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November 5, 2013

Host: Richard Ruelas

Author Jared Diamond

  |   Video
  • Pulitzer-prize winning author Jared Diamond, author of “Guns, Germs and Steel,” is out with a new book: “The World Until Yesterday: What We Can Learn from Traditional Societies.” Diamond will discuss his new book.
  • Jared Diamond - Author
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: author,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: Pulitzer Prize winning author Jared Diamond, author of "Guns, Germs and Steel," is out with a new book. "The World Until Yesterday What We Can Learn From Traditional Societies." I spoke with him about his new book earlier this evening. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Jared Diamond: A pleasure.

Richard Ruelas: Let's get right into the heart of the book. It seems like you concentrated- there’s so much to the cultures you looked at and spent so much time on, it looks like you keyed in on some very key factors that we can pick up some cues from in our lives, starting with children, how the people of New Guinea treat children or raise children.

Jared Diamond: The book is about traditional societies, smaller ones, including those of New Guinea, which have to solve universal problems like raising children. Watching my New Guinea friends raise their children influenced what my wife and I did with our own children. For example, Americans tend to micromanage their kids, We left our kidsas much freedom as possible and they learned early on to make their choices. One of my sons declared that he was interested in snakes at age three. Within a short time he had 147 pet snakes and frogs and lizards in our house.

Richard Ruelas: When you started this research, you had not had children yet? Or had you just begun having children?

Jared Diamond: I went to New Guinea for the first time in 1964, long before I had children.

Richard Ruelas: Did you find yourself as you saw them, raising their children in that hands-off way, almost instinctively rushing towards kids? Did you fight the western instinct or the weird instinct of wanting to step in and save them from themselves or what you would think would be themselves?

Jared Diamond: I didn't fight the instinct because in 1964 I was unmarried and I had no intention of having children.

Richard Ruelas: It seems like nutrition, we've heard this thought of how diet has changed in our lives in western society. What did you see in New Guinea and other tribal regions?

Jared Diamond: That's a big thing from which I learned. When I went out to New Guinea in 1964, every New Guineaian I saw was like a muscle man, nobody was overweight. No diabetes, no heart disease, no stroke, no hypertension.

Richard Ruelas: And in 1964 in America those things were not as prevalent as they are now.

Jared Diamond: That’s right, it’s gotten worse. But they were already there in 1964. Now the reality is you and I and most of our listeners are going to die of these noncommunicable diseases, but it's within our control. If one adopts a New Guinean lifestyle where you eat less, don't get fat, exercise regularly, if you throw the saltshaker out of kitchen, if you have lots of fruit and vegetables, you, too, can avoid heart disease and stroke and diabetes.

Richard Ruelas: Well that’s adopting the lifestyle but normally in some aspects, your book does not flinch at mentioning some of the, I guess, more violent, or things that we would not want to adopt in these lifestyles.

Jared Diamond: You're right. Another piece of the lifestyle of one tribe in New Guinea, is that when a man dies his widow is strangled, but at her own request. Namely, the widow calls out for her brothers to come strangle her while she sits in a chair. I can assure you, if I predecease my wife, I hope my wife does not call upon her brothers to strangle her. This illustrates an important point, there are wonderful and terrible things out of traditional societies.

Richard Ruelas: That's not done out of adhering to a certain religion, it's done out of need. There is so much available resources, and this is the decision we've decided collectively to make?

Jared Diamond: That's a very interesting point. Some of the things they do out of need, such as for example infanticide of weak babies, the reality of it is that they have no choice. But in this case strangling widows, of the thousand tribes in New Guinea, there are only two that strangle widows. There is no reason that we can see in the environment. This is just a custom, like the French eat frogs and snails and the Germans don't. It’s not because it’s good to eat frogs and snails in France, this is simply a custom.

Richard Ruelas: So did the idea of empathy, for lack of a better word, that we're going help the weak child, that is based on what our culture has as far as a surplus or an abundance of goods and assistance available? Or is it an evolution, evolving in our thought process?

Jared Diamond: It's that we have the capability of keeping weak children alive. We have medical care, and we have food to keep them alive. Whereas in New Guinea, without obstetricians, without doctors, if a weak baby is born, it's just not going to be possible for the parents to raise it. It's not that they are impervious to it. One of my New Guinea friends lost one of his twin sons, and that really hit me because I had twins, 14 years later when he talked about it, he was still upset. He said that it still gets me that one of my twins died after two weeks. It's not that they are impervious, they have no other choice.

Richard Ruelas: The book is largely autobiographical in a way that you're talking about how the study affected you, not academically- well, there's a lot of academia on how it affects our lives. But there's a lot of how it affected you as a person. Are you a better man for it?

Jared Diamond: My enemy would say that I've become a worse man. But it is true that being in New Guinea has affected me. And one of my two reasons for writing the book, one reason is that traditional people are just so fascinating. The other thing is that many of the things they do are useful in our lives. The readers of my book also can learn about ways to raise their children and ways to treat old people and the value of learning multiple languages and thinking clearly about danger.

Richard Ruelas: And I guess you mentioned your enemies, and there have been critics who talked about the book, painting too broad a brush. If you're condensing thousands of years of civilization into a digestible book, there are going to be some broad brush strokes. Again, it does seem like there are some aspects of how it truly affected your life, raising children, diet, but this is deeply personal. Was it difficult to go from an academic standpoint to opening yourself up a bit?

Jared Diamond: No, it wasn't because this is my sixth book for the public. When I set out, my intention was to write an autobiographical account of my experiences in New Guinea. My editor said, Jared, your readers expect big books about the world, not a little autobiography. So the book morphed into traditional societies around the world. It's illustrated by my observations in New Guinea.

Richard Ruelas: Some of these aspects, you talk about our society and let's talk about WEIRD society. So what is the acronym for WEIRD?

Jared Diamond: Western Educated Industrial Rich Democratic, all the societies that we are used to, societies with state government. Israel, Argentina, they are WEIRD meaning western, educated, industrial, rich democratic, and WEIRD by world standards. They are very unusual by the standards of human history and by the standards of the small societies that filled the whole world until recently.

Richard Ruelas: Until yesterday, essentially. Are the feelings that exist in the tribal societies still within us? Or have we stomped them down with smartphones and televisions and all of our distractions?

Jared Diamond: Interesting question. The feelings, the feelings are still with us. So my first revelation, self-revelation in New Guinea was realizing these seemingly exotic people using stone tools, until shortly after I came out there, they are people who laugh and cry and get angry and they are scared under the same circumstances that I am. So emotionally they are similar to us. But they do different things. In some cases there are reasons in their surroundings, and in other cases it's a matter of culture. But basically there are thousands of different experiments on how to run a human society, and we can learn from them.

Richard Ruelas: And I guess with our society, the experiment we're still undergoing now, how would we decide to readopt some of our old habits, to put down our smartphones? Do we need to experience another culture? Is it within us or do we just need to hear that maybe life would be better if we put down the saltshaker and the cell phone.

Jared Diamond: The short answer is we can learn by reading my book. But briefly, we can learn by adopting some of these things ourselves, and other things require changes in all society. For example, there's a lot of salt in supermarket food. I can't do anything about that. My wife and I threw the saltshaker out of our kitchen. To change the amount of salt in supermarket food, that requires work from the government food manufactures like it happened in Finland and in other countries. It illustrates to learn from traditional society, partly we can do it ourselves, partly it's a change needed in the whole system.

Richard Ruelas: Appreciate you joining us. Thank you Jared

Jared Diamond: My pleasure.

Healthcare Website Issues

  |   Video
  • The website to enroll for insurance under the Affordable Care Act has been plagued with problems since its rollout. Ken Colburn of the Data Doctors will talk about the issues with the site.
  • Ken Colburn - Data Doctors
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: healthcare, website, affordable care act,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: The website to enroll for insurance under the Affordable Care Act has been plagued with problems since its rollout. Ken Colburn of the Data Doctors is here to talk about this issue. Have they called you at all?

Ken Colburn: No, I'm really low on that tech surge list.

Richard Ruelas: Did you foresee any of this? What are the problems one could imagine, with asking millions and millions of people to fill out an online form? What would you be looking for?

Ken Colburn: If only it was that easy. I don't think we have enough time to cover all of the mistakes and things that occurred. This is the most ambitious technology project the government has ever taken on. I don't think if you brought Google and Amazon and the smartest people in the room, if you had brought those people in from the beginning, I still think there are some major challenges because of the underlying issues with old systems they are trying to tap into.

Richard Ruelas: As opposed to starting an Amazon account, where maybe if you click the wrong button, you get a pair of headphones you don't want, this needs some pretty serious identity verification. It taps into some pretty heavy duty databases on the other end.

Ken Colburn: Correct. Not only are they big heavy-duty databases, they are really old. IRS and Social Security databases- It has to tap into all of these different databases simultaneously, and then come back and give you, you know, some information about your qualifications. It's a very, very complicated process. It's an amazing thing they are trying to do.

Richard Ruelas: So it needs to be this high-tech website built with today's technology, needs to be able to be, in essence, technologically dumbed down to speak to some of these Univac computers?

Ken Colburn: So the website we're all looking at isn't the problem. It's what happens behind the scenes. All the stuff we don't see, but it all ends up in this little tiny file format which is all gobbledy-gook. This file is sent to your insurance company as you're now enrolled in their system. That's another problem, there's a high error rate on this file that gets sent to the insurance companies, which could result in people not getting properly listed, not properly covered. You might have to fight with the insurance company saying I'm covered, no, you're not. That's a major concern right now is that at the end of all of this, they have kind of started to clear the pipes and they are getting people through. But if the data that's generated when you enroll is inaccurate - and when we say alarming numbers, 5%, 6%, 10%, those are huge numbers when you talk about seven million people trying register.

Richard Ruelas: Right, and I guess it’s one thing to have the government talking to its own computers. You're talking now about, are they requiring the insurance companies to have a sort of uniform platform?

Ken Colburn: It gets really technical and I have to be careful with how technical I get. But this 834 transaction standard is kind of a loose standard that they are not required to comply with until sometime in 2014. It's a really crazy mess. So right now, because the volume is so low, they are able to manually go through and rectify these bad data submissions before they put them into their actual insurance database. But some insurance experts are saying it's going to take the insurance industry a year to get this fixed where it's automated and working properly. There's a lot of complexity here.

Richard Ruelas: Could this have been foreseen and remedied? Or we needed to get it out there to see what the glitches and problems were?

Ken Colburn: That's generally not how it works. There’s a saying in the tech industry that you can't have nine women have a baby in a month. That's essentially what's going on here. People that don't understand technology have set parameters and guidelines; we will have this at this time.

Richard Ruelas: I know politics isn't your forte, but this became a political thing. We really don't want to move the date back, so once the date was set it might not have been a technically perfect date.

Ken Colburn: There's no way this was done by a technological standpoint. It could not be a perfect date. I'm not so interested in the political part of the battle. I'm interested in the technology and this very aggressive thing they are trying to do and the way they went about doing it. It’s like have you ever built a 200-story building? No. Let's go ahead and have you be the general contractor. The project was being led by people who really had no business doing that.

Richard Ruelas: Given more time, this could have been remedied. It did not have to be beta-tested.

Ken Colburn: It took Amazon 10 years before we could click and go around with these purchases and that was with one contracter. There are 55 contractors on this that all have a little piece of the puzzle. They are all saying, hey, I did my part. You put the pieces together and they don't fit. Security issue, issue after issue after issue. There's a lot of work to get this done by November 1st.

Richard Ruelas: We're manufacturing the car as it's rolling.

Ken Colburn: It's worse, we're flying the plane and trying to fix it.

Richard Ruelas: Ken Colburn, thanks for joining us, always illuminating.

New Apple Plant

  |   Video
  • Apple has chosen Mesa as the site of its newest manufacturing plant. The facility will create 700 quality jobs in its first year of operation and 1,300 construction jobs. Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business professor Arnie Maltz will discuss the impact of the new plant.
  • Arnie Maltz - Professor, Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: apple, manufacturing plant, mesa,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Richard Ruelas in for Ted Simons. Apple has picked Mesa as the site of its newest manufacturing plant. The facility will create 700 quality jobs in its first year of operation and 1,300 construction jobs. Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business professor Arnie Maltz is here to discuss the impact of the plant.

Arnie Maltz: My pleasure.

Richard Ruelas: What will this plant create?

Arnie Maltz: It's designed to grow more than anything else crystals, sapphire crystal that Apple will use for the covering of their button, the new fingerprint buttons, and for the covering for the camera on the iPhone 5.

Richard Ruelas: So growing, I’m imagining sort of a clean room.

Arnie Maltz: Oh yeah, all of those things. Which is one of the reasons this is a terrific fit, because of course the original use for that plant was going to be something similar.

Richard Ruelas: So what form, I mean, sapphire crystals that actually evolve and morph and become something solid?

Arnie Maltz: My guess is- I don't know all about that- it's going to be basically slabs and they will cut them to proper shapes.

Richard Ruelas: And they will use them to make the fingerprint sensor, not the glass screen?

Arnie Maltz: Apparently not the glass screen, but the sensor and the camera cover.

Richard Ruelas: What kind of jobs are these? How important are these jobs? Are these sort of the high-tech, high education quality jobs?

Arnie Maltz: They would be fairly high tech, comparable to what Intel does in their plants, very similar. My guess would be like that.

Richard Ruelas: What kind of training would someone need to get a job here?

Arnie Maltz: They’re going to need to be at least technically- how do I say it- comfortable. They will be working primarily with controlling and things like that. This is not hands on manufacturing, this is going to be one step away kinds of manufacturing that we're looking at here.

Richard Ruelas: Someone who's had- would you need a college degree, an engineering degree?

Arnie Maltz: I don't think you would necessarily need that, although that remains to be seen. You would need a good technical background, possibly at a community college, as I say, very comfortable around technology.

Richard Ruelas: Of course there’s going to be supervisory roles and what not?

Arnie Maltz: Of course. All of rest of that comes in through there.

Richard Ruelas: Apple is buying what was a vacant building essentially, that was supposed to create solar panels.

Arnie Maltz: Uh-huh.

Richard Ruelas: And I guess talk us through what the handoff is. What is Apple doing with the building, and what does the company expect it to do in return.

Arnie Maltz: What Apple has done- and it's very common with the large high-tech guys- is to buy, because they have the money, a building. They spent I think $115 million. They are then going to lease that building to A.G. Advanced Technologies. A.G. Advanced Technologies historically- and they have been around since about 1994- has built equipment to do the sapphire manufacturing, and they have handed it off to somebody else to actually do the manufacturing. That is a brand-new situation for A.G., it's now going to become a manufacturer of these things.

Richard Ruelas: Before A.G. would create the equipment.

Arnie Maltz: Right.

Richard Ruelas: That would produce these crystals, grow these crystals.

Arnie Maltz: And then hand that off to contract manufacturing people, any variety of people. Now what they are going to do is run it themselves. They are going to run that plant, hire the people, they are going to supervise the people.

Richard Ruelas: Presumably with the equipment.

Arnie Maltz: Yes. They have their own equipment.

Richard Ruelas: So they have a building and they’re going to stock it with equipment and they will bring in employees and figure out how to run this.

Arnie Maltz: Yes.

Richard Ruelas: Is there a big learning curve? Do you anticipate any problems with them transitioning into manufacturing?

Arnie Maltz: There may be. One of the nice things for A.G., Apple has handed them nearly $600 million to get them through the learning curve.

Richard Ruelas: It is a slight calculated gamble on Apple's part.

Arnie Maltz: Well I presume. I haven't talked to Apple directly, and sometimes they don't tell you anyway. But they are very interested in the technology. My guess is they are very interested in staying with this technology. They have not made buy guarantees with A.G., but they have told A.G., in return for this we expect you to have a certain amount of capacity at all times.

Richard Ruelas: So there's a chance if things don't go well Apple might not take what they are selling.

Arnie Maltz: It might now. But again, it's like Apple has prepaid. They are going to take this out in trade is what it amounts to.

Richard Ruelas: There is a lot of secrecy around this deal with governments having to sign confidentiality agreements. A, is that is normal, B, a good way of doing business to have governments be secret about business dealings?

Arnie Maltz: It's certainly normal, Apple doesn't operate any other way. Maybe that’s a little unfair, I haven’t checked all of their deals within the last 20 years. But Apple has a reputation for being careful.

Richard Ruelas: Normal for Apple or normal for high-tech companies?

Arnie Maltz: I guess I'm not sure about that. Intel may be a little more transparent. I don't think anybody wants their elbow joggled while they are trying to negotiate incentives. They are sensitive to everybody.

Richard Ruelas: I guess Apple is still- I guess you can discuss whether it merits this reputation, when Apple comes to town, people seem to change their ordinary course of business.

Arnie Maltz: Of course.

Richard Ruelas: Is that warranted? How big of a deal is it that Mesa gets an Apple related facility?

Arnie Maltz: It's a big deal because Apple is likely to attract other things just by reputation. This is an advanced technology company. These guys are operating state of the art stuff.

Richard Ruelas: If they like it here, if this factory works well, do we think they are still on the hunt to try to move more of their operations into the United States?

Arnie Maltz: That's hard to tell. They have already moved very high-end manufacturing- not manufacturing, but very high-end product into the Silicon Valley, because they are making the computer they are now selling for $3,000 they are making some of that in the U.S. It's hard to tell. My guess is, and I've said this before to other people, what's coming out of this plant may not go to U.S. manufacturing. It may go to Mexico where Apple has a major lead manufacturer down there, over near El Paso. Or it may go back to Asia.

Richard Ruelas: I guess if more goes to Mexico for the actual manufacturing of it, the fact that we're here, and if they have established a base, that might be good news down the road.

Arnie Maltz: Very much good news, no question about it.

Richard Ruelas: I appreciate you joining us and trying to make some sense of what this deal means for the state. Thanks for coming down.

Arnie Maltz: Thank you very much, appreciate it.