Column

Notes by EMA: 2018 New Year’s Message

A SHORT SYNTHESIS OF WHAT MIGHT MATTER TO YOU
EVEN IF YOU MAY THINK IT DOES NOT!

Enrique Aboitiz

January 2018

Again, I am amalgamating ideas that I have picked up throughout the year and adding a few of my thoughts. Essentially these are not my ideas, rather they belong to the many from whom I learn and listen to throughout the year and prior.

I was struck by this New Year’s Message I received:

GUYS, DON’T BE EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW YEAR… ONLY THE CALENDAR WILL CHANGE… WIFE, SALARY, AND JOB WILL REMAIN THE SAME!!

If that resonates with you, then you have a situation that needs reflection. I found it so powerful because 99.9% of all New Year’s resolutions have not been achieved.

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We at ROP (Republic of the Philippines –Ed) have always been insulated and kind of isolated. The world does not really affect us. When we are short of money, we send people to work abroad and they send money back in. I suspect that is changing at a pace that we may not notice.

 

TECHNOLOGY

Technology is moving from being driven by Silicon Valley to being driven by China in general. Their outlook on life will be embedded in their technology for better or for worse as they penetrate the rest of the world. Smartphones are taking over the minds of people as more and more individuals are plugged into more and more garbage that influence thought and action for a greater part of the day, removing the ability of more people to think for themselves. The endorsement of a celebrity with a telescope to the hearts and minds of individuals is very powerful and disables the ability of the forces of wider learning and more open minds. This will drive greater inequality. Inequality did not exist until the agricultural age. In hunter-gatherer societies, the Gini coefficient was zero. Today, Capitalist USA and Communist China surpass point 8. This inequality began with the agricultural society when man used beasts to create more wealth. Some did it better than others. Some saved more than others. The political and religious structures created myths to take their share without working and by controlling fears, hearts, and souls. Will technology equalize? What will flying cars do to jump legacy roads as cellular phones did and as electric cars may be about to do?

 

POLITICIANS

The quality of politicians worldwide on all levels drops and drops and drops everywhere that matters except in China. You know who they all are, but the tipping point is the apparent buffoon that has moved into the White House. Now, it could be that Trump is not as stupid as he looks. We will have to see what he actually does. Today, one can never listen to what a politician says. One only has to see what he or she does.

Where I think there will be improvement is in the quality of output, decisions, and management for Central Bank governors all over the world. The last ten years has taught all of them and all of us a lot about monetary policy. There is hope that they have better and better control of things. Perhaps also world leaders know that these are positions that are of great, great importance and put their own situations at risk if they screw up the composition of a nation’s economic team. Take our very own ROP: for some reason, the economic teams are always good to decent and never bad. Our BSP governors have been generally conservative, careful and good for the near past. There is great hope that the foot on the pedal of monetary policy is seasoned.

The American political and social structure is challenged. They may or may or may not fix it. The entire basket of apples has more and more rotten apples in it — education, drugs, prisons, latinization, infrastructure et. al. — you name it. It is of concern because the US’s stature in the world is evolving into the air. Many want to fill in part of the vacuum. We need to observe who fills in and what the effect will be. We do not know, but chances are that China will fill in most of the leadership gaps that EU and Russia covet to return for former glories. Unfortunately, they are both dealing with the rotten apples in their baskets. Is the American stock market a Trump Boom or a Trump Bubble?

Russia is just noise. It is small despite its huge semi-useless land mass. 140 million people is not a large country. It’s running out of money. Its people like that potato juice a little too much. They have an AIDS problem. Essentially, they are peasants, and the Chinese are traders.

Europe has not adapted to change. They know what has to be done, but they do not seem to be at the point where they are forced to do so. Or maybe they are? France finally provides some hope. They are surrounded by poor people that can easily sneak in from Africa and the Middle East. They are at their laziest point in history.

China is different. They have problems. They know it. They are setting out to solve them with a firm mandate. They have declared war on excessive debt and on excessive pollution. They will win it; because aside from being focused and determined, their structure works for action.

ASEAN might be seen more and more as a large economic unit. India is on the move but too small to matter yet. That snowball needs to turn quite a few more times, so does Africa and ASEAN. Five years passes quickly and quite a bit may happen in these three areas over the next ten. A doubling of their GDP will rock things more than we think.

 

RESOURCES

The world has always been driven by energy, natural resources, and technology. It is our hope that low oil prices are a transition to clean, renewable, low- and predictable-cost energy that will drive water and cost accessibility to benefit agriculture. Technology is and will help effectiveness and efficiency everywhere in some form or another and in forms we have not even dreamt of yet as technology always has. Natural resources are being replaced — steel that is made from iron ore, and coking coal is being replaced by composite materials…and the list continues. In the process, low oil prices are reshaping geopolitics for the better. The “bad guys” have the oil and they are earning less money. Let me leave this paragraph with a comment on the Norwegian Fund that has to win the Nobel Prize for Hypocrisy — after pulling a trillion dollars of oil from the ground to supply its cars to pollute the Chinese and other cities, these hypocrites have decided to go clean in their investment philosophy.

 

LEARNING

Where clearly there is a greater and greater situation for learning, I do not use the world education anymore because education is increasingly taking a smaller part of the learning snowball. You see successes like Apple being the result of great and deep expertise in innovation and change across disciplines — in this case, the merging of both design and technology. Education across disciplines versus focused learning is showing its winning hand. Smarter people are arguing the accelerated increase in wisdom through the joining of new patterns and themes from cross-disciplined learning and implementation. This and the accelerated learning, management, and action techniques that AI will bring us will mean new benefits at the cost, maybe, of more and more inequality. The smarter, better educated, wider learned, and harder working individual will win more in both absolute and relative terms. Da Vinci said that learning never exhausts the mind, but I argue that not learning deteriorates it. Dementia will be cured and man will be more valuable into his older years. Active, seasoned, cross-disciplined, and cross-learned older people with fine minds and stronger bodies will win over smartphone, social media-fried brains.

In the world where value is created by intelligence, we may find the new inequality to be between robots and all of mankind.

 

MYTHS

 

I am fascinated how the world is run on myths. Christianity is the greatest myth and hoax of mankind, and also its most successful. I ran into a myth this year, and that is that Thomas Jefferson, the designer of American Democracy and who introduced the concept that all men are created equal, may have had a different definition of “All Men”. He may have not truly meant All Men as he had hundreds of slaves. He may have meant all white men with land.