January 29th, 2008
There is a lot of pessimism in the air. As we come to the end of the first month of 2008 it seems that many are in a negative, hunker down state of mind. The stock markets are being fueled by fear. The commentators are speaking as though a major recession has begun. Casualties continue at too high a level in foreign combat, and of course it is cold and dark outside for much of the country. All this in a country that seems to have optimism in its national fiber.
The Pew Research Center just published a study that basically states that people are more pessimistic than usual coming into 2008. The Pew Center has consistently polled Americans in December about whether they think the following year will be better or worse that the year just ending. The numbers for December 2007 were that 50% of the people thought 2008 would be better, and 34% thought it will be worse. This compares to 57% and 28% in December 2006. In December 1998 the numbers were 59% and 25%. Finally, in the middle of the Internet bubble, 66% thought that 2000 would better than 1999 while only 19% thought it would be worse (in spite of the looming Y2K fear that was rampant that month).
Fear seems to spread virally …
January 24th, 2008
Debt is one of the primary underpinnings of the economic turbulence we are now experiencing. In the last 50 years debt has gone from something occasional to something universal, embraced and now endemic. Borrow against the future to pay for today. Debt, debt, debt, debt is like the drip, drip, drip, drip of a faucet that slowing fills up a sink and overflows. The four debts referred to here are personal, corporate, city and state and federal. All of them feel as though they are beginning to come home to roost and the outlook, if not faced and dealt with, will come together with dire consequences.
Personal or consumer debt is a relatively recent phenomenon. Diners Club launched the first widely used credit card in 1950. Before that, consumers paid cash or made a down payment and had a short term low interest payment. The idea of the Diners Club card and then seven years later the American Express card was to allow people who entertain or travel to not have to carry large amounts of cash. It was expected that bills would be paid in full every month. Up until this point, consumers bought goods when they had the money to pay for them. Now of course people buy things with cards as they often donâ€™t have money to pay for them. Immediate gratification in a materialistic society that bombards consumers with literally hundreds and thousands of advertising messages a day.
Companies have long used credit and debt to build enterprises …
January 21st, 2008
In the last post I suggested that the U.S. learn from Europe in the use of high speed trains as a core component of a national transportation system. Trains are more energy efficient than cars, give off far less greenhouse emissions than airplanes, rarely get cancelled or delayed due to â€˜weatherâ€™ or â€˜flow controlâ€™ and depart and arrive near the central city. Given that America is much larger than any country currently utilizing high speed trains, it can only be a part of the transportation mix. What might the composite national transportation profile look like in 2015?
High speed trains could operate in the highly populated corridors mentioned in the last post. These are mostly on a north-south axis. Utilization of these trains would alleviate congestion in the air and at airports. Airlines, using ever more fuel efficient planes, could be the primary transcontinental and east-west transport. Airports in cities served by high speed trains could have direct local trains connect to the central train station.
By 2015 a significant percentage of cars on the road can be plug-in hybrids or pure plug-in vehicles. Both GM, with their Chevrolet Volt, and now Toyota have promised mass production of plug-ins by 2010-2011. Currently Americans keep their cars for an average of 8 years. Hybrids are already being sold. This means that by 2015 50% or more of the cars on the road in the country can be either pure electric or hybrids. The benefits of this are obvious: much lower consumption …
January 15th, 2008
High speed trains must, and will become an essential component of the U.S. transportation system during the next 20 years. This seems to be obvious, but is something that the (lack of) leadership in Washington D.C. has yet to seriously consider. A combination of lack of vision, deeply entrenched vested interests, a troubled Amtrak system and a â€˜not invented hereâ€™ mindset has combined to allow the U.S. to be woefully behind the curve when it comes to both rail transport and an intelligent, integrated national transportation system.
Flying has become an extremely unpleasant and unreliable travel experience. In addition it is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Predicated on cheap oil, high prices and customer service, the airline business must now operate in an environment of expensive oil, low prices and a general lack of quality customer service not to mention cancellations and poor on-time performance. At the other end of the transportation spectrum, automobile travel is undergoing change due to increasing price of gasoline. Gasoline prices consistently over $3 means that in addition to looking for a high MPG when buying a new car, people will think twice before making a long road trip and will increasingly find that commuting by car is adversely affecting the household budget.
In Europe and Japan, high speed trains have been a way of life for decades. Comfortable, fast, environmentally sound and connecting the central city centers, high speed trains have become the backbone of convenient transportation. …
January 9th, 2008
This is the second year for Evolution Shift to present you with a general forecast and somewhat more specific predictions for 2008. The forecast for 2007 is here for those wanting to check out the accuracy of what was predicted for last year. In addition I made some transitional 2007/2008 predictions last week, tying up the year end.
We are now leaving the Information Age and entering the Shift Age. The transition between these two ages began in 2006, gathered speed last year and will be even more fully felt in 2008 and 2009 when it will generally be understood that we in fact are living in a new age. This is the underlying dynamic that is shaping most of the general trends and some of the specific trends and predictions below.
General Trends and Dynamics
1. The Flow to Global will continue to accelerate. Humanity is now entering itsâ€™ global stage of evolution. Ultimately the only boundary will be planetary. The global economy is the first stage of this dynamic. This flow is the underlying force of many of the changes, disruptions and reorganizations that are going on. It is also why many of the traditional terms, measurements and definitions used for the past few decades no longer seem quite right. Barometers and cause and effect relationships of the recent past seem less valid year by year. We are no longer in the 20th century or the Information Age, therefore new terminology and reference points are needed..
2. The Flow to Individual …