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Predicting the Future: How the right belief system will help predict the future.
Forbes Magazine ^
| Feb .Issue
| Rich Karlgaard
Posted on 01/30/2006 12:08:36 PM PST by SirLinksalot
Predicting the Future: Part II
I graduated from college in 1976. That was 30 years ago, the same 30-year gap experienced by Marty McFly in the movie Back To the Future
(see Jan. 30, p. 33). Let's fire up Doc Brown's DeLorean time-traveler and return to 1976.
But would we really want to go? We'd be reminded that the prevailing view of the world in 1976 was:
The planet was severely overpopulated and would soon run out of natural resources.
The age of entrepreneurship was dead and was being replaced by the conglomerated efficiencies of large companies.
Capitalism was morally repugnant because it wasted resources and oppressed the poor.
The zeitgeist of 1976 had taken root in 1968, a year of turmoil and doubt. Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich fueled our doubts with a bestseller called The Population Bomb. Ehrlich predicted catastrophe: Famine would break out, followed by global wars, etc. Implied in Ehrlich's writing was that humans were consumers, not producers, of resources. If Ehrlich was right--and most of us gullible college students thought he was--then the only moral path available for us was to not procreate.
Suppose you believed Ehrlich. Suppose your 1976 sense of moral certitude overrode your natural instinct to want children. Suppose it wasn't until the late 1980s that you woke up and realized Ehrlich was a boob, that he had gotten it all wrong. Whoops, better get busy trying to make babies, right? But what if all those years later one's sperm count or egg motility was no longer up to the task? What if your fertility window had opened and shut while you were under the spell of quacks like Ehrlich?
Well, too bad for you.
Beliefs have consequences, and they're sometimes harsh. One 1976 college grad joins AT&T, having been taught by John Kenneth Galbraith at Harvard that we live in an age of great corporate efficiency. Another joins Oracle, thinking this Larry Ellison guy is awfully smart. The first person trades excitement for prestige and gets neither. The second gets both, helps change the business world for the better and retires rich. Ideas and worldviews do matter greatly in our lives.
Mental Operating SystemThis column's chief goal is to supply you with a worldview--a mental operating system--that will be as good 30 years from now as it is today. If this column causes you to see opportunity beyond the defeatist smog, then I'll have done my job.
Three eternal truths sit at the core of our mental operating system. The first: Natural resources will never run out. Etch this into your brain--man discovers or creates resources faster than he uses them up. Whale blubber started to run out in the early 1800s. The Paul Ehrlichs of the time were in a panic. Then in 1859 Edwin Drake drilled the world's first oil well in Titusville, Pa.
The second eternal truth: Success is not a zero-sum game, though most academic economists, pundits and politicians act as if it were--maybe because they vie for glory in zero-sum professions. (There can be only 1 U.S. President and 50 senators, for example.) The third eternal truth: The Golden Rule is more than a spiritual truth, it is a business truth. You get ahead in business by serving others. Sure, you can try to cheat or cut corners--and you may succeed. But the odds overwhelmingly favor the company that serves its customers with great products and services at a fair price. This is even truer today, in the age of Internet price transparency and activist consumers.
Beyond these eternal truths are modern truths. Moore's Law is one. We know that digital technology progression occurs at a predictable rate: Chips double in performance every 18 months; storage every 12 months; bandwidth every 9 months--or close enough, anyway. I know a billionaire venture capitalist who says his secret of success has been simply "to project Moore's Law into the future and to imagine what new products and services it would bring." Moore's Law has been a billion-dollar idea to this investor.
Another modern law was best described by banking legend Walter Wriston, a great thinker who died a year ago. Let's call it Wriston's Law of Capital. In the age of electronic money transfers, said Wriston, "Capital will always go where it's welcome and stay where it's well treated." Capital is mobile, capital is in play, and if you want some of it, you'd better treat it well. Evidently the state of Maryland hasn't heard of Wriston's Law. It recently passed laws raising the minimum wage and requiring large employers such as Wal-Mart to pay higher employee health care insurance costs. Wriston's Law predicts that these decisions will be good for the economy
neighboring Virginia's economy.
Wriston once told me that capital is not just money, "It's also talent and ideas. They, too, will go where they're welcome and stay where they're well treated." Google understands Wriston's Law perfectly. The company attracts the first cut of talent in Silicon Valley because it offers stock options, the value of which has risen. But more than that, Google gives creative freedom to its scientists and engineers. One day a week the brainiacs work on whatever projects they like. Google is a giant playpen. This is Wriston's Law at work.
Moore's Law, Wriston's Law and a few other older truths help us see the world in which we live. And where that world is going. With the right belief system we can predict the future.
Read Rich Karlgaard's daily blog at http://blogs.forbes.com/digitalrules or visit his home page at www.karlgaard.com
TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: belief; future; predicting
(There can be only 1 U.S. President and 50 senators, for example.)
My prediction: somebody's embarrassed that this saw print.
"My prediction: somebody's embarrassed that this saw print."
And they're holding this gaffe out as a "for instance" of a zero-sum game, and they can't even multiply 50 x 2, which makes Forbes look all the more silly.
posted on 01/30/2006 12:35:57 PM PST
by Willie Green
(Go Pat Go!!!)
Perhaps he means 50 WORKING Senators. The rest are Democrats or RINOs...
posted on 01/30/2006 1:20:20 PM PST
by Defend the Second
("Hans, Hans, you're breaking my barrs...")
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