Category Archives: 1 Perspective

Where the world is going, today.

If you are an expert in your field you have a good idea of what is going on in that area.  That’s how you make a living.  Most of us express views about news and events that are outside our area of expertise especially if we think that they might effect us in some way, like politics and economics.  The Presidency of the United States of America is one of those things.

Everyone will be talking about the new US administration in America today.  Some will be earnest, some dismissive, some joyful, some sad or angry.  Irrespective of your emotions or political leanings, its impact will affect you. Continue reading Where the world is going, today.

The Silk Roads: Two and a half millennia telling us to stop fighting.

Book review:

The Silk Roads

A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan

Yes please!

The title and the book’s intention, to offer a global perspective, were intriguing to me.  Though not a history fan, it is increasingly clear that it is no help to see history from your own perspective because it is blinkered, full of self-serving interpretation and fails to expose the reality of the past.  This book offers a big picture perspective.

Continue reading The Silk Roads: Two and a half millennia telling us to stop fighting.

The Cycle of Life, and Death.

This time of year has had special significance for millennia.

Why?

Because it is the end of the annual spiral to darkness and nature’s rebirth.  Solstice is a time of rejoicing because it means winter darkness is lifting, warmth will return,  and food will become available again.

New GrangeImagine you live 10,000 years ago, somewhere above latitude 45 or so, you would notice the lengthening of the days a couple of weeks after December solstice.  That meant you might survive.

Even 5,000 years ago communities had invested so much in understanding the solar cycle that farmers in the Boyne Valley, Ireland built New Grange, an 85 metre diameter stone  tomb, which has a light box which  illuminates a 19 metre long passage and chamber as the sun rises on solstice morning!  The solar bounce was important to their livelihoods.

No, this is not a morbid view.  It’s reality.  Facing reality gives truth to our lives. Continue reading The Cycle of Life, and Death.

Imperialism – the starting point of system change.

The people who run the world, you know people like you and me who live in the “First World”, have a particular view of the world.  Even if we can see the scale of inequality in society and the collapse of nature, we do not connect ourselves, our behaviour or our community to those uncomfortable facts.  We’d rather blame some one else – a politician perhaps.  We’re “good” people, doing the best we can and the problems are a result of the system about which we can do nothing.advanceofspecieskal20150418

It’s past due time to wake from that comfy dream.  The system at the top of which we sit is perpetuated by ourselves and it doesn’t have to be that way.  Each of us makes a difference and the small changes in what we say and do can make the system better, quickly.

Continue reading Imperialism – the starting point of system change.

The Waterfall and The Rain

The waterfall is heard before you see it.  The thunderous torrent crashing on the rocks resounds about the valley.

niagra03As you approach, the mist becomes visible, as vapour bubbles up from the torrent.  The spray blows far and wide so that when you come close you are soon soaked.  From close up you can barely see the path of the waterfall as the clouds of mist and spray obscure its fall.  Yet you can feel the reverberation through the ground.

The waterfall is mighty! People come from far and wide to see the waterfall. It is celebrity.  People want to be like the waterfall, strong, impressive, powerful.

But strangely the waterfall does little more than make noise and spit before the water passes on calmly through the valley. Continue reading The Waterfall and The Rain

Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

The wife of a successful entrepreneur once remarked to me that she had pointed out to her husband that there will always be someone else with a bigger yacht in the marina.  She was hinting that it’s fine to work, but there’s a point at which you ought to stop and spend a bit of time with your family and friends.  She’s since divorced (for him it’s the second time!).

livingoffthepeopleAnother boating analogy was shared by The Economist recently in a comment about the asset management industry entitled Living off the people.  As an asset manager, investing other people’s money, it was pertinent to my profession.  The article offers a synopsis of the fund management industry and the challenges it faces today, the principal one being “Is there any use for fund manager’s at all?”  The evidence has been around for decades, and now is being more actively referenced, that paying someone to beat the index is a fool’s game.

You can’t consistently beat the index, and if you have to pay someone to try, that’s going to cost you even more, so don’t even try.  Just invest in a low fee index fund, like one offered by Vanguard.  The article points out that a quarter of American billionaires work in finance and investment and concludes with a quote from a pre-war Wall Street mogul “Where are all the customers’ yachts?”  Instead pay a computer pennies to put yo u on the efficient frontier.

Continue reading Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

The Long Termworld-300px

We’re talking 20 years or so here.

In 20  years we’ll be facing Big Stuff.  Climate change, weather volatility, species loss, clean air, clean water, … that whole environment thing will be getting much more serious and everyone will be dealing with it in some way or another.  I’m hoping it’ll make Ireland a bit more like the south of France, and it might, but whatever else, it’s going to make the simple things in life more difficult.  For most of humanity that will include feeding themselves and getting clean water.

So that will make food and land more important.

In 20 years we may well have passed “The Singularity“.  That’s a term coined by futurists, often with a trans-humanist bent, which denotes the inevitable point at which technology development starts happening “by itself”.  This occurs as humanity’s understanding of physics and biology enable the creation of thinking machines (computers) that emulate the brain, and then androids and cyborgs begin to be used in place of people.

Certainly in 20 years technology will have changed our world even more than in the past 20.   Do not imagine The Singularity to be fantasy.  We are close already.  The mobile phone/computer in your pocket is old technology compared with neuro-computers being tested in laboratories.  Robots are already becoming remarkably similar to C-3PO in looks and mobility at least.  Today the consequences are being felt in most professions as AI (artificial intelligence) takes jobs away from humans.  This is what we all wanted – automatic checkout, automatic cashier, automatic accountant, automatic lawyer, automatic vehicle … The challenge now being solved is automatic creativity.

Continue reading Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

System change, social media and your choices.

drowningworldcarCOP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night.  Climate change is great, but it’s not good.  I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze.  But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems.  Both civilisation and nature.

The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different.  Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing.  Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.

For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar.  For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.All of these people are connected by social organisation and media.  We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows,  … We tend to communicate with like minded people.  It is not easy to cross over.  But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation.  (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)

Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends.  Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?

COP21marchWhile there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people:  People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.

The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable.  Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow.  For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of  his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.

gas_balloon_scaleA litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg.  So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2.  Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement.  It’s heavy!  And it’s just one event on one day.

So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.

The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels.  The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.

unethicalCivilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical.  Every crisis comes about because of moral failure.  Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion.  There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power.  If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.

So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle.  It’s not about equality it’s about equity.  Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve.  The system is a result of everybody’s choices.  We must all choose better.  We must aim to do the right thing the right way.

Terrorism to Happiness – connecting the dots

main_900The news seems to be as bleak as ever, … but the outlook is worse.

There have always been stories of blood, death, corruption and pollution but now the consequences are more global and terminal.  There is even a rationale argument that we are past tipping point, but I choose to believe that there is still time to change.

Humans are clearly amazing.  Just look around you to see the conveniences and contrivances that make life easy and enjoyable.  You’re probably reading this on a computer or phone.  Isn’t that fantastic?!corruption

And we’re lovely, especially when we’ve had enough to eat and we’re in a good mood.  We’re creative – art, music, dance – and innovative.

So how come the systems for peace and justice don’t seem to work?  How come the food we buy is poisoned with chemicals?  How come the clothes we wear are made by slaves?  How come we’re on top and others are below?

Because we’ve stopped being human.  We’ve stopped thinking and regressed to primitive instinct and are prodded by rules and advertising to lie and steal.  That is a black and white caricature, but it is closer to the truth than we admit.la-sci-sn-china-exports-air-pollution-united-s-001

And how did we get this way?

We looked at our neighbour’s stuff and wanted more.  We didn’t care they are the same as us.  Or that we’ve pretty much got the same.  Or that in order to get the stuff you have to give up really living.  We were duped in to thinking that sitting on a throne is more enjoyable than hanging out with friends.

Water Pollution image in Haina, Dominican Republic - water pollution images -5How did that happen? Fear and greed.  That’s OK, because it’s natural.  At the beginning instinct and survival rule.  That model is fine at the beginning, when the beast is starting to develop language and tools.  That time has passed.      Now it’s about civilisation.  We have moved beyond survival, egocentric, controlling, strategic, even tested consensus models.  But all of our systems have been exclusive.  About US and THEM.  And now it’s about more than US or THEM, it’s about more than US and THEM.  It’s about everything.

Everything is connected from politics to environment, from work to play, from business to family.  So we must use all we know and move beyond exclusive thinking to inclusive thinking.

atomtoworld2

This starts with putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

If you don’t want to be … hit, bombed, starved, underpaid, overworked, abused, cheated or lied to, stolen from, … then don’t do those things.  And that means all people, and animals too.  And realise that plants are the foundation of life so treat them well.astraeaspiral2

There are responsibilities too.  About compassion and generosity to others, about working when you’re getting paid to work, about openness and disclosure, about care for other’s stuff.

It all sounds so simple.  Do the right thing the right way.  It’s actually not that hard.  It even feels good sometimes.

But we don’t all behave that way.  We don’t because of ignorance or complacency.  Sometimes it’s peer pressure.  But when we’re at the top, there’s no excuse.  Then we’re just choosing to be corrupt and corrupt the system.

It’s quite clear that we do have the means and understanding to give people the minimum resources and guidance to lead fulfilled lives.  eatingmoneyBut we don’t do that.  Half the world starves, a few million (say 30 million people, or less than half a percent (< 0.5%)) have more than that bottom half.  You can see that we’ve chosen that because the evidence is all around.  We all get to choose the way we live, the stuff we buy, the talk we talk, the jobs we do and when you add it all up, … you get what we’ve got.   That’s common sense right?!

We can change.  We can do things differently.  We could grow up.  We could do the things we’re supposed to.  We could give more, take less.  Be more open, honest.  Stop consuming when you’ve had enough.  Understand the connection between your choice to buy … food, clothes, furniture, toys, transport, holidays, homes, cars, votes … and the consequences for other people and for the life of earth.

People don’t want to blow themselves up.  They might do it out of desperation or ignorance.  But they’d rather have a decent life.  So deliver resource to live, work and play, deliver education and technology and the freedom to choose.  Choose to share.

World-Peace

Are you beginning to get it? The what, why and how of system change.

parisattack20151115There has been an outpouring of love and solidarity because of the tragic and terrific blood-letting in Paris this weekend.  It has been a synchronous focus on thought, feeling and action by millions around the world.  That is good.

The answers proposed have ranged from black to white, from vengeance to forgiveness.  (My preference is at the “healing the wounds” end of the spectrum, rather than at the “ripping more flesh apart” end.)  The personal grief is inevitably traumatic.  The reasons for young people to wreak blood and havoc and kill themselves are difficult to imagine, let alone comprehend.  But there are answers – there must be: we are humans and we can do it all.atomtoworld2

So what will we choose?

Walking around the garden as the light fades and the wind builds to another stormy night, it seems clear that the warnings are coming thick and fast.  It seems as though everyday another report comes in of violence, terror, corruption and injustice, and of storm, drought, flood, habitat destruction and species loss.  You can  see, hear, feel the immorality of human systems and the pain of nature.  Do we look, listen, touch?

There are two kinds of people: People who can see what’s going on and do something about it (i.e. you, people with access to media, educated etc).  The more resources they have, the more they can do something about it.  The other kind of people who are those who are too poor to be able to know what’s going on (most people know corruption when they see it and crazy weather when it passes), or if they do, live subsistence lives so have fewer choices.

It is increasingly evident that of those of us who can act, some act and others don’t.  Some have realised that the system must change and others continue to turn a blind eye.  Those who have realised it start with awareness and gradually start to change their behaviour, from diet to lifestyle to job to investment, commitment and philanthropy.

eatingmoneyOthers who turn a blind eye, should open them.  Elites – the people who influence and control human system (millionaires etc) – seem to be predominantly in the blind eye department.  That’s bad.

It must be that rich people are ignoring the obvious because they are the ones that determine the system, which is not working, and they remain largely ignorant of how to change the system and what to change it to.  Even when the how and what are obvious, admission of the need and course are slow, implementation is sluggish and patchy.

Here’s a quick example:  behaviour change is nurtured with education,  but education systems are well behind the curve. (Many observe that terrorism is inculcated by misinformation which would be hindered if critical thinking, even thinking, was a basic product of universal education.)

And a biosphere dysfunction example: 2015 is the hottest year on record and climate has risen 1 degree already yet fossil fuel companies are still subsidised and the so called “Sustainable Development Goals” are still talking about growth.

That’s the situation in a nutshell.  Things are bad.  We know how to change.  Too few of the people at the top are changing.

That’s a dangerous recipe.  You, like me, can make a difference.  Let’s all take a step in the right direction.  Slow down.  Take a breath.  Say sorry.  Change the system from fear and greed to love and sharing.  Do it now.  May be we’ve still got time.world02