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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

STATE OF THE PLANET ADDRESS - OUTLOOK 2012 AND BEYOND







POSSIBLE, PROBABLE: CAN NEVER PREDICT ANYTHING...



COMING SOON OUR 2012 OUTLOOK


Maverick Economist or Existential Investor? The label is not important, instead it is our trademark approach that has forseen the major market moves over the past twelve years that defines who we are. Having called the 2000, 2008 and 2011 market adjustments puts us at the forefront of global financial and economic forecasting. Thus with each and any forward looking statement, we risk this long record that is treasured as the foundation of our reputation and the related value it provides. It is guarded to the utmost.



How are we different?

Both in economics and investing we have discarded conventional ideas and theories because of their largely archaic assertions and application. Our focus is on today's reality. The planet is finite. Growth is limited. Resources are rapidly depleting. Populations exceed capacities. Object science and mathematics are integral to economics, not exclusive.


Traditional metrics and beliefs are thus largely outdated. Values of national currencies and economies tie directly back to their specific inventories of resources consisting of both usable mass and energy; followed by a relativity and trending analysis of these national inventories globally.

For certain all abstract metrics will ultimately catch up to the actual concrete realities as defined by the inventory of these resources. Few things are more assured. Concrete realities are also based on planetary conditions and constraints; not just national measures of wealth. This picture leads to entirely different conclusions as to both the extents and states of economic progess and general affairs. A unique investment perspective follows - defining our leading edge in insights.

Starting this year we are publishing an Annual Outlook Report named, "State of the Planet". Both public and private institutional versions are being released. The general public version will be released on this site shortly, while a private more indepth institutional version will be available by no later than February 7th, 2012.
The annual subscription fee will also include Quarterly Reports along with the 2013 Annual Outlook in December 2012.
For more information on this institutional package and pricing please email us at firstfinancialinsights@gmail.com. Return contact provided within 24 hours.

Further details regarding the Report's topical coverage of key factors affecting the economic and investment landscapes in the coming months are provided. Pricing, payment processing and possible exclusivity arrangements are also detailed.

At our sole discretion, we reserve the right to restrict or limit sales at any time; either generally or specifically in cases where prior competitive agreements limit or exclude such sales to competing institutions, entities or persons.



First Financial Insights Inc.
Toronto, ON

January 17, 2012




OUR WORLD - JUST A DIFFERENT SET OF EYES



 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stephen Hawking - Happy 70th Birthday

 
 


A NICE IDEA WE CANNOT AFFORD -  SPACE ECONOMICS

 


Stephen Hawking – Happy 70th

Actually Proposes Colonization of Planets???


From the outset we congratulate Mr Hawking for his recent 70th birthday along with his remarkable accomplishments over the years; the greatest of which may be his unyielding human spirit that has battled ALS for a reported four decades. That alone is worth a long standing ovation and should stand tall as an inspiration for the hearts and minds of generations to come. We wish him the very best.

Still, despite the great respect for this thoughtful, creative and courageous person; we take issue with his recent proposition to colonize other planets as a solution to the current and inevitable future planetary issues to be faced by our species due to the fragility and mismanagement of Earth. In short, belief in any sort of inter-galactic colonization is still a romantic pathway to be best offered as Hollywood and Comic Book story lines - not as a legitimate option to be considered for meeting the critical near and long-term goals of the human condition. The following comments outline the reasons for this view, as well as some possible alternative options or choices that may offer more sensible allocations of human activity and scarce resources.

Why colonize other planets in the first place?

The underlying goal of colonization is to extend and even populate the rest of the universe with our species. The goal itself has a number of inherent flaws. First it suggests that with science, we somehow could keep pace with infinity; a belief that is also a central goal for many theologies. Simple existential mathematics would conclude that such an idea aligns more with fiction than any possible reality. Plainly, the sneaking suspicion is infinity would win the race no matter what and in all likelihood our existence; no matter how long, is but a speck of dust in the massive hour glass of eternity.

Secondly ask, what makes us actually think that the Universe even wants to be populated by our species? Given our track record in managing Earth, the fear is that our inter-galactic report card amoung comparative planets would put us at the back of the class wearing a cone shaped hat. Would anyone entrust another planet to a species that destroyed such a beautiful treasured planet in a just few thousand years? Hmmmm…. on that for a moment.

Colonization of other planets could also be viewed as an extension of our species arrogance, ego and self-righteous attitude, derived largely from our ability to dominate the matter, energy and other species of this planet over a very short period. Such an unfounded assumption is premised only on the anecdotal experience of earth, and does not include other observed experiences in the universe. It may be a serious blow to our “godlike assumption” that are cognitive capacities could limit us to being just pets or captive residences for amusement of more dominant species on other planets. Indeed we may simply be just the monkeys (no offence intended) in the parks of their planets. This is truly a possibility that no one can either prove or disprove; yet perhaps should be in our general awareness of things that could be – this dose of humility may be useful too.

Thesis: Integrate Science and Economic Principles

From the start, the general thesis of writings has been to encourage economic schools to embrace a deeper integration with object laws of mathematics and science – particularly physics – in its theories, models and beliefs in order to provide a more complete view of our existential reality. Over the past months issue was taken with many axioms of neo-classical economics including the invisible hand, limitless growth, monetary value, and over-abstractions to name a few. Ironically, we now take issue with physics and cosmology for its failure to include economic theory in its recommended actions, ideas or proposals. This points to another issue pervasive to academics and other fields of endeavour, in that there is a general bias to operate within the models, assertions and theories of one’s own area of concern to the exclusion of others. Failing to integrate other areas of concern, increases possibilities for decisions that could be less than optimal with grave consequences.

Defining Planetary Currency

One of our primary metrics and tools for economic analysis, evaluation and insight is currency. So to economically examine the merits and costs related to colonization of planets - a planetary currency would be useful. Presently there is no such currency, neither gold nor a basket of international currencies provide a useful tool for this analysis as such abstractions are generally flawed in their measure of wealth or stores of value. The values of international currencies are generally based on the GDP of nations that are subject to host of arbitrary factors and rarely reflect future realizable utility. This topic requires much more coverage, but the limitations of such metrics should be apparent.

As the approach of macro-economic theory is generally concerned with the management and the wealth of nations, little attention is given to overall planetary economics and a general theory of planetary currency. For the purposes of this discussion a definition of planetary currency is however required in order to assess whether planetary colonization makes any sense.

A national currency is a contract issued by a nation state that provides the holder of the contractual paper with the right or claim on the resources of the state or its participating agents within the state to provide a value or utility equal to the stated value on the contractual paper. This translates into a generally accepted symbol of value that expedites the exchange of goods and services within the nation state amoung governed entities and agents, and also amoung other nation states where the contract is accepted to provide and symbolize a claim on national resources of the issuer state and hence utility. One problem with a planetary currency is that no nation state exists that may issue such a contract on behalf of the planet and offer a claim or right to its resources.

So is there a surrogate that could provide a useful metric or tool for purposes of analysis and evaluation of planetary colonization? As conventional forms of currency are ultimately traced back to the resources of a nation, that is in physical terms its usable mass and energy, then so to may a planetary currency be defined by the total usable mass and energy of Earth. The planet’s currency may thus be defined by its usable finite mass and unknown finite of energy, which continues to absorb additional supply from sources external to the planet.


The Analysis: Economic Cost and Benefit of Planetary Colonization

Remembering for a moment the troubles the planet currently faces as to overpopulation, economic turbulence, climate change and many other maladies such as pending scarcities of many key elements essential to industrial production which are destined for depletion within fifty years or less. It is therefore easy to understand why the idea of planetary expansion hits the radar screen of those with a vested interest in this production. It is a good idea because the planet is way beyond its carrying capacity. It is in overshoot. The possibility of a sudden and dramatic change in population and its state of affairs becomes more likely with each passing day. Meaning, constraints of time and resources are also factors that limit the “if and when” such a venture could occur. At the same time, what destinations could best lend itself to such an inhabitation are unknown – Mars? Our Moon? Others?

Any habitation to be created on such a destination must approximate the “fragility” of our home base – Earth. Our ability to manage this fragility of home base is in doubt, particularly if we have drained the resources of usable mass and energy to such an extent that human conditions; as we come to know it, are not likely to be feasible in fifty or one hundred years; unless immediate and effective actions and policies are prescribed on a global basis. History suggests that these are unlikely. It is reasonable to conclude that a similar, if not more difficult situation, could result when virtual Earth is constructed on a chosen destination. And it may be reasonably speculated that exponential complexities of this habitat would be much greater than the original home base - much greater.

Assuming that an appropriate destination is determined and that all the technology is developed to create a virtual Earth there, what investment of planetary currency is required? What are the expected on-going expenditures of planetary currency? Will the habitat generate and return to the home base, planetary currency that exceeds the initial investment and its on-going expenditures? Pre-dating the time of Columbus historical exploration of new lands was premised on these intuitive questions and responses. No doubt the Queen of Spain financed subsequent voyages by Columbus and others based on the bounties of gold to be returned for the relatively small investment and perceived risks of their undertakings.

For sake of discussion, say the initial investment of planetary currency is 5% and on-going costs are 1% of the planet’s total inventory of usable mass and energy. With simple arithmetic and dedicating all planetary resources to this venture; the habitation would only last about 96 years. Of course, such hypothetical situations and related numbers are  highly speculative; for example, the numbers could much greater or lessor than setout. What the experiment does, highlight that it makes no sense to use our scarce remaining planetary currency unless there is a greater return of planetary currency from such a venture, with some risk value included in its calculation; for say, unforeseen replacement events (asteroids). To do otherwise, is foolhardy as it would only serve to shorten the already “fragile existence” of the human condition on Earth itself. In this case, the analysis of planetary economics speaks louder than the dreams of physics and conquering the cosmos, particularly when the return of additional mass and energy - planetary currency - from the habitat appear romantic and highly unlikely. Considering our specie’s track record too, the cosmos may be better served left alone – at least for now.

What are some other choices? Is there any planetary currency to deploy?

Whether there is sufficient planetary capital for colonization or other choices depends on how our remaining resources are deployed and consumed by nations. Should we continue; for instance, to use them on non-essential activities and goods such as armaments, frivolities, gold mining and so on; then in so doing, we would more quickly erode whatever discretionary planetary currency is available for choices with greater future benefit. The trade off between consumption and capital investment is an age-old economic issue, but an even more important choice today considering what is now at stake. And from a planetary view, non-essentials are considered to form part of consumption as they contribute little to sustaining the long-term human condition and use remaining resources needlessly.
As part of this process of allocating our scarce planetary currency, "systems thinking" suggests we should have in mind some general acceptance of the mission or goal that is most relevant to the human condition. An existential realist may suggest the longest possible and sustainable existence for the species is optimal regardless of population numbers. Theologians may perceive any mission as irrelevant as the planet is but a step to a higher place where all the constraints of the finite and concrete world cease to exist. Scientists may also believe it does not matter that much; as the finites of usable mass and energy will eventually inter-sect with infinity – how or who would be there at intersection to measure or benefit from the relatively of objects that worked to determine time and existence? Will it really matter what goal is set given the inevitable intersection?


Even setting a goal for the human condition offers challenges that would affect how we work together and allocate the scarce remaining planetary currency.

What are some possible choices, outside of the planetary colonization proposed by Stephen Hawking that may provide a greater return or preservation of planetary currency? Here are few choices that come to mind that could be considered alternatives to colonization; certainly there are others that could be mentioned. The purpose is not to define all definitive choices, but to highlight a way of seeing a process that moves us towards the best allocation and use of our scarce planetary currency that is aligned with the generally accepted mission of the human condition.

The first and favoured choice, in our view is to Right Size the Planet. In words, it means bringing the human population back into equilibrium and harmonization with our planetary realities and physical constraints. Such an undertaking requires a deep, careful and painful overhaul of our conceptual and physical infrastructures; including but not limited to economics, media, culture, theology, politics, and jurisprudence. Deep and sharp cuts in the global military industrial complex would also be an essential part of this tough overhaul medicine. Imagine...

From our current state we move through a transitional state and then to a desired state that works to forever meet the generally accepted mission and better sustain the species condition. If successful, in time we could then again revisit the idea of expanding beyond the planet should the economic equation indicate that this is more than a dream, but a realistic and viable choice that increases our store of planetary currency.

What the right population number is remains unknown. Some suggest as many as 75 million people is an optimal right-sizing, while others indicate a number nearing one billion. Regardless, the current population of seven billion and growing, places us at considerable risk by accelerating our path to complete resource exhaustion. For most of us, the target population number should be personally irrelevant, as in life we generally cross paths with a few thousand folks, and perhaps know a handful in our select worlds.

In all likelihood, if this right-sizing is not however dealt with in a systemic manner, then unsystemic forces may do what was not done under the systemic guidance of reason, science and concern. That’s not good…

A second choice that is a little more far-fetched, and beyond the realms of economic and financial expertise, are possible breakthroughs in the quantum or other physical laws of the universe by way of substantive research using discretionary planetary currency. To achieve such breakthoughs, expenditures may measure a thousand times that of the Manhattan Project, yet could be still substantially less than current global military outlays. Such breakouts could unfold laws relating to say the originations of matter or energy; both of which would be helpful in attaining the more sustainable state. There are some theological issues here, but there is a parallel logic at work in science and theology, insofar as even supreme beings require an originating force or law to exist. Regardless, a shifting of planetary resources away from non-essential activities, to sciences and research that are more relevant to sustaining our existence, is another optional course to consider.

Closing Notes

Whether there are two choices, three choices or more; the choices we make should be based on a deep inter-disciplinary analysis that clearly defines the prominent facts, constraints and objectives that future and on-going decisions and actions will be made under. Economic metrics that are actually metrics relative to the use of the planet’s remaining store of usable mass and energy should be strongly encouraged, as other measures include much subjective bias. There is a need to have fields of concern work more closely together and crossover to solve a conundrum that is comparable to a Rubik's Cube with a thousand faces.

Mr Hawking we differ with your view regarding a proposed colonization of other destinations in the universe; as we see it, the potential planetary currency outlays for saving and preserving a handful of humans on another destination looks to be too costly and risky for those remaining on home base – Earth. (Should the world come to its senses and eliminte all military expenditures then a trade off would be viable and supportable - do not hold your breath)  In the end, the philosophical question may be the deciding factor - for what reason? For in all cases, we are still racing against an infinity that has the mathematical upper hand.

Nonetheless, we see these possible options for deploying our scarce planetary currency as having better uses and benefits for near and longer-term goals. They are hard and expensive actions too, with risks of success unknown. If we could concurrently succeed in Right Sizing the Planet and also achieving research breakthroughs in physics and related sciences, then our opportunity to sustain the species on this planet should be much improved. Habitation elsewhere is for many reasons a dream that is more fragile. Much more fragile.

In closing, the move towards a sustainable state for the planet may result in much more centralized control of human affairs. This is a very great danger and fear. As centralized and closed systems are easily corrupted, leading to the loss of liberties and freedoms that we know them. Words cannot emphasize enough how dangerous these possible losses in human rights could be. This adds a dimension to the problems that should be anticipated in advance, or else the desired good could be lost to the whims of a corrupt central elite concerned purely with self-interest. Negotiating this trade-off between individual rights and the greater good is not unique to our history, still it is feared that it may be put to even greater tests in the coming years. It is utterly essential to keep our eyes on this ball at all costs.  

For existence without liberty should never, ever be negotiated away, as the consequences of related unknowns are too great and could certainly act to defeat the greater benefits desired. The cure should not be worse than the disease.




First Financial Insights Inc.
January 11, 2012
Toronto, ON
@Firstfininsight


WHAT OTHER SPECIES KNOW... 

"indeed all economic metrics relate directly back to mass and energy...then its all simply relative"