Category Archives: future

Go Figure! My Data Just Had a Baby!

You might call it baby data, or “active analytics”.

The point is that data is the oil of the 21st century. Like oil, data is only valuable if it is use. In the case of data, the use means connecting it with other data. That produces new data. Boy data meets girl data, and you get baby data … who grows up in a nanosecond.

We are just getting used to this idea. So, for example, when you send an email out, four or five days later, Gmail asks you if you want to follow up. My point — as our understanding of how to use data grows, we wills start creating and using data in new and more creative ways.

The future, in other words, will not just be more Google. More Facebook. More Apple. We will see some surprises, thank the Lo!

George Freidman on China

Yes, I do have a bit of a fixation on the future of China. I posted a few days ago on its politics and economics. Here George Friedman talks about its geopolitical status. Very interesting!

What Will the World Look Like in 100 Years?

Tough question. To see how tough, imagine if the year were 1900, and you were wondering what the world was going to look like in the year 2000. Would you have imagined the  two world wars,  and  fall of the European Empires? Would you have foreseen te revolution in transport and lifestyle? The rise of technology and innovation? Probably not.

BTW. from images created around 1900 about the future, most underestimated how culture and lifestyle would change (future people would sill dress like they did in 1900) and overestimated how much technology would change (living under the oceans and in the air?)

So if we ask what the world will look like in 2119, we can  be confident in only 2 things. It is not going to look like it does now. Culture is likely to keep changing radically. And any predictions we make about how it will change are likely to be off by a mile. We probably over-estimate what tech will do to change us.

Having said that, some of us are more competent to make these predictions than others. And George Friedman is one of those more competent dudes. He has a sort of smug way of talking, which can be off putting. But when you listen to what he is saying,you have to admit that it is logical George has written a book about the next hundred years, and in this interview he answers questions about his predictions. I found his prediction about space based solar energy generation to be pretty interesting. Enjoy!

Melissa Gates Has Some Good News

Here it is

“The poorest parts of the world not only became less poor, they also became much, much healthier,” Melinda told reporters on the call.

She highlighted some impressive stats: the number of kids who die in infancy and toddlerhood has been slashed. Nearly all of those gains are the result of better overall health, fewer polio infections, and more vaccines being delivered around the world.

It does not mean that all is perfect. To the contrary, according to Gates, there is a risk of backsliding.

But if we are thinking about next steps — it surely is to start educating women in Africa. As Jeff Sachs points out, Africa has seen a population explosion which is part of the cause of African problems, including migrations out. Educated women tend to have better lives and fewer kids.

Will this happen? Stay tuned!

The Demise of Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley has become an amazing brand. Everyone who is anyone in the tech world either has offices there or visits there. The places is loaded with heavy hitters. It has seen so much success, you get weird stuff like a $25 cup of coffee at conventions.

But … that is not a guarantee of ongoing success. What could go wrong? Simple. Silicon Valley succeeds in one main area — software based enterprise development. It has a wonderful model to turn software based ideas into profit making firms. And as the computer capacity has grown steadily over the years, one could do more and more with software. But what if we are reaching the end of the road on growing computer capacity? What if Moore’s Law no longer applies?

That appears to be happening. It is getting harder and harder to squeeze more good stuff on chips. And if the future is not in ever faster computing, we may need to re-think our business models. Translation: the business model that Silicon Valley has used needs to adjust.

Silicon Valley folks may realize this and adapt. And they may not. That will be one of the more interesting stories of the 2020’s. But for the rest of us, it poses some interesting new possibilities. Why? Because the preferred mode of doing business in this new era is based on collaboration. And if we can figure out that business model, we can play ball with the big boys in the tech world.

Stay tuned!

Is this China’s Century? I Don’t Think So

Being an older sort of gent, I have the benefit of experience. And one of the experiences that I had is highly relevant to thinking about world affairs today.

My experience was to listen to great and wise men pontificating back in the 1980’s that Japan would soon surpass the US in economic prosperity. The US was doomed to be a second rate power compared to the Japanese.  Lots of folks were preaching this, and this video by  science historian James Burke gives you a rather extreme view of how clever the Japanese were supposed to be.

It was all rather depressing. Wasn’t there something we could do in the US to stave off our imminent demise?  Apparently not.

The funny thing is that the demise didn’t happen. It still may happen, but more than thirty years alter, Japan looks less threatening. Why were the great thinkers so wrong?

The answer is rather simple. The great thinkers saw Japanese economic growth and said “Aha! The US could not grow so fast! Ergo, Japan was superior to the US.!” And it was true that the Japanese economy was growing faster than that of the US. Japanese companies were also gaining market share at alarming rates. The problem, however, is that a spurt of economic growth based on gaining market share may or may not be sustainable. It is not sustainable when the growth is caused by transactions that do not lead to profit. In that sad case, the more you grow (because you do more deals), the deeper in debt you go. And that is what happened to Japan.  And at a certain point, the party was over. Japan had to deal with a collapsing banking sector, from which it still has not fully recovered.

Oops!

This is highly relevant today We hear the same sort of chit chat about Chinese growth. It is amazing! It is unstoppable! It will make China the greatest power on earth! Except that it might not. It certainly will not if the transactions driving Chinese growth are not generating profits. And, as far as I can tell, they are not.

Yikes!

What does this mean? It means that China is more likely to follow the Japanese model as it pursues the same path. It will reach a certain point when it cannot sustain the debts that it is racking up, and that will produce an economic crisis in the banking sector, where the Chinese have to adjust to slower growth.  That will not mean a complete collapse. But it will mean a reality check to the ambitions of those in power who thought they had figured everything out.

And bw, , at that moment, we will see that the Japanese economy is in fact far more prosperous per capita than its neighbors — including China. Japan will re-emerge as an Asian power. And the great and wise thinkers in the west will say, “no one could have predicted that! Japan has had an amazing resurgence!”

Except that this is most likely what will happen.

And the US? Aside from access to huge resources, and a vibrant internal economy, the US has one thing that the Asian economies have yet to develop — more efficient capital markets. US entrepreneurs are not any smarter than their compatriots. But they have a harder time “faking it” when they are losing money. And when companies go bust, the lawyers clean up the mess pretty quickly so the party can go forward.

Looking for a Better Life? Look No More!

Sometimes a chart shows you a whole world of opportunity. Here is one

The chart shows something that has happened so incrementally that we  barely notice. Since 1997, the cos of a lot of things — and I mean real cos in dollars adjusted for inflation — has fallen rather dramatically. As Fred Wilson writes, this is due to technology. And it means that you have more money in your pocket because you don’t have to shell out so much for those things.

A quick segway. If we were to extend the chart back one hundred years, and add real average cost for food, we would see an even more significant decrease. In real terms, we are spending far less on food than our grandparents did.

As Fred writes, tech has brought down prices in many markets, but not all. Costs are still going way, way up in health care and higher education. Interesting.

One more thing. You can extrapolate  forward from the above. Barring disaster, over the next fifty years or so, there is a very good chance that tech will continue to bring costs down across the board. As Al Wenger writes, this is the so called tech deflation.  Over time, this will have huge wealth effects. Societies will be able to afford far more than they can now. So too for individuals. We will lie more like rich people, and less like poor people.

Putting this in perspective, the value of money, which drives us to work, will fall relative to the the value of other experiences that we have to pay for. Why?`Because we will be able to afford paying for those experiences with less work. Things that seem like luxuries to a more cash strapped person.

Of course, that does not mean complete freedom from work. We will still will want to add value to society and get paid for it. The thing is that we will more choices than ever in how we do that. One way to max out our opportunities is to focus on the biggest growth markets. The ones that have the most meaning for other people. And one way of looking at that idea is this  hypothesis—

people will always want more for less.

Therefore, they will always be willing to pay for stuff that enables them to get more for less. That means, among other things,  tech that brings down health care and higher education costs.

So want to live well? Connect to that process. Enable people to get more for less.  It will pay off over time.