My IRRATIONAL Fear – Short term market collapse

You NEED to understand that the market is risky, in the short term, but so is every other place to put your money, including under your mattress (inflation risk!). – Axel Hoogland (yes I quoted myself)

My IRRATIONAL fear is a short term stock market collapse (meaning stock prices go down for a year or 2, similar to 2008 market collapse) (Learn about what the stock market is here).I am afraid of this because I am continually telling people to invest their money in the stock market. Most people are already invested in the stock market (but don’t know how their money is being managed or what exactly they are invested in). Some are only invested in bonds (which is risky as you are losing money to inflation). Some will pull their money out of the stock market at the first sign of trouble or market dip, which happens often (dips) but usually the market recovers quickly and they would lose on the gains. When investing in the market people should always ask themselves “What do I need this money for?” You NEED to understand that the market is risky, in the short term, but so is every other place to put your money, including under your mattress (inflation risk!).

My greatest fear is being wrong. I hate to give people incorrect information. It is ok to be wrong on some things. If you recommend someone eat at a restaurant they will be upset with you if they don’t enjoy it they will choose to never eat there again and might just stop taking your advice on restaurants.

If you recommend something to do with investing people’s money, something that they don’t completely understand themselves, and they seem to lose money (even if it is only for a short time and then it comes back in a year or two) they may hate you forever. People will be sure that there was a better option for them to invest their money in. They will not know what that option was, but they will be sure it was better than following your advice.

Someone is is almost always better at doing something for you than you will be at doing it for yourself. Some things require training to learn how to do. Many people do not feel comfortable fixing their own car. They take it to an expert, a mechanic. They don’t feel they have access to the right tools or knowledge (and that’s often true) so they pay someone to do it for them.

Unfortunately many people are happy to let an “expert” manage their money, for a large fee! The problem is these people are not experts, they are “salespeople”! You don’t let the car salesman fix your car and you shouldn’t let a “financial salesman” manage your money. The truth is that as a whole all fund managers will underperform the stock market. This is because of the fees they charge and because they are bad at guessing (yes they are guessing) which companies will perform better than average on any given year. Whenever someone sells a stock remember someone is on the other side of that deal guessing that that stock is going up! As a whole, all managed money will underperform (measured by percent returns to clients after fees) the total amount of unmanaged (index funds) market. Certainly some money managers will pick good and outperform the market and many will underperform and pick worse stocks than the market average, but all charge high fees. That is why index funds generally are the best place to put your money. To further diversify you should put your money in a Target Date fund which automatically transfers your money to bonds (safer investments) as you reach retirement.

A question people often ask is

Q.The stock market is high, should I pull money out of the market?

A. I ask them “What will you do with your money it if you do “pull it out” of the stock market?” The stock market should always be at the highest it’s ever been because the world is growing in population, thus businesses are making more products to sell.

As Mr. Money Mustache recently posted about, there is always a recession coming, so instead of worrying about it, it is better to understand what might bring it about, understand what you are investing in and why, and ride the storm out. A benefit of all this is that if people understand what causes recessions, over spending followed by underspending, we (may) be able to avoid wild cycles and instead keep a nice steady rise in abundance in the future, that is my hope by helping to educate people on “The Stock Market”.

Now that I’ve shared my fear with everyone, and why it’s not a rational fear, you should continue to learn about investing and why it is probably one of the most important things you can understand for yourself and for the world. You can learn more about Target Date Funds (where everyone should start investing) from this post or this video.

The Future

I spend a lot of time thinking and reading about things that are coming “in the future” and I often want to write about them after but it often doesn’t happen. Usually future technology or ideas are aimed at making the world a better place and thinking about stuff like that can put you in a good mood.  I wanted to just share a few quick notes and key people related to some future ideas in the hopes that it might spark some of you to look into one or two of them and go boldly into the future with me.

Transhumanism is the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. Zoltan Istvan is a writer currently running for President Of The United States on a Transhuman platform. One of his thoughts is we can potentially live forever. Is he crazy? Maybe.

Cyborgs  are people who have had things implanted in their body to help increase efficiency or capacity of current bodily functions. Implants could help with healing, memory, increasing hearing or sight. We could have phones implanted in our earlobe that could read our brains instead of us having to physically talk. I think that phones already do a lot of the type of things that cyborgs are thinking about but it is just not integrated in our bodies yet. As things get smaller with nanotechnology it will be easier and easier to be a cyborb but the small bots might be able to leave our bodies fast as new models come out so it won’t even be obvious our bodies are being enhanced.

Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are linked to aging and disease. They have been linked with longer life spans. It is suspected that exercise is one way we can help keep them healthy. Aubrey de Grey is one of the leading researchers in this area of study and other ways to help telomeres stay long and keep us alive and healthy.This goes directly along with the idea of transhumanism mentioned above.

Cryonics is the study of feezing people as they die or just after to hopefully restore them to better health in the future. This obviously relates to the above studies as the people, if they are unfrozen, would benefit from research in any anti aging information as well as anything that helps people live longer lives.

Nanotechnology can be used for many things from material design to robots that could help us become cyborgs. They could be programed to fight infections or cancers more effectively than our current immune system. They could also be used to stop bleeding, from inside of us. Other robots could be used to manufacture or heal materials.

Augmented reality is having a coming day soon. It is where the current world is projected over by some virtual components. Really I would say that Google maps is already a very basic form of augmented reality as we can get reviews and notifications about things that are near to us we might be interested in.  A new game is coming out soon, Pokemon Go, that is another step for augmented reality.

Virtual reality is the next step after augmented reality. It has a future where we might eventually be plugged into a Matrix type computer. We could do whatever we wanted. Again, I think we have had very basic virtual reality for a long time, at least as long as video games have been around. If you think about it books are even a form of virtual reality that we create in our minds. We are just taking it a step further with a headset that works to trick more of our senses.  This site gives you a neat rough VR tour of Mars. The lines of what “counts” as VR will obviously stay blurred. Current technology such as the Oculus Rift is making VR even more sophisticated than most people realize.  I see a future where we will have VR vacations that will obviously be cheaper than real trips. VR will also allow us to experience historic places and events.

Abundance is more a concept than an actual thing. There was a great book written about it by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. They promote the idea that we have more than enough to survive now. We need to stop hoarding stuff and being afraid of the future because we will have so much in the future. We need to get rid of the mindset that if someone else has more that means we have to have less. There is plenty to go around. Buckminster Fuller also shared a similar though, over 50 years ago, just without using the term Abundance.

Basic income is the idea that we will have so much via abundance and so little that we have to do thanks to increases in computers and robots that we might have to give people money to live off of because there will be no jobs. Instead of this being bad it could be great as we’ll be able to all spend time doing things we enjoy and taking up challenges we want to do that will lead to more innovation because of the passion we could have for our endeavors. There are many places that are starting to look at this such as Give Directly, the city of Utrecht (in the Netherlands) and Finland.

Mars – If you watched the Martian you know it was rooted in a lot of good science. We are probably going there in my lifetime and that’s just exciting!

Electric cars – With energy being probably the most important thing (after air) to our survival and only some forms of electricity being renewable, I see electric cars coming on strong in the coming years, boosted by better battery technology as well as cheaper electricity.

Autonomous cars – Although the first death was recently recorded that related to an autonomous (or assisted driving) car, it wasn’t actually determined that it was the fault of the car. My bet is it will not be. It wasn’t mentioned how many people died as a result of their own driving that same day but I bet it was a lot more. The systems will only be better as our technology increases.

The technological singularity is a hypothetical event in which an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) enters a ‘runaway reaction’ of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly. (Wikipedia). The Singularity Is Near is a great book written by Ray Kurzweil about this idea. You can also learn more about this, and many other topics, from the YouTube channel Singularity Weblog. Obviously such computing power could help solve many of the problems associated with the ideas discussed above and maybe make some of them obsolete.

If you want to read about a few more exciting things that could be in store for the future I encourage you to look up Quantum  physics, Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Human Genome project.
I know I am excited for the future and hoping to contribute in my own small way. What are you most excited about for the future? How are you helping it come?

The Unabomber Manifesto – A Book Review

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ― Aristotle

I read “Industrial Society & It’s Future” also knows as “The Unabomber Manifesto” in 6 days in December 2015. It is not a very long book, only 79 pages.

It was written by Ted Kaczynski, also known as The Unabomber for his attacks on Universities and Airlines with homemade bombs between 1978 and 1995.

Ted Kaczynski wrote (p16) “we consider lack of opportunity to properly experience the power process as the most important of the abnormal conditions to which modern society subjects people.”

He believed providing for our own basic needs, water, food, shelter satisfied some “power process” in us. If we didn’t have that power process satisfied we would turn to “surrogate activities” which often lead to creation of technologies that he believed lead to a reduction in the need for people having to provide their own basic needs. It is a never ending circle of people being less worried about what they had to do to survive turning to activities to make us feel as though we were in control of something.

A surrogate activity could be literally anything that does not contribute to our immediate survival including sports, writing blogs!, any viewing of television, fancy clothes, basically every industry or hobby you can think of would be under attack in his mind.. He specifically mentions the irony of the obsession of many of working out by saying “there is no practical motive for building enormous muscles”  (p27) as well as pointing to our fear of death by saying “It is not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who has never has a practical use for his body beyond walking from his car to his house.” (p25)

I do find this quite personally relevant. I went through a phase of working out in 2012 where lifting heavy weights was one of the only important things to me. I got big. But what did it yield me? Not much but potentially a micro tear in my left shoulder. Examination by a doctor has been inconclusive as to the cause of constant dull pain, but as everything is still working more or less fine, life continues on. The foolishness that lead to that situation though is one of the problems with modern society that Ted Kaczynski was pointing to while writing this book.

On page 30 Ted shares his definition of freedom “the opportunity to go through the power process, with real goals, not the artificial goals of surrogate activities, and without interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone.”

It is difficult for me to determine what he feels is a “real goal”. The only reason people see developed technology as a goal in the first place was to help them meet their “real goals” and we can agree that technology has succeeded in that endeavor, at least in the “rich world”. Now the proliferation of that technology to those who are disadvantaged should be our top goal or surrogate activity, if you consult myself or Buckminster Fuller.  

“Make the world work,
for 100% of humanity,
in the shortest possible time,
through spontaneous cooperation,
without ecological offense
or the disadvantage of anyone.”

  • Buckminster Fuller

My own goal for the world:

Our biggest goal for the world should be providing security to each person, the security to prosper independently or in collaboration with each other. People should get the opportunity to seek any position they desire. There will be people who don’t reach their goals but the fact that they got the opportunity to try is the important thing. – Axel Hoogland

Of note to the above should be that we should be allowed, as a society, to vet the goals of others, just a little bit, to determine that it’s not directly harmful to the rest of society. This is usually what wars arise from and this is where government regulations come in. For example: ISIS should not be free to try to reach their goal on world domination and imposing their form of Sharia Law on everyone. Also the car companies are restricted on emissions of greenhouse gases because it has been determined to be harmful to society at large. I think it’s obvious what I mean when saying that people should have the opportunity to seek positions such as engineer, doctor or policeman, unencumbered by the social or financial position they were born into. I believe we have a lot of systems in place to help these people already but those can always be improved and should be relentlessly.

Ted Kaczynski is not an idiot. In fact he is literally a genius having graduated from Harvard at 20 and receiving a PhD from the University of Michigan after that.

The irony of his situation is that his crusade to destroy all technology was in itself a surrogate activity of the type that he deplored.

In the rest of the book he explores some very advanced concepts, the kind which “normal” people give very little thought to, being absorbed in surrogate activities. On page 40 he says “If you think that big government interferes in your life too much NOW, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children.” The possibility of this level of genetic engineering is moving closer and closer to reality. A page later he says “each new technical advance CONSIDERED BY ITSELF appears to be desirable.” (P42). This is a very real thought and one that we need to consider when developing any new technologies. Who will regulate them? That is why if you are really concerned about that you should work to attain positions of power in the government such that you can affect the regulation. If you can’t, you should at least be reasonably engaged in correspondence with your governmental representative. We in the USA have a strange relationship with the government. It seems we are always distrustful of “the government”. We are sure they are out to get us. That sort of thinking is just useless at best and damaging at worst. Perhaps we all need to go back to the words of JFK.

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. John F. Kennedy

Another idea that Ted Kaczinski discusses is the thought of “The Singularity”.

The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity. – From The Singularity Is Near” by Ray Kurzweil.

Although Kaczinski doesn’t mention it by that name, he describes it thus, on technology “it would presumably advance towards its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms.” For a less negative take on The Singularity I recommend the long book “The Singularity Is Near” by Ray Kurzweil.

On page 60 he says “We can imagine a future society in which there is endless competition for positions of prestige and power.”  If that doesn’t describe our current society, I don’t know what would. But there are plenty of rays of hope for our future in both religious and nonreligious people. I am just finishing a book called Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne which discusses the drive by some religious to live with the poor and downtrodden instead of apart from them. There is also the book “Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth” by Buckminster Fuller which shares a vision of the world in which none are suffering.

I would encourage everyone to read The Unabomber Manifesto and consider what surrogate activities you are working towards and why and how you could apply your free time to a better future for all as opposed to just yourself. As an alternative to the future envisioned by Ted Kaczynski, I would recommend reading “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think” which lays out ways in which technology, rather than destroying our future, will build it better than we could ever imagine.