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半导体行业:洗牌12009-04-11[2009.04.02]Under new managemen 半导体行业处于洗牌中
The semiconductor industry

Under new management
Apr 2nd 2009 | DRESDEN
From The Economist print edition

Chipmakers were suffering even before the global economic downturn. Recession is heightening the pain and highlighting changes in structure and ownership

MOST tourists come to Dresden to view the city’s architectural wonders. Beautifully rebuilt, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), for instance, reveals no hint that its huge cupola once crumbled after a rain of British bombs. But the capital of the German state of Saxony also has more contemporary attractions—at least for technically inclined travellers. It is the hub of one of Europe’s biggest technology clusters. Silicon Saxony, as the region has come to be called, boasts 1,500 high-tech firms employing 43,000 people, most of them in the semiconductor industry.

大多数游客来到德累斯顿(Dresden),是为了观赏城市中的建筑奇迹。譬如,Frauenkirche (圣母教堂),它在战后被完美的重建了,以至于没有留下巨大圆顶阁楼曾被英军的狂轰滥炸摧毁过的蛛丝马迹。但是德国萨克森州的首府[即德累斯顿]也同样不乏当代的名胜——至少对于爱好技术的游客们来说如此。事实上,它是欧洲最大科学技术密集区的枢纽—1500高科技企业以及他们的43000员工聚集此处,其中大多数从事半导体行业,也因此,德累斯顿被尊称为硅-萨克森(Silicon Saxony)。

Yet industrial tourists had better hurry. Recently Silicon Saxony has taken some hits that have weakened its foundations. On April 1st Qimonda, a maker of memory chips and the cluster’s largest employer, mothballed its factory, having been forced into insolvency earlier this year. Its last hope is to be bought by an outside investor lured by money from the Saxon government. Inspur, a Chinese computer-maker, is among those expressing interest in Qimonda, which has developed some cutting-edge technology.


At Dresden’s other big “fab”, as chip-fabrication plants are called, is an indicator of another change that may prove just as damaging. There is a new logo at the entrance: visitors are no longer welcomed to AMD but to Globalfoundries. AMD, a maker of microprocessors for personal computers (PCs), decided last year to spin off its fabs into a separate company and to sell a majority stake to investment funds controlled by the government of Abu Dhabi. A good deal of production, some fret, may eventually move from Dresden to the Gulf.

在德累斯顿的另外一个被称为芯片制造工厂的大晶圆厂则表现了一种纯粹破坏性的的改变。在它的入口处有一个新LOGO:欢迎客户来到环球晶圆代工(Globalfoundries)而不是AMD。个人PC微处理器制造商AMD去年决定把晶圆厂分拆到单独的公司,并把多数股份卖给阿布扎比(Abu Dhabi)政府把持的投资基金。有些人担心大量的生产可能将最终从德累斯顿转移到海湾地区。

The likely death of Qimonda and the birth of Globalfoundries* have turned Silicon Saxony into an industrial showcase of a very different kind. It is a visible token of how hard recession around the world has hit the semiconductor industry, which had already been weakened by one of its periodic downturns. Just as important, it demonstrates the longer-term upheavals in the industry. The semiconductor business is becoming less vertically integrated and more concentrated. And its centre of gravity is shifting eastwards.


Despite a few signs that the worst may be over—Asian chipmakers’ share prices soared recently after shortages were predicted—the industry is still in the midst of the longest slump in its 50-year history. If market researchers are right, it will shrink again in 2009 before resuming growth in 2010. iSuppli, one such forecaster, thinks that revenues will fall by more than 20% this year, to $205 billion (see chart 1). Other observers have been making similarly gloomy predictions.


To understand why the semiconductor industry has been so pummelled, think of integrated circuits (ie, chips) not as tiny pieces of silicon engraved with millions of transistors, but as an essential resource. Before long every man-made object will come with at least one embedded microchip (see chart 2). Jerry Sanders, AMD’s founder, once called chips “the crude oil of industry”. This seems apt: integrated circuits have become the grease of the information economy. The flip side is that chipmakers have come to depend increasingly on the health of the rest of the economy.

为了解半导体行业为何受到如此沉重打击,应想到集成电路(即芯片)并不仅仅是用成百万晶体管雕刻的小硅片,而更是一种基础资源。不久之后,任何人造物都将被植入至少一个微芯片(见图二)。AMD创始人杰里?桑德斯[2](Jerry Sanders)曾经称芯片为“工业的原油”。这似乎容易想到:集成电路已经变成信息经济的润滑剂。另一面,芯片制造商也日益依赖于其它经济方面的健康状态。

The chip cycle
However, the industry’s own economics are also to blame. Even without the world’s wider troubles, these would have caused problems. In explaining how, Dan Hutcheson, chief executive of VLSI Research, a consultancy, likens semiconductor manufacturing to a different industry: farming. Investment decisions have to be made long before products can be sold. Chip farmers have to spend billions and wait years before they can start etching circuits onto “wafers”, those thin disks of semiconductor material, the size of pizzas, which are sliced into hundreds of chips at the end of the production process.

然而,行业自身的经济情况也应受到指责,即使没有全球性的危机,这也会导致问题产生。为了解释这个问题,作为顾问的VLSI总裁Dan Hutcheson把半导体制造业比作另一个行业—农业。远在产品能销售之前,投资决定已经做出。芯片农夫不得不花数十亿美元并等待数年直到能开始在晶圆片上雕刻电路。晶圆是由半导体材料制成的披萨饼尺寸超薄原片,在生产流程的最后阶段被切割成成百的芯片。

This goes a long way towards explaining why chipmakers, like farmers, have a tendency to oversupply the market, particularly if they sell memory chips, an undifferentiated product (like winter wheat). Even if prices fall below costs, they have an interest in keeping their fabs humming, in order not to lose their heavy upfront investment and to recover the variable costs. What is more, they are caught on a “technology treadmill”, in the words of Mr Hutcheson. Competition forces them always to employ the latest technology, which both increases output and puts pressure on prices.


Finally, just as in agriculture, governments further fuel this innate tendency to oversupply. In prestige, national security, industrial policy or just a desire to create jobs, politicians have always found a reason to support their semiconductor industries, mostly with cash. Silicon Saxony, for instance, has received more than euro1.5 billion (nearly $2 billion at today’s exchange rate) from the state of Saxony alone, much of it to coax AMD into investing.


Asian governments have been the most active. Thanks to Taiwan’s industrial policy, more than half of the world’s chips are now made there. Support from the South Korean government made Samsung and Hynix the world’s biggest makers of memory chips; they supply about 50% of this segment. China seems intent on turning its semiconductor companies into market leaders at almost any price, above all Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, or SMIC. All this explains why of the 40 fabs under construction in 2007, 35 were in Asia, three in America and only two in Europe.


Not surprisingly, at times supply far outstrips demand. From 2002 until last year Asian makers of memory chips, especially, invested as if capital were free—which explains why everybody is now bleeding money. In July 2007 the price of a DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chip with a capacity of 512 megabits was more than $2. In early April it was about 50 cents. Smaller makers cannot cope. Qimonda, for instance, piled up losses of about euro1.5 billion between October 2007 and June 2008. Its revenues were only euro1.3 billion.

不必惊讶,有时供给远大于需求。从2002年到去年,尤其是亚洲内存芯片制造商,好似不要钱般的投资,这也解释了为什么现今每个人都大赔特赔。2007年 7月512MB的DRAM(动态随机存取存储器)芯片的价格超过两美元,今年4月早些降至50美分。小型制造厂商无法应对,例如奇梦达,它在2007年 10月到2008年7月之间累积了15亿欧元的亏损,而他的收入仅为13亿欧元。

Given the scale of the losses and the screaming from other industries, governments look less inclined to help this time. Even Taiwan is having second thoughts about an ambitious plan to save its memory-chip industry, announced only last month. The idea is to merge and bail out the country’s six makers of memory chips, which have lost $12.5 billion in the past two years and accumulated $11 billion in debts.


Even if Taiwan were to let these firms fail, which is highly unlikely, supply would still exceed demand, according to iSuppli. Global sales of memory chips will not start growing again before next year. And growth will not reattain its 2006 rate before 2015.


Whatever happens to Qimonda and its Taiwanese rivals, the current crisis is sure to speed up two seemingly contradictory long-term trends in the industry. It is consolidating, in that the manufacture of chips is becoming concentrated among fewer companies. At the same time, it is splitting up, in that more companies are specialising in design, and contracting out or quitting the making of chips. Both developments are mainly the consequence of what has come to be called “Moore’s Second Law”, an economic counterpart to a better known observation by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker by revenue.

无论在奇梦达和它的台湾对手身上发生了什么,当前的危机必然会加速该行业这两个看似矛盾的长期趋势。趋势之一是半导体行业的整合—芯片制造集中到少数的企业。同时,另一个趋势是行业的分化,更多企业专注于设计,外包或退出芯片制造业务。这两种趋势主要都是人们所说的“摩尔第二定律”的结果,该定律是戈登 ?摩尔提出的另一更著名论断在经济学上的应用。这是Intel的创始人之一戈登?摩尔[3](Gordon Moore)提出的一个著名经济学论断,就收入而言,Intel是世界上最大的芯片制造商。(这里说的另一更著名的论断便是“摩尔定律”——在价格恒定的情况下,集成电路上可容纳的晶体管数目,约每隔18个月便会增加一倍,性能也将提升一倍;或者说,每一美元所能买到的电脑性能,将每隔18个月翻两倍以上。)

The original Moore’s Law is usually summarised thus: the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months. In fact Mr Moore first predicted this would happen every year and later changed his forecast to every two years; the average has become his law. Mr Hutcheson points out that Mr Moore made more than a purely technical prediction. He also stated that the cost of an integrated circuit would stay the same, a halving of the cost per transistor with every doubling of the number.


This has turned out to be essentially correct, but progress has come at a high price. The ever more sophisticated equipment required to make semiconductors has been getting dearer with every iteration of Moore’s Law. The most advanced chips are built using 32-nanometre technology, meaning that transistors are now so tiny that more than 4m can fit on this full stop. Lithographic tools for transferring Lilliputian circuitry onto a wafer cost up to $50m a pop. To reach the economies of scale needed to make such investments pay, chipmakers must build bigger fabs.


Rising fixed costs give rise to Moore’s Second Law: as the cost of transistors comes down, the cost of fabs goes up, albeit not at quite the same rate. In 1966 a new fab cost $14m. By 1995 the price had risen to $1.5 billion. Today, says Intel, the cost of a leading-edge fab exceeds $6 billion, including all the preparatory work. And the Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has built two “GigaFabs” for between $8 billion and $10 billion each, which would buy you four nuclear power stations. The output of such monsters depends on the mix of products, but they each could easily churn out 3 billion chips a year.


These ever-increasing costs and the need for specialisation have caused the industry to splinter, says Derek Lidow, iSuppli’s chief executive. Originally, all chipmakers were vertically integrated, meaning they designed the chip, built the tools to make them, ran the fabs and added the necessary connectors. As costs went up and certain activities became more and more complex, they were spun out to spread expenses and know-how. Semiconductor equipment, design software and packaging have long been done by separate companies. But the past ten years have seen the rise of “fabless” firms, which merely design integrated circuits.

iSuppli总裁Derek Lidow指出,这些成本的不断增加和对专业化的需求已经导致整个行业开始分化。最初,所有的芯片制造者呈纵向一体化,意味着他们自己设计芯片,制造制作工具,建设晶圆厂以及添加必要的中间环节。随着成本的增加和相关活动的复杂化,他们开始分化以分摊开支和工艺流程。半导体设备、设计软件程序包已长期分别由单独的公司来完成。过去的十年里已经出现了许多“无生产线”公司,他们仅仅设计集成电路。

Now established chipmakers can no longer afford to develop their own manufacturing processes or even to run their own fabs. To share the pain, IBM, Samsung and others have teamed up to use chipmaking technology jointly. Some firms, such as Texas Instruments, have chosen to go “fab-lite”, meaning that they have their own fabs only for certain chips. Others, such as AMD, have spun off manufacturing completely (although AMD’s decision had much to do with a lack of cash after it bought ATI, a maker of graphics chips, for $5.4 billion in 2006).

现在已建立的芯片制造商再也不能发展自己的生产工艺或者运行他们自己的晶圆厂。为了分担痛楚,IBM、三星和其它公司已经联合起来共同使用芯片制造技术。一些公司,例如德州仪器(Texas Instruments),已经选择走“轻晶圆厂”道路,也就是说,他们有自己的只生产特定芯片的晶圆厂。其它的,例如AMD,它已经把制造完全的分割了出去(虽然AMD的决定在很大程度上是因为在2006年以54亿美元的价格收购了图形芯片制造商ATI后缺乏资金)。

Hence the rise of “foundries”, the smelters of the information age. These are essentially contract manufacturers. Although far from household names, they are huge companies, churning out about one quarter of the world’s semiconductors. The biggest, TSMC, has a manufacturing capacity greater even than Intel’s. Its revenues grew at an annual average rate of 13% for several years, topping $10.6 billion, before falling by almost a third in the last quarter of 2008.


TSMC also illustrates a corollary of Moore’s Second Law: even the biggest chipmakers must keep expanding. Intel today accounts for 82% of global microprocessor revenue and has annual revenues of $37.6 billion because it understood this long ago. In the early 1980s, when Intel was a $700m company—pretty big for the time—Andy Grove, once Intel’s boss, notorious for his paranoia, was not satisfied. “He would run around and tell everybody that we have to get to $1 billion,” recalls Andy Bryant, the firm’s chief administrative officer. “He knew that you had to have a certain size to stay in business.”

台积电还表明了摩尔第二定律的必然结果:即使最大的芯片制造商也必须保持扩张。Intel之所以现今占据全球微处理器销售收入的82%,年收入达到376亿美元,就是因为它早已懂得了这个道理。早在20世纪80年代,Intel的市值为7亿美元,这在当时已相当庞大了。而当时的因偏执而声名狼藉的老总Andy Grove并不满意。“他总是东奔西跑并告诉每一个人我们应当达到10亿美元,” 该公司的首席行政长官Andy Bryant回忆道。“他知道,你必须有一定的规模来维持生意。”

发表于21:58 | 阅读全文 | 评论 1 | 编辑 | 分享 0日本银行:资本问题2009-04-10[2009.04.06] Japanese banks 日本银行的资本事件
Japanese banks

A capital affair 日本银行的资本事件

Apr 8th 2009 | TOKYO
From The Economist print edition

The investments of Japanese banks in other firms create a vicious circle


IN A country where social relations are paramount, Japanese banks are so loyal to their customers that they hold shares in them. That loyalty has been tested for almost 20 years whenever the stockmarket lurches lower. But still the banks cling on to their shares, carrying around ¥10 trillion-worth ($100 billion) on their books.


The trouble is, the further the market falls, the more banks have to write down the asset values on their balance-sheets, which increases their losses. It also shrinks the tier-one capital that they hold as a cushion against further losses, constraining their ability to lend.


The country’s three “megabanks”—Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Mizuho and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG)—are particularly vulnerable. Their shareholdings as a percentage of tier-one capital range from just below 50% to above 60% (see chart). The trio are expected to post losses this year.

日本三大“超级银行”——三菱日联金融集团(Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group)、瑞穗金融集团(Mizuho Financial Group)和三井住友金融集团(Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group)——尤为岌岌可危。他们所持股权占一级资本的百分比由50%以下变动至60%以上(见表)。预计三大行今年将亏损。

But in Japan, even the titans find it hard to break with tradition, especially one that dates back to the Meiji era in the late 1800s when Japan began to industrialise. Capital was scarce and banks felt they had a role to support national industry; taking a stake in a borrower showed that their fates were united. Moreover, most banks were linked to companies within corporate families, called zaibatsu. That smoothed trade within and outside the groups.


After the second world war, huge conglomerates were forbidden and replaced by the keiretsu, a network of individual companies working together. Cross-shareholdings remained routine.


For most of the postwar period, the arrangement was highly lucrative. As share prices soared, balance-sheets swelled. This in turn pushed share prices higher. But after the bubble burst in 1990, it took a decade for regulators to begin forcing banks to reduce their shareholdings. In 2002 the government capped the ratio of equities to tier-one capital at 100%, which marked the beginning of the reduction (with the state itself as a buyer). Now, as then, requiring banks to dump their shareholdings altogether—however laudable—would run the risk of turning a bear market into a rout.


Although today shareholdings remain huge compared with bank capital, the ratio is a third of the 150% of a decade ago. And although Japanese banks own 5% of the value of the country’s stockmarket, this too is far below the 20% they owned in 1985. So however troubling the problems remain, the banks can at least point to improvement.


Japanese banks must deduct a percentage of certain unrealised losses from their shareholdings from their tier-one capital. According to UBS, every 10% drop in the Nikkei 225 Stock Average requires banks to raise from ¥13 billion to ¥190 billion apiece to replenish their tier-one ratios to around 7.5%. That would still be below 8%, the level considered safe in the current climate.


Raising funds is painful. In February Mizuho said it would issue ¥80 billion in preferred securities to rebuild its capital, but pay an annual fixed coupon of almost 15%—a cost it almost certainly cannot cover from its earnings. More recently it declined to redeem a $1.5 billion security at the first possible date, underscoring its need to preserve capital.


In recent weeks, the government has offered to inject capital into the banks and has set aside ¥20 trillion to buy many of the wilting shares from them. That would enable the banks to strengthen their balance-sheets further, preserve capital and keep on lending. But most banks have resisted: relying on the state would suggest they are in trouble. And selling would require them to crystallise the losses rather than let hope—that one day the stockmarket may miraculously recover—spring eternal. In the season of cherry blossoms, hope is all they have.


发表于10:52 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 编辑 | 分享 0鲜花销售:鲜花花束销售排行榜2009-04-09[2009.04.09]Flower sales:Bloom and bust 鲜花销售:几家欢喜几家愁
Flower sales 鲜花销售

Bloom and bust 几家欢喜几家愁

Apr 9th 2009
From Economist.com

Roses rose and Tulips blossomed but flower sales are wilting overall 玫瑰商喜上眉梢,郁金香销售也俏,但整体花市愁云笼罩。

ROSES were the bestselling cut flower last year, according to the Flower Council of Holland, an industry group based in The Netherlands, the world’s largest exporter of flowers and plants. Sales of roses were a blooming EURO802m ($1.2 billion), although that is a meagre increase of 0.9% from 2007. Sales of tulips, third on the list, grew by 9.2% to EURO223m. But total cut-flower sales withered by 2.9% to EURO2.48 billion. The Netherlands devoted 2,809 hectares to horticulture in 2008, supplying over half of the flowers sold at its auctions. Over 3.7 billion imported stems, mainly from Kenya, Israel and Ethiopia, make up the rest. Most exports—EURO871m of cut flowers—went to Germany. Britain and France followed, demanding vasefuls worth EURO604m and EURO446m respectively.


下列鲜花分别为:玫瑰 小菊 郁金香 百合花 非洲菊 大菊 小苍兰 火鹤花 孤挺花

发表于21:55 | 阅读全文 | 评论 1 | 编辑 | 分享 0印度选举:一场闹剧2009-04-05[2009.04.16] India's jumbo election 印度大选

Democracy in India

India's jumbo election

Apr 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition

The worst possible way of choosing an Indian government—apart from all the others

LIKE a lumbering elephant embarking on an epic trek, India’s general election got under way this week (see article). That it keeps going is something of a miracle. The scale is mind-boggling. It will be spread over five stages, taking four weeks and involving 6.5m staff. In 543 constituencies, 4,617 candidates, representing some 300 parties, will compete for the ballots of an electorate of 714m eligible voters. In 828,804 polling stations, 1,368,430 simple, robust and apparently tamper-proof electronic voting machines will be deployed. It is hard not to be impressed by the process—and its resilience.

就像一只笨重的大象跋涉在史诗般的旅途中,印度大选这周开始了(详情请看全文)。大选能进行简直可以说是个奇迹。选举规模之大令人难以置信。大选将历经5 个阶段,历时4周并将有650万工作人员参与其中。在543个选区中共有4617名候选人代表约300个政党来竞争7亿1400万合法选民手中的投票。 828,804个投票站里将有1,368,430个简单,耐用而又明显能防篡改的电子投票器投入使用。选举的过程及其所体现出的不折不挠的精神让人影响颇为深刻。

A poor, diverse country of more than 30 main languages and six main religions, India also has, in the Hindu caste system, a tradition of hierarchy seemingly at odds with a system of universal suffrage. The country suffers security threats that would provide many a government with the excuse to suspend elections. Kashmir has been riven by insurgency for more than two decades; parts of the north-east for even longer. Maoist revolutionaries-cum-bandits stoke another fire in India’s interior and staged attacks as polling began this week. Yet, apart from the brief months of the “emergency” in 1975, India has never curtailed its people’s right to choose their rulers. And now, more than ever, that right is to be prized.


Singh if you’re glad to be grey

The election comes amid the deepest global economic slump for two generations. India faces difficult choices as it seeks to escape the worst of the downturn. Voters have a chance to judge five years of government by a coalition led by the Congress party and its elderly prime minister, Manmohan Singh. It has presided over an unprecedented economic boom, and has continued the course of cautious liberalization and globalization followed by its predecessors. It has succeeded in raising India’s international standing and, with its controversial agreement on civil nuclear co-operation with America, has accomplished an important strategic tilt.


Yet Mr Singh’s government has made scant progress towards one of the main goals it set itself in 2004. This was to reform India’s creaking, corrupt administrative structures so that policies formulated in Delhi might actually be implemented in the villages where most Indians still live. Partly because of that failure, and despite sharp falls in the poverty rate, appalling numbers of Indians are still desperately poor. One quarter of the world’s malnourished live in India, among them 40% of all Indian children under five. To Mr Singh’s credit, it is the plight of the poorest, not India’s GDP growth-figures, that is usually the starting-point for his policy speeches. This is also shrewd: the poor do not care about his achievements as a diplomat and globaliser, which scarcely impinge on their lives.


As in other countries, elections in India tend not to be dominated by grand national issues. And, as elsewhere, an Indian election may look splendid from a distance, but up close can be ugly. Campaigns are dominated by personalities, money and, in some places, intimidation. Many candidates seek votes through beggar-thy-neighbor appeals to the self-interest of a particular linguistic, caste or religious group.


Even in such an unpredictable contest, two outcomes are sadly fairly safe bets. First, parliament will have to make room for a lot of shady characters. Nearly a quarter of the current members have faced criminal charges. Nor are their alleged offences all petty. They include murder, rapes and kidnaps.


Second, the resulting national government will be a coalition, its policies held hostage by its smaller members. The secular trend in Indian politics is the gradual decline of the only truly “national” parties, Congress and the main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In 2004 the two combined won less than half (49%) of the votes. On the rise is a legion of regional and caste-based parties that do not even pretend to be guided by the national interest.


In part, the big parties can blame themselves for this. Congress, despite able technocrats, like Mr Singh, remains an antiquated dynastic machine. The prime ministership was bestowed on Mr Singh by Sonia Gandhi, the party’s Italian-born leader. He seems to be keeping the seat warm for her son, Rahul, a pleasant-seeming but unconvincing chap apparently destined to represent the fifth generation of his family to lead Congress. Nor is the economically liberal Mr Singh a typical Congress-man. Much of the party is still nostalgic for the Nehruvian socialism that for so long impeded India’s growth.


In power, the BJP also had a creditable record of economic management. But it has not escaped its origins as the political wing of the Hindutva, or “Hindu-ness” movement. That has an extremist fringe that has at times been guilty of terrible violence against India’s large Muslim minority and smaller Christian one, who may never trust BJP rule.


Better than the alternative

For this reason, The Economist, if it had a vote, would plump for Mr Singh’s Congress. But in reality, the choice between the two big parties is not the one on offer. In India the poor, proportionately, are more likely to vote than are the middle classes. It often makes sense for them to back regional parties campaigning on local issues: they are more likely to fulfill their promises. But it does make for hopelessly unwieldy governing coalitions. One solution would be to introduce national thresholds below which parties would be ineligible for seats in parliament. But reform would need the approval of those elected under present arrangements, so it is not on the cards.


Before yielding to despair over the intractability of political reform in India, it is worth considering the outcomes of recent elections. Since launching liberalising economic reform in 1991, India has had a succession of governments that have frustrated with their timidity, but have broadly kept the economy on track and avoided dangerous policy lurches—the BJP, to forge a coalition, had to ditch its core Hindutva demands, for example. Undemocratic governments might have been bolder, quicker and more efficient. But they might have been a whole lot worse, and certainly a whole lot harder to replace. Let the elephant lumber on.


发表于21:49 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 编辑 | 分享 0药物数字化:医药行业拥抱IT2009-04-04[2009.04.16] Medicine goes digital 药物数字化进程
A special report on health care and technology


Medicine goes digital


Apr 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition

The convergence of biology and engineering is turning health care into an information industry. That will be disruptive, says Vijay Vaitheeswaran (interviewed here), but also hugely beneficial to patients

生物学和工程学的融合使得医疗保健成为了信息产业。Vijay Vaitheesearan表示,这会引起混乱,但同时病人会大为受益。

INNOVATION and medicine go together. The ancient Egyptians are thought to have performed surgery back in 2750BC, and the Romans developed medical tools such as forceps and surgical needles. In modern times medicine has been transformed by waves of discovery that have brought marvels like antibiotics, vaccines and heart stents.


Given its history of innovation, the health-care sector has been surprisingly reluctant to embrace information technology (IT). Whereas every other big industry has computerised with gusto since the 1980s, doctors in most parts of the world still work mainly with pen and paper.

考虑到创新的历史,医疗保健行业迟迟没有拥抱信息技术(IT),这是颇为令人吃惊的。自从19世纪80年代,其他大型的产业都兴致勃勃地接受电脑化进程,而世界大多数地区的医生仍旧是与笔和纸打交道。But now, in fits and starts, medicine is at long last catching up. As this special report will explain, it is likely to be transformed by the introduction of electronic health records that can be turned into searchable medical databases, providing a “smart grid” for medicine that will not only improve clinical practice but also help to revive drugs research. Developing countries are already using mobile phones to put a doctor into patients’ pockets. Devices and diagnostics are also going digital, advancing such long-heralded ideas as telemedicine, personal medical devices for the home and smart pills.


The first technological revolution in modern biology started when James Watson and Francis Crick described the structure of DNA half a century ago. That established the fields of molecular and cell biology, the basis of the biotechnology industry. The sequencing of the human genome nearly a decade ago set off a second revolution which has started to illuminate the origins of diseases.

现代生物学的第一次技术革命始于在半个世纪前,James Watson和Francis Crick成功描述了DNA的结构。这一举动建立了分子细胞生物学,也奠定了生物技术行业的基础。大约10年前的人类基因组排序引发了第二次革命,这一举动为人类探寻疾病的根源指明了道路。

The great convergence 伟大的融合

Now the industry is convinced that a third revolution is under way: the convergence of biology and engineering. A recent report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that physical sciences have already been transformed by their adoption of information technology, advanced materials, imaging, nanotechnology and sophisticated modelling and simulation. Phillip Sharp, a Nobel prize-winner at that university, believes that those tools are about to be brought to bear on biology too.

现在,该行业相信第三次革命即将来临:生物学和工程学的融合。MIT最近的一项报告显示,信息技术,先进材料,成像技术,纳米技术和建模仿真技术的运用已经推进了自然科学的改变。MIT的一名诺贝尔获得者Phillip Sharp 相信,这些工具将会运用到生物学,并对其产生影响。

Robert Langer, a biochemist at MIT who holds over 500 patents in biotechnology and medical technologies and has started or advised more than 100 new companies, thinks innovation in medical technologies is about to take off. Menno Prins of Philips, a Dutch multinational with a big medical-technology division, explains that, “like chemistry before it, biology is moving from a world of alchemy and ignorance to becoming a predictable, repeatable science.” Ajay Royyuru of IBM, an IT giant, argues that “it’s the transformation of biology into an information science from a discovery science.”

MIT的生化学家Robert Langer掌握着500多项生物技术和医疗技术的专利。作为众多公司的创建者和作为其它公司的顾问,他服务于100多家新兴公司。他认为,医疗技术的创新将会迎来腾飞。Menno Prins of Philips是一家荷兰跨国公司,拥有大型医疗技术分支机构。该公司解释到,“就像以前的化学,生物走出了一个充满炼金术和无知的世界,成为一个可预测,可重复的科学。” IT巨头IBM公司的Ajay Royyuru表示,“生物学从一个探索发现科学发展成为了一门信息科学。”

This special report will ask how much of this grand vision is likely to become reality. Some of the industry’s optimism appears to be well-founded. As the rich world gets older and sicker and the poor world gets wealthier and fatter, the market for medical innovations of all kinds is bound to grow. Clever technology can help solve two big problems in health care: overspending in the rich world and under-provisioning in the poor world.


But the chances are that this will take time, and turn out to be more of a reformation than a revolution. The hidebound health-care systems of the rich world may resist new technologies even as poor countries leapfrog ahead. There is already a backlash against genomics, which has been oversold to consumers as a deterministic science. And given soaring health-care costs, insurers and health systems may not want to adopt new technologies unless inventors can show conclusively that they will produce better outcomes and offer value for money.


If these obstacles can be overcome, then the biggest winner will be the patient. In the past medicine has taken a paternalistic stance, with the all-knowing physician dispensing wisdom from on high, but that is becoming increasingly untenable. Digitisation promises to connect doctors not only to everything they need to know about their patients but also to other doctors who have treated similar disorders.


The coming convergence of biology and engineering will be led by information technologies, which in medicine means the digitisation of medical records and the establishment of an intelligent network for sharing those records. That essential reform will enable many other big technological changes to be introduced.


Just as important, it can make that information available to the patients too, empowering them to play a bigger part in managing their own health affairs. This is controversial, and with good reason. Many doctors, and some patients, reckon they lack the knowledge to make informed decisions. But patients actually know a great deal about many diseases, especially chronic ones like diabetes and heart problems with which they often live for many years. The best way to deal with those is for individuals to take more responsibility for their own health and prevent problems before they require costly hospital visits. That means putting electronic health records directly into patients’ hands.


发表于21:44 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 编辑 | 分享 0

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