorists. It featured in the news as well. Some days after the fact, the news was history already.

Earlier this year, 2000 people fell victim to terrorists in Nigeria as well. Again, the news reported the fact. And it took little time for the information to be just another piece of news which made the headlines for a couple of days.

Over the last couple of years, millions of lives have been lost in such massacres throughout Africa (let us name Congo’s neglected crisis, which has left an estimated 5.4 million dead since 1998), in the war against terror and in other silent civil wars running on the streets of several African, Asian and South American countries.

Having this said, I go back to my daily reading routine and ask myself: Why does the world sympathize with the lives lost in 9/11 so much to the point that to this day, 14 years later, 9/11 is still a current topic on the speech agenda of political leaders, think tanks and media houses worldwide? Why are the lives of the 12 French citizens killed at the Charles Hedbo attack in early 2015 worth a gigantic wave of commotion, weeping, and vigils including an unprecedented repercussion on social media with its ‘Je suis Charlie’ hashtag? To be clear, I do believe E.V.E.R.Y single life is worth the same, and while I do share the pain of these tragic deaths, I question myself why the million of other lives are not worth the same impact in society overall?

It seems that it is easier to create a wave of indignation within a certain social group when the menace lies within its own boundaries. After all, it makes them think that their own lives or the lives of those directly connected to them by family, social or simply racial-ties ‘could have been’ the ones taken by terror, war, violence, social injustice, dictators, extremism, or what not. [Fair enough!?] But when the menace lies far away, does it really matter?

In short […and in a very narrow approach to the whole], why are 12 French lives worth so much more attention than 5.4 million Congolese ones? What is the true value of a human life?

It seems to me that the indifference is rooted on the minds of ‘first-world’ citizens who tend to see that people in such conflict zones are 1. too far away for them to care about (anyway), 2. uncivilized (anyway), 3. people without perspectives in life (anyway), and 4) if it happens all the time (anyway), it is OK!

NO, IT IS NOT OK!

We cannot change the mistakes of the past. But we can do something about the future where our children will live in. Indifference means CHOOSING to keep our eyes closed to a very sad truth about the world we live in: IT NEEDS FIXING! A highly educated and civilized Europe allowed the Second World War and the Holocaust to happen. And a highly civilized World is making the same mistake by remaining silent.

I am only 1 in 7.000.000.000+ people in this planet. I chose to write about this topic, to share my views on it and to pass this thought further for others to think about it. If each one of us took the chance to make something be worth ONE SHARE ONLY of a #jesuischarlie-equivalent of this food for thought, we certainly won’t be changing the sad truth that lies in the past, but we will be doing our part in making people think and care, turning THINKERS WHO TRULY CARE into an ever growing ‘minority’.

I end up this text with the same question I started it in the first place. I do not wish to leave here a solution to this theme (I do not have one after all!), but I wish to leave here a suggestion: think about it! Do not ignore it! The more we are, the stronger we are! We can make a difference! If this text touches ONE mind only, it was worth my time sharing. Now you choose what to do about it. Share the truth! Silence kills!

Social Anxiety, Self-Confidence and Marketing.

Social Anxiety is one of those things I only managed to give a name to after I figured out that it was more than just simple inner voices transforming my social freedom into a social challenge.

Having overcome a time in my life, in which I made use of all kinds of extreme techniques to literally ‘trick’ people into liking me, I realized that no matter how hard I tried and how ‘successful’ the social outreach was, I always ended up with this awkward feeling telling me how truly unconfident I really was.

I was so focused in ‘selling the whole of me’ that I forgot to apply one of the most basic principles of marketing (yes, marketing does apply here as well!), which is: focus on the USP (unique selling proposition), which in this context, I can call my ‘strengths’ or simply my ‘bright spots’.

When my focus was on the whole, I kept on falling in the traps called ‘my weaknesses’, which constantly reminded me that I was not ‘good enough’.

This abusive relationship I kept with my own inner self kept me stuck in a vicious cycle starting with DENIAL, followed by ANGER, CONFUSION, DEPRESSION and leading me up to a CRISIS, which would eventually be soothed by taking me back to DENIAL.

While I took all sorts of advice and managed to extend the periods of denial, tricking me into believing everything was OK, I overlooked the fact that the only way I could get out of that cycle would be by reaching CONFIDENCE through ACCEPTANCE.

This was not an overnight achievement, though. It surprised me to realize that all I needed was to assume control of these ‘inner voices’ and start developing mental abilities by focusing on the positive side of me: my USPs. It was all about a lesson on how to ‘sell’ without putting the ‘value’ of the good at stake.

I created micro-goals, which led me to small wins. These achievements helped me believe I could achieve something bigger. It empowered me.

Instead of playing ‘tricks’, I started playing ‘authentic’ with the world around me. And accepting the simple, yet hard-to-grasp truth that ‘Not everyone likes me. And it’s OK.’, I managed to deflect those negative charges which used to feed my self-consciousness.

Some might call it the ‘I don’t give a fuck!’-mode, but the truth is: empowering myself to overcome social anxiety was not as simple as ‘ignoring’ what others think about me, but rather making sure that I ACCEPT and REWARD MYSELF for who I AM – feeling truly CONFIDENT no matter what.

Life rule: you only matter for as long as you give others what they want from you

“You only matter for as long you give others what they want from you” – this is one of these hard-core rules of life I’d be happier living without, BUT, there is a way to make this down-side of life turn it into a source of rewards. I once read in a parable that I see fit in this context:

———
A guy has just been shot and is laying on the floor when suddenly someone comes up, looks at the injured body laying on the floor and, picking up a pocketknife, says: “- We need to operate him immediately!”

He bends himself over the body and the people around him say: “- Hey, STOP! Are you a doctor?”

He replies: “- No, but I’m a really nice guy, I’m very responsible, reliable, honest, faithful, and dedicated to everything I do. Besides, I’m very creative, I have great communication and leadership skills and I am also a great team player.”

People look at him with this confused look and say: “- How does this f*cking matter? All we need is someone who knows how to perform the operation this injured guy needs!”
———

And this parable is an allegory to the real world, where the confused yet well-intentioned guy holding the pocketknife are WE and the injured person lying on the floor is SOCIETY.

Fact is: We live in a society full of people who need things. They need food, housing, entertainment, pleasure, luxury, and what not [such as an emergency operation]. We, on the hand, have things to offer such as being nice, responsible, honest, faithful and etc. [the pocketknife], which do not necessarily fit the demand society has from us.

So how to go about ‘being rejected’ for not giving what others want while still having something valuable to offer? Fact is: No! We can’t force to “operate the injured with a pocketknife”.

We only matter for as long as we give others what they want, right? So, how to make our ‘love, kindness and other traits’ matter if the surroundings seem not to be demanding for it?

Instead of throwing ourselves with a pocketknife trying to perform the operation, we can choose to serve the world as the gear, which will ultimately result in OTHERS performing the operation. We can use our skills to help doing things that people can’t get elsewhere by facilitating and bringing people the things they really need. Although we are not the ultimate performer, we can still draw pleasure from the REWARD of being part of the WHOLE.

And this is why it doesn’t matter if people think we don’t matter at all. At the end of the day, the greatest acts of kindness are those we need no signature underneath. We are the silent gears that make this world a better place.

Communicating bad financial data can be good!

In business life, here and there we come across situations in which numbers and figures must be communicated from top downwards or vice versa. Having dealt with situations like those in my life, I have noticed that business people, specially the most important decision makers, are just addicted to numbers and cash accounts – and there is something wrong about it!

Numbers do give us the information necessary to evaluate performance and financial results; it also gives enough insights on changes in both the internal and external dimensions of a company. Good figures are great and are certainly much more welcome than bad ones, but bad ones can also help us make decisions and they do work as sources of insights for future planning. The thing is: while focusing on causes and consequences or gains and losses, many people simply ignore the “so what? what happens next?” factor.

While working as operations officer for a small business solution development company, I had the opportunity to observe how financial communications became a catastrophe! Boring, confusing, unreadable and very dry data did not only NOT communicate the necessary information, but it also made things seem much worse than they actually were.

In a small company, communicating results involves meeting pretty much the whole staff and making them ‘feel’ the results. Had analogies been chosen, for example, even those at the basis of the pyramid would have understood things more clearly. Had honesty been chosen, confidence about the future would have turned out as result, instead of the actual demotivating and ‘I need to look for a new job’ feeling that took over back then.

Bad figures can be an excellent tool for making people understand the challenge and the importance of change. It helps mobilizing the whole company to work hard towards new challenges and new goals.

The “so what? what happens next?” questions must be asked in time and are the most important tools at the ‘communicating numbers’ meeting. They will be the backbone of the necessary change and they will help the team understand the situation and engage in taking the necessary action from them on.

In summary, financial data can be bad news indeed. And normally, this requires changes within a system to allow a company to adapt and/or adjust itself to the several influencers of this result. When backward perspective is used, that is, tackling the errors, the mistakes and the things they ‘should have done’, the needed positive change is then hindered. On the other hand, when the “so what? what happens next” questions are used, the fuel necessary to change, motivate and guide through is at hand.

Gays: a valuable proposition for business

According to scientists and experts, one out of ten individuals in the world is a homosexual. The statistics mean that worldwide, approximately 700.000.000 men and women are gay! This really invites for a second thought the next time someone calls the gay community ‘a minority’, doesn’t it? After all, SEVEN HUNDRED MILLION people are more than twice the whole population of the United States of America or almost four times the population of Brazil. Anyways.

Some people say that homosexuality is a new age’s phenomenon. Wrong! Modern-life did not make people suddenly become gay. Instead, it allowed them to finally identify themselves as such. This is the result of developments in society that led to new levels of social maturity – and these levels go as far as from black to white when comparing nations, though. The decriminalization of homosexual acts, gay civil rights and same-sex marriage are indeed things we can be proud to witness in our modern world. Oppositely, homosexual affection, gay households and same-sex couples are among us since always.

Political, social and religious views aside, this post is about gays – and the commercial opportunities within.

Initially, gays and lesbians were neither strategic objects nor targets for business. Suddenly, ‘tiny little rainbow flags’ started appearing hidden in marketing products in a way that the gay community could somehow decode the ‘gay-friendly message’ without ‘shocking’ the straight clientele. Lately, companies seem to have found out a gold mine within the gay community: “DINKS” (double income, no kids) – the way homosexual couples are nicknamed, is the reason for marketing managers to rejoice about them.

A recent research by marketagent.com and Pink Marketing conducted in Austria (which according to experts has a gay community of 800.000 people) conveys a series of interesting results:

The average monthly disposable income of a gay man is 822 euros, while the same for a straight male is 558 euros per month. Moreover, 57.3% of hetero couples have disposable income under 600 euros per month, while disposable income of 57.1% of same-sex couples is above 600 euros per month. In fact, almost one third of gay couples have disposable income above 1500 euros per month, and this is true for less than one fourth of hetero couples, the research shows.

The extra money plays an important role in their life-style. For instance, the research results show that homosexuals spend 43% more when going out, 82% more on vacations,  73% more on clothes and also 180% more with culture than heterosexuals.

Furthermore, consumption habits are affected as well. The research shows, for instance, that gay men prefer sparkling wine and champagne, while straight men favour beer as their favourite alcoholic drink. Jaguar, Smart and Mini are the favourite cars among gay men, whereas Porsche, Toyota and Audi are the favourite of straight ones. Results also show that gay men purchase more expensive cars and go more often on vacation than straight men.

Looking at the results of this research conducted in Austria, it is no wonder why the hidden ‘tiny little rainbow flags’ turned into well elaborated marketing efforts whose object and target is the gay community. The reason for that is simple: NOW people realize that there is some value in the gay world that is worth fighting for. Exceptions aside, this value is called ‘money’. And so it goes: where there is money, there is certainly many smiling faces looking forward to doing business out of it.

Opinions aside, this post’s main target is actually to bring the reader’s attention to the very interesting research mentioned above. Full details on the results can be found under this link.

3D Printing: Economies of Scale turning into Economies of Ideas

3D means a lot! One often reads that James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” was ‘the’ break-through into the 3D era. While it might have indeed started a ‘3D-revolution’ for both the whole entertainment industry and consumer markets, technologies that broke the barrier of the three-dimensional space (3D), such as Avatar’s ability to create 3D simulations on a 2D surface, are not new. The first 3D movies using color glasses released to the general public, for instance, can be traced back to as early as 1915.

As a ‘technofreak’ myself (!), I could not avoid the ‘wow effect’ when leaving the theatre after ‘Avatar’. Now, only a couple of months later, that ‘wow effect’ is an ‘oldie’. And the reason is the ‘hopefully-very-soon-to-be-on-my-desk’ 3D printing technology. Yes! You’ve read it right: 3D-printing! As much I consider myself pretty up-to-date on the latest technologies around, I was actually pretty surprise to get to know that 3D printing has been around since the early 1990’s. Only recently has the industry grown enough and prices have begun to drop, enabling this technology to get closer to us, consumers.

What is it?

The thought that computer printing is going 3D is pretty weird at first.  3D printing is a form of manufacturing technology able to transform 3D computer models into tangible objects. The ‘printing’ process consists of laying material (e.g.: plastic or metal) on a surface layer by layer. This gives the “print-out” not only the two flat dimensions as if printing on a common inkjet printer, but it adds a third dimension by the accumulation of succesive layers one on the top of the other.

Just like now we can choose between a black-and-white or color printer and between an inkjet or laser one, there are n models of 3D printers. Each uses a different types of material and outputs different printing qualities.

The Next Industrial Revolution

At the current stage, it might still be quite hard for us to capture the real impact of the 3D printing on our lives, but it certainly promisses a huge revolution in manufaturing. While nowdays business people rejoice with economies of scale, mass production might be a very costly alternative in the future. The idea is simple: Why purchase product k, designed somewhere in the US, whose pieces fly from n different cities around the globe to be finally assembled somwhere in China and then shipped back to wherever we are AND after all, get the ‘very same thing’ some other millions of people get – a standardized product? Well, the truth will, most probably, look somewhat like this:  I want product k so bad and I want it now – my way. No problem! Purchase product k‘s 3D-model online, download it, customize it – and print it!

3D printing does not only mean that the whole manufaturing process might become more personal and ever more customizable, it also means that the huge gap of time and space that currently exists between raw material and final consumer will be incredibly brought down to matters of minutes and “material cartridge” availability. In short, 3D printing will offer a cheaper and less risky path to the final consumer market.

Besides, 3D printing also encompasses huge steps in what we can call “green manufaturing”. Current manufaturing processes are the so-called subtractive manufacturing, that is, a whole portion of raw material is used to create product plus scrap. 3D printing, on the other hand, is additive, which means that exact amounts of raw material are used to create the final product, leaving no scrap behind.

Sample Applications

3D computer graphics, 3D modelling or 3D CAD (computer-aided design) are since long used by professionals such as engineers, architects, product and industrial designers, just to name a few. As wide as the applications go, the results of these applications combined with 3D printing have already started to be proved successful. Engineers and designers, for instance, have been using 3D printers for prototyping for at least a decade.

In an article by William M. Bulkeley published in the Wall Street Journal in August 2006 (Yes! 5 years ago!), he wrote:

” Toby Ringdahl, a computer-aided-design specialist at shoemaker Timberland Co., recently bought a color 3D printer from Z Corp. that allows footwear designers to see their constructions overnight rather than waiting a week for modeal-makers to carve them.”

Another example comes from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.. They use 3D printing in reconstructive surgeries involving facial prosthetics, such as noses an ears. Doctors use a 3D camera that creates a 3D map of the person’s face with the corresponding prosthetic. The mask is then printed and used as guide for the reconstructive surgery. Previously, doctors had to put plaster on the patient’s face to make the mask.

Repairing a broken product can be a painful adventure, can’t it? Well, with 3D printing, one can download the product’s broken part’s 3D model, print it and replace it.

The Future and the Inevitable Threat

While 3D printers are still limited to their sizes and cannot (still) replicate all types of parts that make up complex products, the trend indicates that portable 3D printers will be able to print all parts individually, which can be assembled aftwerwards. Once more quoting William M. Bulkeley:

“Some experts say within a few years hobbyists will have their own low-cost machines, many created by other 3D printers. Adrian Bowyer, a mechanical engineering lecturer at the University of Bath in England, says he is developing a 3D printer that, when connected to a PC, will be capable of recreating most of its own parts…”

Having laid down some highlights of 3D printing, what is is and what it can do, I hope I am not being too unsound when I say that today’s “economies of scale” will turn in tomorrow’s “economies of ideas” in manufacturing. The freedom one has today to exchange media via the internet will expand and add the ability to exchange products, or at least concepts/ideas of products and parts thereof.

Battles against the theft of intellectual property and copyrights started long ago. Today, piracy is a threat to writers and their books, singers and their music and movie-makers and their films, among others. Tomorrow, the same threat might apply to as many industries as those hit by the power of 3D printing technology – and their products. Ideas and USPs (unique selling propositions) will become ever more rapidly out-dated as we translate the real tangible world into bytes. I prefer not to go further  and rationalize on how I see the impact it all might have on the world’s economy, consumption and trade. Trying to understand it all ceteris paribus certainly leaves considerable room for error. As I am not going that far in the discussion, I am happy to close this post with a forward-looking consideration, which in fact goes back in the past to make its value. And that is: Money-making will always find its way through –  revolutionary or not, it will. Even Napster made it through by opening doors without closing its own.

Order and Progress: An Introduction on ‘Beyond GDP Matters’

When reading the economy section of any news portal, we often run into monthly, quarterly and yearly figures on ‘economic growth’. More often than not, these figures refer to measurements of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Such standards in the calculation method of ‘wealth’ (nominal values) and ‘growth’ (real changes) allow international comparisons and aggregations. GDP, a measurement of the value of a country’s production of goods and services, combines in a single figure what the news report as ‘growth’, ‘expansion’, ‘development’, ‘improvement’, ‘increase’, ‘progress’, ‘boost’, ‘success’, ‘rise’, ‘swell’, ‘advance’, among many others. In other words, GDP is the measure of a country’s economic prosperity, which is often used as an indicator of human development and well-being. And that is why GDP and the news that fill one’s heart with joy are in default.

In the website beyond-gdp.eu, an initiative of the European Commission, DG Environment and DG Eurostat, we find the following paragraph:

The limits of GDP are that it does not include a number of factors that determine the well-being of people, such as the value of non-market goods and services (e.g. natural resources), informal and unpaid activities and leisure. Also, GDP emphasises average income and in fact puts weight on the expenditures of the wealthy rather than focusing on similar income development of the poor. Finally, GDP focuses on short-term economic activities or flows, rather than the developments in the assets of natural, economic and social capital, which are important from a long-term sustainable development perspective.

While there are various methods for calculating GDP, all of them end up with the same cliché: They focus on quantity, not quality!
GDP reflects high levels of production while disconsidering the negative consequences it brings to society and environment. (Does it measure well-being?)
GDP includes financial products that increase household debts. (Does it measure wealth?)
GDP considers the rising expenditures on healthcare. (Does it measure welfare?)
GDP includes spending on items such as burglar alarms, safety-cameras and pollution-control equipment (Does it measure prosperity?)
GDP completely ignores the effects of distribution of income. (Does it measure common progress?)
GDP is a quarterly and annual measure. (Does it measure long-term sustainability?)

The topic raised on this post is not new. On the contrary, this is something very well known – since long. Along the years, a series of alternative indices have been created to approach the issue. Most of them tackle one of GDP’s default areas (while still ignoring others). Other approaches, like the HDI (Human Development Index – created by the UN in 1991(!!)) weigh a series of indicators (including GDP) and combine them in a single index. Economists still have not found a common ground from the variety of propositions. Even some supposed ‘Green GDP’ indices have been proposed! No matter what has been done, whether GDP should be improved or replaced is still topic for discussion. The fact is: at the end of the day, when the news report ‘growth’, we are being misled!

That politicians and officials want to look good, this is no revelation. The reason that motivated me to write this topic is the same that motivates me to keep hungrily seeking information: awareness, and the possibility to look at more than one of the many sides of a story. This post is far from being an in-depth look on the topic – it is only a personal call for attention and an introduction on ‘beyond GDP matters’. I do hope that the next time we read/hear/see the news reporting the latest ‘growth’ figures, we will be more critical and consider that these ’embelished’ figures are the basis for much of the monetary, trade and fiscal policies that will ultimately make a difference on our daily lives. After all, for those who follow my “brazilian mind”, ORDER comes first, then comes PROGRESS.*

*This refers to the caption ‘Order and Progress’ (Ordem e Progresso) written in on the brazilian flag.

A Multifaceted Collage on Environmental Matters: From Brazil, India and Austria

While I juggle readings from Austria, India and Brazil on my daily schedule, the cross-country analysis is inevitable. In this post, I share three pieces of articles from three different sources (and nationalities), which shall serve the reader as a composite insight on co-related topics, which differ most and above all, by its reporting point of view.

On March 8th, 2011, the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard” published an article about the Austrian plant construction firm ANDRITZ AG, technology provider for the construction of the mega dam in Belo Monte, Northern Brazil (more precisely in the state of Pará, where I lived for 18 years). In this article, ANDRITZ replies to the critics of the Viennese Archdiocese on ANDRITZ’s participation in this project, which puts at stake the livelihood of 50,000 local people (estimates count that 250,000 other shall be indirectly affected as well), which altogether represent an unprecedented environmental impact. ANDRITZ justifies its participation stating that it is part of a consortium and it delivers only a ‘small part’ of the turbines and generators for the project.

On April 6th, 2011, the Brazilian website xinguvivo.com.br published an article on the official statement by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in which it makes a demand to the Brazilian government to (immediately) suspend the alreay in ‘advanced-stage’ process of licensing for the construction of the dam.

These two pieces of news caused me remember a ‘Newsweek’ article by Jeremy Kahn published on March 13th, 2011. Named ‘Why India might save the planet’, the article focuses on the Indian environmental minister Jairam Ramesh and his battle on India’s economic growth without the devastation of the environment.
The article talks about the $12-billion steel plant proposed by the South Korean steel conglomerate POSCO to be built in India, which after having been approved by the minister, caused mass protests by local tribal groups, who alleged the plant endangered their livelihoods due to its massive environmental impact. Following the protests, Ramesh suspended the project for further analysis, which led to a new green light as long as POSCO could manage to fall in line with 60 new conditions. These included that POSCO would be limited to just half of the original plant area, 2% of the project’s profits would be invested back on the local community and a quarter of the plant’s premisses would be preserved as green spaces.
In the interview given by Ramesh to ‘Newsweek’, he says: “The way to resolve the conflict between environment and development is to make the tradeoffs explicit”. He added: “The paradox of economic growth is that ecological devastation benefits one section of society only”. On the other hand, he continues: “On the environment, the track record of the Indian industry is not much to write home about”.
Besides the aforementioned review of the POSCO project, Ramesh also blocked Vedanta, a British conglomerate, from building a $1.7-billion bauxite mine, claiming it violated forest-protection laws. On this issue, he says:

If bauxite mining is going to destroy livelihoods, if bauxite mining is going to pollute water sources, if bauxite mining is going to lead to large-scale deforestation, it is better not to have that bauxite mining.

And the list of companies and projects getting a “no” from Ramesh is growing. ‘Livelihood environmentalism’ is what India needs, Ramesh says – a system that cares for bodies of water, forests and land on which the nation’s farmers, fishermen and tribal groups depend. These ecosystems are as essential to Indiaas its new factories and mines.

The growth-hungry BRIC countries might indeed be currently scoring high in economic growth. GDP, the most common indicator of growth, does not take the ‘environment factor’ into account, though. The surprises of not having this factor equated might come up at a certain point (but at what costs?)
As previously mentioned, this post is intented to provide some food for thought. This is not supposed to be taken as a complete panorama on any of the subjects discussed. Again, this is a collage of articles that sounded simply ‘interesting’ to the mind of a Brazilian guy, living in Austria and working for India. This shall serve as an insight for someone out there, too.