Category Archives: 1 Perspective

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

Honesty or knowledge first?

Ethics do not seem to be integral to society or our civilisation.  We have laws and religions and people are good.  However, the nature of education does not promote the values that ought to underlie the sentiment expressed by laws, religion and society.  They say it is bad or wrong to kill, but it happens in all spheres of civilisation from state sponsored war, to individuals rich and poor killing others for anger or greed as well as fear.

Without going to that extreme, if a person has knowledge or power or both they are in a position to influence our world to a greater extent than those without.  Take, for example, the Prime Minister of the UK, a particular individual who is wealthy, educated, and powerful but what of his moral compass.  Simply is he honest?  Does he do what he says he will?

But perhaps that is unfair.  Because we are all good.

Never the less, what kind of person do you want to have power?  Especially if they influence your life and you have little influence on theirs.  That would include the political leaders of your local community, country and the world.  It would include the leaders of businesses which served you, sold you goods and services, like your food and clothes, and also holidays and entertainment.  And what about religion or law or public services or safety?  If they had power, you’d prefer that they were honest above all else because then at least you’d know what was going on   If they’re are straight, but ignorant or incompetent at least you’d know and could do something about it.  But if they weren’t honest, and maybe even had vested interests like friends in the business or opportunities for personal gain, then it wouldn’t be so good for you. Maybe they would be smart and competent and that would be even worse for you.

So which would you rather? Honesty first or knowledge?

If we want honesty first we had better start educating for honesty first.  Stop making cogs for a machine.  Nurture humans for a human world.

See: Education for Today

For some it’s not about people, nor ethics; just numbers.

moneyvspeoleA former hedge fund manager who bought a drug company has hiked the price of a generic drug 55x to  pay for the purchase.  The drug was $13.50 a dose but is now $750.00.   It costs $1 to produce.  The drug treats toxoplasmosis and is widely used by sufferers of AIDS.

So clearly Martin Shkreli, the capitalist in question, is all about the money.  No morals.  No philanthropy. In fact rather the opposite.  What does that say about our society?  When the winners take all?  It’s not that he should be punished.  It’s not that his wealth should be confiscated.  It’s that we should ask ourselves what kind of civilisation we are choosing when this kind of behaviour appears “justifiable”, because it doesn’t seem just to me.

If the highest achievers, the brightest stars, the richest, the winners are only interested in taking more, shouldn’t we all wonder what morals our civilisation promotes?  It’s not that people are bad – everyone’s “good”.  But the result of all our choices promotes a dynamic which appears quite feudal and therefore inflexible, often unfair and probably dysfunctional.  Certainly we are seeing the cracks in our civilisation – economic crisis, immigration crisis, food crisis, …

eatingmoneyThe solution?   Change our choices.  Each of us can make small changes which determine the shape of civilisation.  What we eat, what we wear, what we consume, what we waste.  Our individual behaviour results in the civilisation we have, including a hedge fund manager taking more stuff from people in already difficult circumstances.

BBC: US pharmaceutical company defends 5,000% price increase

You have the power to change the world. Choose!

Words by Charlie Chaplin.  Contemporary images.  The choice is clear.  Have you chosen yet?  Or are you still chasing the machine?  Choose humanity, while the choice remains …

 

The Great Dictator‘s Speech (1940)

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible- Jew, Gentile, black men, white…

We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each others’ happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls; has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.

We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery ,we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in man; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all.

Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say “Do not despair.”

The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder!

Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men—machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have a love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate!

Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it’s written “the kingdom of God is within man”, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power.

Let us all unite.

Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill their promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people!

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!

Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Cosmic synchronicity in a hay field.

We baled today.  It was wonderful.hayman

It started a bit later than planned because the normal school run delay was compounded by an emergency breakdown of a client’s computer .,..

The field was rowed around noon and then square baling started.  Padraig would arrive at 3pm to round bale.  I needed 200 square bales for 2 customers who each wanted 100.

The baler was acting up.  The knots weren’t holding and a bale in every five would be lost.  Noel cleaned the knotter and after a couple of rows it loosened up and ran better.

Still it wasn’t easy to guess how much hay would equal 200 bales …

In the end we baled 241 square.  Padraig got 38 round.

One customer took 136 by mistake, and paid for the extras too.  The other took his 100.  And there were 5 left for us.  Unbelievable.  By pure chance we split the field precisely in the right place to get the square bales the customers wanted without leaving anything in the field to await the rain.  It couldn’t have been better if it had been planned!

Very lucky.  Or maybe we’re leaning to feel the rhythm of the universe and surf the cosmic wave…

I must have been on a roll because a similar coincidence occurred  in the evening.  #4 wanted to watch an inappropriate film that was playing for his elder siblings … Having said “not for you”, about half an hour later I had a feeling he might have ventured in to  join his brother and sister, so  I checked.  He had walked in 10 seconds before I checked!

The cosmic rhythm can be useful.

System change is accelerating, but we’re still unprepared for our spiritual vacuum.

2015RLSpromo640x320The Pew Research Centre reports that Americans identifying themselves as having no religion has grown from 16% to 24% since 2007.

Naturally the increase has been at the cost of Christian affirmation which remains high at 71% (down from 78%). The increase in non-affiliates is found across America, highest in the west (28%), while even the South has seen a doubling from about 10% to about 20%.

The trend is welcome, not because we don’t want spirituality, but because dogmatic opinion must be replaced by thoughtful consideration of facts (science) in our virtual world built of science.   It is unhelpful to base ones morals on someone else’s mantra when they seem to go against one’s inner sense, and that is why there is a fall-off in religiosity – people feel they are more free to choose what they think without being vilified by society.   Expect the trend to continue and accelerate.

But there is a danger: “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”.  Giving up religious faith can also lead to a neglect of one’s spiritual nourishment.  That happened to me and it took a year or so for me to recognise it and remedy the situation.

There is no doubt that there is a spiritual dimension, an invisible dimension to existence.  In science the electro-magnetic spectrum is critical to understanding life even though it can not be seen.  We have thoughts and emotions, which can not be seen.  For humans to fulfil their potential they must nurture their capacities in this arena as well as their physical health. How?  Thinking helps.  And meditation or prayer.  And in time one can manage your physical body to allow it to more easily interact with the metaphysical dynamics of the universe.

Let us hope that the trend to atheism, which is healthy, if not easy, is not accompanied by a trend to amorality or worse.

BBC: US Christians numbers ‘decline sharply’, poll finds

PRC: America?s Changing Religious Landscape Pew Research Center