A few good reads from across the Web.
Some people should read more 1950’s science fiction to develop a sense of imagination, as well as to appreciate the impossibility of making accurate predictions about the future, even when you earn a living doing it.
The people to whom I’m prescribing a course science fiction (three times a week) are those people who will tell you there will be no jobs left in the western world by 2020 because we won’t make our own televisions, cars, or microwaveable meals.
“What will we do?” they lament.
More than a few of these blinkered thinkers – some of whom I count among my closest friends – are at the very upper-end of the intelligence spectrum.
In fact, I’d say intelligence is a curse when it comes to having a sense of the possible.
Smart people get used to logic, plans, causation and outcomes. But life doesn’t run much like that, and the development of human technology, society, and culture even less so. The pill, the smartphone, the personal trainer, the options trade, the £100 t-shirt – nobody foresaw any of that one hundred years ago. The biggest innovation of the next 20 years will probably also be something we’ve not yet even thought of.
Less clever people are regularly bemused by the world – as well as infuriatingly sanguine about human achievements to-date. Yet this sense of inevitability, that ‘they’ will invent something to sort out the problem, isn’t demonstrably less useful or even less accurate than the intricate fables to ruin that smarter people have been intoning since the Greeks.
This isn’t to say societies don’t fail, of course. They clearly do. But it’s very rarely for the reasons the gloomier predicted. History is more random than that, and we take steps to avoid the problems we can foresee.
- Monevator motto #23: Timebombs don’t explode.
Besides, even in the field of the futuristic, what goes around comes around. In Invasion of the body hackers, a very interesting piece of futuristic navel-gazing in the Financial Times this weekend, April Dembosky writes:
The concept of self-tracking dates back centuries. Modern body hackers are fond of referencing Benjamin Franklin, who kept a list of 13 virtues and put a check mark next to each when he violated it. The accumulated data motivated him to refine his moral compass. Then there were scientists who tested treatments or vaccines for yellow fever, typhoid and Aids on themselves.
Today’s medical innovators have made incredible advancements in devices such as pacemakers that send continuous heart data to a doctor’s computer, or implantable insulin pumps for diabetics that automatically read glucose levels and inject insulin without any human effort.
Healthcare is just one area ripe for tremendous new growth, even from its currently elevated position – the quest to preserve life has already begun to deplete the extraordinary wealth socked away by the Baby Boomers, and in 50 years time the Chinese and the Indian middle classes will follow.
The share prices of AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline suggest big pharma’s part in keeping that show on the road is coming to an end. The analysts and investors see no future growth, and have marked them down as dividend-paying cash cows to be put out to pasture and milked.
But perhaps instead of multi-billion pound blockbuster drugs, these firms will make a killing (or more profitably the opposite!) by tailoring personal treatments from an armoury of less sensational patents, then deliver them through a capsule injected into an arm once every three months, until their still-healthy patients are hit by a bus at 120-years old.
Or until they are hit by an anti-gravity hover car from the 1950s. Never write off the future!
From the money blogs
- Why stock prices are volatile – Rick Ferri
- Yes, inequality kills – Stumbling and Mumbling
- Letting you in on a big secret – Canadian Couch Potato
- Explaining best buy mortgage tables – Finance blog
- The importance of reinvesting dividends – Retirement Investing Today
- Dude, you are so doomed – Simple Living in Suffolk
- If it feels good, do it: Strategic defaults aren’t so bad – Len Penzo
- Save for retirement, or save for college? – Oblivious Investor
- Speeding and transportation – Early Retirement Extreme
- How to decide whether to buy or rent a home – Financial Samurai
- 3D printing is not exogenous – The Psy-Fi blog
- Curing our ills with innovation – Investing Caffeine
Investing and money mainstream sites
- The end of cheap Chinese goods? – The Economist
- Welcome to IPOville – The Economist
- God, poverty, and the government – BBC
- These companies pay the wrong dividends – Motley Fool
- New rules for ‘protected’ investments – FT
- Investment guide: Exchange traded funds – FT
- Income seekers scout for alternatives – FT
- Luck goes with skill like cream and strawberries – FT
- Bank shareholders are staring at the last straw – FT
- How Gordon Brown ignored advice and wasted billions – Telegraph
- 99p Stores profits soar in middle England – Telegraph
- Warren Buffett lunch sells for $2.3 billion on eBay – Telegraph
- London’s rich sell up to foreign money and move out – Telegraph
- Exclusive discount on Jetstorm eco-showerheads – Independent
- 50 family freebies for summer holidays – The Guardian
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