Thursday, 29 January 2015

Megatrends....ongoing musings...

12 mar 15
looming water crisis. The World’s Water Supply Could Dip Sharply in 15 Years
by 2030 only 60% of global water demand will be met.

19th mar 15
what goes up must come down. the shale gas story is one such. about 5 years ago, the research reports were agog with hush hush stories of untold energy wealth below the ground. soon the biggest oil companies like chevron, exxon got into the act of hydraulic fracking and extracting energy which could keep afloat oil guzzling societies for decades into the future. along with them, the greedy wall street banks also lent billions and made billions in investment banking fees from oil companies. along with the shale boom, these fracking small towns overnight became bustling business centres. the real estate sharks also piled on and chalked out ambitious projects. huge constructions are halfway through. none had foreseen the oil glut and plummeting prices. then nemesis struck. glut of oil and sharp decline in prices. no signs of recovery in the horizon. the oil companies, banks, real estate companies are are caught on the wrong foot. banks desperately want to sell loans at discounts, but no takers. only the future can tell us the next chapter of this story full of greed and avarice of biblical proportions.

17th mar 15
The pension time bomb is ticking perilously. In some advanced countries today only about 75% of the future liabilities are in place with various govt, state and municipal bodies. This number was much higher at 85% during the 2008 financial meltdown. Some of the most hurt sections are the police, fire brigade, etc. it has reached such a stage the new entrants are being offered only defined contribution as against the earlier defined defined benefit.

In some cities the police have started quitting for better jobs. Now getting new people to fill their vacancies is becoming tougher. hence in due course there will be a shortage of police and firemen. If these two essential services get hit, there will be a deleterious effect on law, order and safety. With nation debt in shambles this precarious state of affairs can only deteriorate. Another tinder box to contend with.

13th mar 15
financial markets in unprecedented turmoil. unbelievable turn of events unfolding. stoic like we all are witnessing events stranger than fiction. we have become so future shock proofed that we are accepting it as the new norm. some of the stunning ripley's believe it or not:

  • negative rates of interest offered on european bonds
  • negative real rates of of interest in huge parts of the developed world
  • longer terms maturity of bonds ranging from 50 to 100 years
  • derivatives trading volumes $ 700 trillion in US, ten times global gdp
  • top ten investment banks have a private dark pool of trading beyond the purview of regulators
  • high frequency trading, spoofing to mislead stock markets 
  • computerised algorithmic trading on wall street 
  • most govts including municipals mired in ever increasing deficits, debt by continuously issuing bonds
  • biggest wall street banks barely passing the stress tests of the fed
  • banks resorting to higher proportions of loans to sub-prime retail borrowers in US
  • insurance companies having to pay out larger amounts for climate disasters
  • healthcare costs becoming prohibitively expensive
  • corporates resorting to higher dent equity ratios
  • increasing individual, corporate, national bankruptcies 
  • commodity prices declining, sharpest being oil
10th mar 15
the iran / israel issue in US has reached ludicrous heights. strange how without obama's nod the israeli pm addressed the us congress and the gop leaders have directly written to iran. the stand off between the president and gop has crossed all norms of statecraft. democracy is redefining itself. shades of the tv serial 24. humankind is really reaching new highs of confrontation. this used to happen at most levels like families, companies, etc. its present in all countries. but when the world's most powerful person the us president's authority is undermined, we have indeed reached another dimension in our descent to global anarchy. reminds me of the british rock band sex pistols' song anarchy in the uk from their album never mind the bollocks. in a way rock has been a presager of the times. its only rock and roll, and i like it.....

9th mar 15
during past one month there have been four oil train derailments in US / Canada. with increased fracking and reliance on shale gas, etc for becoming self reliant in energy, there has been quantum jump in fracking shale gas. that fracking itself is a high risk mining activity is another story. but crude by rail shipments have rocketed from 21k barrels a day in 2009 to a mind boggling 1 mn barrels a day by end of 2014! this frenetic scurrying of crude to keep feeding the monstrous energy needs of the world's richest country is indeed frightening. we all have become slaves to our comfort loving lifestyles. the number of violent train accidents in US have increased from 15 to 38 in 3 years ending 2014. its indeed a catch 22 situation...our love for high energy gadget based comfort vs the risks, environmental degradation and high unsustainable costs, debts and deficits.

7th mar 15
boko haram of nigeria has joined hands with Isis. terror seems to sprouting everywhere. human kind is bent on destroying itself. like ying and yang, the duality of humans is both good and evil. very few are able to transcend duality. this deadly duel between the opposing forces will always be there. since time immemorial the cain and abel story has been replaying over and over again. now with weapons of mass destruction, dirty bombs, bio threats...the risks of terror attacks are much higher. The polarisation of forces is getting clearer. The alliances are getting muddier and murkier. Yesterday's enemy today's friend. Good tracts of Islamic countries have aligned themselves against Isis. The battle lines are crystallising. The enemy seems to be everywhere. Within us. Without us. Nostradamus saw it all.

6th mar 15
the food conundrum for the teeming millions on the over crowded planet gets stranger ...sader ...diabolical... seems like a conspiracy against human kind in the name of scientific progress...and the agricultural, horticultural, poultry and livestock revolution...but the sickening truth is emerging that all that we eat and drink is slow poisoning....insidiously corroding our entails..norman borlaug was the genius who emancipated humanity from hunger...but the the bio scientists who work for the large agriculture research corporations have invented frankensteins..

first was the shocking revelation the milk we have and feed our children is not safe since the cattle have been treated with powerful hormones, steroids and antibiotics..the same applies to the cereals, vegetables, eggs, chicken, mutton, beef  we eat unknowingly... so freakish and monstrous...and since the mid-1990s.... the number of people suffering from chronic and lifestyle diseases, such as blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and cancer has nearly doubled., infant mortality has increased and life span is declining in many countries which have blindly adopted the sinister and improperly tested laboratory inventions of GMO food. the masses have no option but to eat these genetically engineered and modified food.. only the rich can afford organic food...

5th mar 15
Negative interest rates is the new anti-return on bonds. once considered an impossibility, theoretically meaningless, is the new reality which is spreading like wildfire across europe. ever since the greek drama began a host of central banks in europe have crossed into the hitherto forbidden territory of negative interest rates. the ECB was the first really to slip into the negative realm when it started buying bonds like Japan and US. most of the developed world is in the throes of living on stimulus. its indeed frightening that so called rich countries are actually in comatose states in the ICU. most of them have perilously low rates of gdp growth or even contracting.

quite a few of the large emerging markets are also in dire straits, especially russia, argentina and brazil. china has lowered its gdp projections to 7%, its lowest in 25 years or so. possibly india is the only contrarian with rising gdp growth rates. to cap it, taking advantage of the situation in europe, quite a few ingenuous american corporations including berkshire hathaway have started issuing euro bonds to arbitrage from the ultra low rates of interest there. seems the world is imploding...anti-matter...anti-Christ....

27th feb 15
in US the federal communications commission (FCC) for the first time decided to exercise some authority over the internet. so far the internet, perhaps the greatest invention last century and epocal as telephone, TV, or cars, was enjoying freedom of most new inventions which are not regulated till they reach some critical mass. the internet has grown at frenetic speed and spawned a digital universe for humans to live in, a bevy of devices and millions of applications. now there will be regulations for broadband providers which have mushroomed worldwide. there will be clarity on the regulations in the months to come and also how they will be implemented by other countries outside US. the telecom sector and cable companies are not happy with this. new net neutrality rules have been approved.

the net and broadband have invaded our lives pervading each pore like no invention in the past.
there was a parallel development since the 80s in computers and internet. only in the nineties these two entered our household. since the beginning of this millenium both of these made giant strides in geometrical progression which has now become exponential. now both have melded with the internet of things. today there is hardly anything in our lives which not linked to the web and computers. with the cloud we can be seamlessly interconnected through any device. robots are on the rise and intelligent homes. now driverless cars and drones. the surreal future of a dehumanised race where humans will morph into robots is staring at us in the face. the future is now.

25th feb 15
rise of the robots. no of industrial robots worldwide have increased from about 50k in 1990 to about 225k now, crossing 300k by 2018. in addition to industrial robots, hundreds of other automation techniques and devices have been invading our lives over the past 50 years or so like washing machines, dish washers, defrosting refrigerators, robotic vacuum cleaners, surveillance cameras, automated doors / gates, water pumps, ATMs, ad infinitum.  the rate at which technology is displacing human is accelerating. so far the trend has been that humans have been able to find newer types of work created by advances in technology giving credence to the theory that most of the technology has not been labour displacing in an overall sense since newer jobs were created. this fact may not be holding true across all types of economies developed and developing.

recent monstrous technological advances are likely result in one third of jobs being lost to automation in the next decade and half in next 20 years ie 2035. this has been one of the reasons that in advanced economies during past couple of decades or so wages of workers have stagnated due over supply of labour force. unemployment has also crept up insidiously. also quality of new employment creation has not been same as before becoming more lower grade. this has led to further polarisation of societies. now gradually computers with advanced algorithms are taking over taking human decision making like in financial planning, stock trading, MIS...the march of the robots is more frightening with driverless cars, drones....we are staring into the abyss of singularity..will they one start eliminating humans like 2001 a space odyssey...and also make us their slaves....

21st feb 15

I had written a post on Marriage is a Fading Institution some time back. Now the trends have been further vindicated by more research. Today more children live with single parents especially in US and Europe. More women are reaching 30s and 40s without getting married. This phenomena is not limited only to the liberal west but also spreading in Japan, Far East and Arab States like Lebanon, etc. even in China gradually these values are creeping in with the elderly being abandoned. Even in India men and women are marrying at later ages in their thirties. In fact in Japan robots have become companions for the singles. Then with sexual revolutions like gay living, marriage is certainly going to be an anachronism by end of this century.

19th feb 15

Gradually violence is increasing especially if we look at it over decades say since the fifties. Of course the two world wars were high violence points in time. I wonder if anyone has created a violence chart over time. Sure there must be with the kind of research and analytics we have today will proliferation of data, information and great computers and software to process and churn out yet for info overload.

Coming back to violence, right now it's unbelievable and kind of spinning out of control. Wars / violence in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Palestine, Europe, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan.... The list goes on. Almost Malthusian, Kaliyug and Nostrodamus...all rolled into one. Man is the most selfish and violent creature from the time of Adam. He is hell bent on destroying civilisation. Self destruct. He has also destroyed nature. Nature too is now reacting with extreme weather the frequency and amplitude of which increasing. This ever widening standard deviation will lead to perhaps the next ice age or extinction which will still the ever increasing noise of violence of man vs man.

18th feb 15

Anthropocenogic lights and noise killing nature. Our high energy lifestyles taking a heavy toll of our planet. Scientists is US have mapped the country for noise created by cars, planes and other urban / industrial sources, plus the invasive bright and blinding lights. The map is indeed frightening. Add to this the deforestation which is fast denuding all forests. This phenomena hold good for the entire planet. Now birds and animals have been pushed back from their natural habitats. This irreversible human war on nature is ravaging earth and it resembles a battlefield. What we admire as great cities are nothing but blots on nature pristine landscape. We are indeed the the aggressive species which has conquered planet earth and made prisoners all the earlier inhabitants. I wonder whether in the next 100 years we will see another upheaval where the newest kid on the block ..the robots will take over and control humans just like we subjugated animals and nature. 

17th feb 15

collateral damages for hi energy societies. yesterday there was a derailment of a train carrying crude oil in rural west virginia bursting into flames. now a clear trend can be discerned. almost every month now there some accident involving transport of crude or energy fuels by trains, trucks, barges, ships. a lot them result in oil spills on seas or rivers, etc triggering health hazards for humans, marine life, birds and animals. man is  literally endangering plant earth's flora and fauna and ecology. mankind in its relentless search for energy fuels to enable its hedonistic living based on high energy usage a la neon lights, skyscrapers, hummers, jet travel.....

in the process humankind is trampling upon the delicate ecological balance. the anthropocene era intensifies into a hurtle towards the sixth extinction....

11th Feb 15

The world is a conglomeration of air conditioned economies in ICUs today. As the major mostly developed economies are stumbling from one crisis to another, they are continuously pumping in stimulus with very low to negative interest rates. Now with currency wars having begun with the Swiss leading the way, most of the nations are in a sense making their exports attractive and imports prohibitive. Since only the dollar is rising versus the others, US is at a disadvantage currently.

But with other economic parameters showing varying degrees of swings, like GDP growth rates, effective demand, bad loans, the traditional economic cycles of boom and bust no longer hold. The earlier cycle periods no longer are true. Most of the time the busts are not as protracted as before, generally with soft landings and quicker quasi recoveries. Trillions of dollars of quantitative easing are being doused on various world economies in order to revive flagging and dying economies. Now the economies are totally hooked on this heroin which is being administered systematically to keep the comatose patient alive with a feeble pulse fluctuating erratically.

All economic theories are failing. Now with an array of computerised data pouring in daily economies are able to minutely vary the dosage of various economic, financial and fiscal measures like doctors do in an ICU. Among one of the measures is austerity. But the populace at large are fed up with any attempt to regulate their good life which was being provided by the state by digging deeper in bottomless pits of debt. We are in a catch 22 situation. The addiction of technology and all the toys of retail capitalism have captured us with their vicelike grip. We want everything. Everything is now a need. So be it. Populist leaders will win elections and keep taking all of us deeper into the quagmire of complex debt. The path to hell is paved with gold. In a godless world we are all followers of lucifer.

10th Feb 15

financial world getting murkier and murkier. dark pools of trading where only the top 10 or so investment banks conduct private trading with no regulation. now there is shadow banking which is also creating systemic risks conducting a "complex chain of transactions, in which leverage and maturity transformation occur in stages" while securitising loans. today there is news the the US Justice Dept is pushing felony charges for the first ever maybe against the top ten banks for manipulation prices of foreign currencies. Hence criminal charges are against them to which they must plead guilty. earlier i had written about the penalties amounting to $ 1.5 bn on S&P for over rating bonds in 2008.

as it is earnings and profits of financial services and banks constitute about 40% of total US numbers. if there is a serious crash of the financial system inspite of the too big too fail syndrome, then that will be death blow to global economies since the entire international financial system is integrated and interdependent. European banks and currencies are already in shambles.

as it is global gdp growth is slowing down. deflationary forces are blowing hard over europe and US too since interest rates are abysmally low or even negative. oil price crash has exacerbated the scenario more. Commodity prices are experiencing wild swings. the world is indeed a casino as it is lurching from one crisis to another.

8th Feb 15

Greece is reaching a stage where it is on the verge of reneging on its loan commitments to the EU. strangely enough because its people in a democratic election have voted against the anti-austerity measures imposed on it in the wake of its bankruptcy by its creditors the EU mainly led by Germany. greece is actually the tip of debt iceberg which engulfing the world both economies and also individuals. debt is actually ravaging the world tearing it asunder with its baleful influence. debt is more of a means to an end. the end is living the good life with all the toys of modern life and technology. the debilitating malaise has insidiously affected the very entrails of individuals, families, nations, societies and the entire globe.

7th Feb 15

  • extreme drought in California. in five years some lakes have run dry. there is a possibility that there could be migration of people out of California. Drought is raising its ugly head in several parts of the world. In India water shortage is going to become very serious in the next 15/20 years. bangalore, one of the fastest growing cities, is becoming drying with aquifer levels going down alarming with mushrooming multi storied complexes and indiscriminate borewell diggings. urbanisation is really going to create massive water shortages.

31st Jan 15

  • iceland rising due to melting ice and increase in volcanic eruptions. era of anthropocene meltdown...

29th jan 15

  • US becoming a sharply divided society. polarisation into two classes, top 5% who are really having the purchasing power and are driving economic growth with and average household spending of $85,000 annually and the other 95% of households with about avg HH spending of around $30,000. The wealthy 5% are the ones who are advancing in life and for whom the markets design most of their offering. The other 95% are struggling to make their ends meet. this segments is mainly constituted by the lower class and a slim sliver of a middle class. Most economies with health growth have large middle classes like in the emerging markets including India. Obama is also trying his best to rivive the US middle class.

  • percentage of unmarried people in Japan is increasing. in the age group 30-34, unmarried males rose from 22% to 47% during 1980-2010, while for females it rose from 9% to 34%. punishing work schedules leave no time for couples to enjoy married life and have sex. survey founf 45% of married couples had no sex during previous 30 days. birthrate is falling. unlike the west, Japanese people do not like children out of wedlock. but the trends are ominously similar both in the west and japan no of single people increasing. in the US over 50% of men and women are single. Figures and same in Europe. 

Post Covid World

Covid has suddenly thrust the planet to the inflexion point. It is a final wake up call for humanity. Civilisation has been on a suicidal ...