Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rising Oil Prices: A Tipping Point For Alternative Energy At Last ?

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Human Beings tend to have short memories for non-tragic events. The best way to change Human responsiveness and engender conformity is to strike precipitously (but not so precipitously that it causes excessive violence or meaningful revolt), ease things (i.e. taxes, the price of gasoline, the interest rate on home mortgages) slightly back down for a time, but not quite as easy (or as generous, or as cheap) as they had been previously -- and then wait for anger to subside and indolence and complacency to set in -- only to pull the same shenanigans again.

If you want to increase price acceptance of an economic necessity, the ideal strategy, politically and psychologically, is to push prices higher on some pretext, and then reduce then, but to a higher level than they were before. Over a period of time, through incremental adjustments and slights bouts of relief, you raise the bar, albeit in increments. People are adaptable (more so than they care to admit) provided that changes are made through a series of small incidents. Prices rise, then they decline to a new, higher, expectation level.


A Strategic "Sawtooth" Incremental Increasing Of Prices Over Time

This upward spiraling technique has been the strategy of choice for the producers, refiners and "transport engineers" of fossil fuels for many years. It has inflated every cost associated with logistics and transportation, and has damaged entire sectors of the economy for periods of time. It has never failed because there was always adequate demand, progress or resiliency in the economy at the time of each of spiking incident.

In this ponderous and low-income/ low-employment economy, especially in both Western Europe and the United States, this honored tradition might have finally forced the entrepreneurs, the e-commerce merchandisers, the alternative energy developers, the automotive industry and even the venture capitalists and private equity fund managers to reach a critical mass of drive to start reducing our dependency on petroleum-based energy altogether. The petroleum industry, in combination with some very fateful timing may well have caused a consumer and business sector push to aggressive find, fund and deploy alternative sources of energy.

Sometimes a confluence of economic variables, in conjunction with a long pent-up distrust and distaste for an industry (i.e., big oil) brings about a tipping point and forces a change in technology and demand -- expect both during the course of the next 32 to 36 months.

Expect great strides in the development of alternative energy, the deployment of alternative energy (i.e., hybrid cars, solar panels, windmill farms, geothermal facilities, atomics, hydroelectric energy and even a variety of nanotech, biomass and as yet unveiled organic "green and mean" technologies for energy production to begin reducing the demand for oil. A great deal of capital, venture, investor and consumer dollars, will be heading in the direction of finally reducing the demand for and dependency upon petroleum.

In tandem, we may expect many new and interesting investments (both agri-tech and high-tech) in such sectors as alternative energy; alternative transportation; alternative marketing and commerce, and in other sectors as well.

While the world has not yet agreed upon a way to rid itself of the monetary system and banks entirely (that will require a great deal of work and some difficult consensuses), the perception of oil is a fountain of evil and lies has caught hold...and more excitingly, alternatives have already been identified.

If you abuse people long enough, some of them become innovators and freedom-fighters. Watch out, Big Oil. As the saying goes, "Nothing good lasts forever."

Douglas E. Castle for The Global Futurist Blog.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Social Media Stocks: Impending Bubble? - Watch Your Portfolios...

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Yes. I believe, as does brilliant visionary economist Robert J. Shiller, that the prices of social media platform and related-application stocks are due for a bursting of their current bubble. I believe that they are grossly overvalued, and that true economic performance and aggressive piranha-like aggressors (those darned enterprising entrepreneurial types) will begin to snack on the fatted calf. My estimate for the purposes of The Global Futurist Blog, is that the bubble will burst within the next 18 months. And you can quote me on FaceBook if you'd like...

Economics, as a field of study, is truly an analysis of the behavioral psychology and resultant reflexes study of people behave turned loose in certain circumstances -- either real or perceived. Share prices rise and fall with perception, anticipation and manipulation. Human Beings, even the brightest Futurists, have an inherent propensity (a slightly irrational drive) to try to defy the macroscopic rules of economic waves and cycles in a microscopic style. This accounts for some contrarian investing, for baseless valuations, for unproductive bidding wars, for monopolies, for competition and for bubbles.

Bubbles occur in every aspect of any market where the participants involved stop looking at fundamental guidelines for valuation, and get caught up in a buying frenzy. And, as if suffering from some recurrent amnesia, they seem to forget about varies economic calamities which preceded the one in which they are currently obsessed, and start believing that there will be an asymptotic ascension of prices and values heavenward, with no adjustment or compensating balance. Like gamblers on a lucky streak they raise the amount of the sure bet bet until someone surprises them and hauls all of their wealth away.

If you're interested in Dr. Robert J. Shiller's Works, here are a few recommendations:

Yes, brothers and sisters - a change is gonna come.

Douglas E. Castle for The Global Futurist Blog

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Vanishing Careers - An Alternative To Thomas Frey's View

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Recently, at The Global Futurist Blog we took a look into the future of "employment evolution within the next several years with Thomas Frey, a Futurist whom I respect and whose work I find thought-provoking.

In contrast (and in some cases, agreement), please take a quick look at a CBS Business News slideshow talking about the very immediate future and those particular jobs that are subject to rapid extinction (or, euphemistically, non-renewal and non-replacement. You can view the slideshow (a very attractive presentation and of increasing page viewings and time engaged by viewers on the site by clicking on the giant hyperlink (reminds of the Watson-Crick Model of the structure of DNA, but longer) which follows, When you have finished, please hit the "BACK" button on your browser to come back home to me.

Welcome back. We saved you some cheese cubes and handy toothpicks with which to grab them.

Aside from the obvious observation that CBS is addressing very specific careers in the very immediate future, I wanted to give your Douglas E Castle's extinction ratings for the CBS list.
I've assigned various specific rankings to the likelihood and speed of extinction of the positions, as follows:

Key: On a scale of 1 to 5, a 1 represents the most likely to disappear most rapidly, and a 5 represents a slower and less likely disappearance. If you're in a career with a "1," get your running shoes on now. If your in a career with a "5," it's time to learn a new skill and polish up your resume...










CEO   5

And that is all I have to say about that, except these professions will die out in the US first due to increasing offshoring, outsourcing, consolidations (through mergers and acquisitions) of some colossally large companies, and of course news aggregation, syndication and the increasing availability of free content -- despite the general deterioration in its quality.

Douglas E Castle for The Global Futurist Blog and The Internationalist Page Blog

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Employment Outlook: Dramatically Changing Landscape

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Thomas Frey is a well-regarded and very thoughtful Futurist and has made some very provocative predictions for the coming five- to fifteen-year time horizon. His site, the is one of my most visited blog sources of information. While I do not agree with Mr. Frey about everything, and while he and The Global Futurist Blog may be at odds about certain potentialities for both the near term and the longer term, I am largely in alignment with his opinion (expressed in a blog posting of about a month ago) regarding which careers will be disappearing and which careers will be coming into demand and prominence. I would strong advise that you read what follows carefully, and start adjusting your plans rapidly. When Douglas E. Castle and Thomas Frey are in full agreement, I believe that increases the viability of the information...


When I brought up the idea of 2 billion jobs disappearing (roughly 50% of all the jobs on the planet) it wasn’t intended as a doom and gloom outlook. Rather, it was intended as a wakeup call, letting the world know how quickly things are about to change, and letting academia know that much of the battle ahead will be taking place at their doorstep.

Here is a brief overview of five industries – where the jobs will be going away and the jobs that will likely replace at least some of them – over the coming decades.

1.) Power Industry

Until now, the utility companies existed as a safe career path where little more than storm-related outages and an occasional rate increase would cause industry officials to raise their eyebrows.

Yet the public has become increasingly vocal about their concerns over long-term health and environmental issues relating to the current structure and disseminating methods of of the power industry, causing a number of ingenious minds to look for a better way of doing things.

Recently I was introduced to two solutions that seem predestined to start the proverbial row of dominoes to start falling. There are likely many more waiting in the wings, but these two capitalize on existing variances found in nature and are unusually elegant in the way they solve the problem of generating clean power at a low cost.

Both companies have asked me to keep quiet about their technology until they are a bit farther along, but I will at least explain the overarching ramifications.

I should emphasize that both technologies are intended to work inside the current utility company structure, so the changes will happen within the industry itself.

To begin with, these technologies will shift utilities around the world from national grids to micro grids that can be scaled from a single home to entire cities. The dirty power era will finally be over and the power lines that dangle menacingly over our neighborhoods, will begin to come down. All of them.

While the industry will go through a long-term shrinking trend, the immediate shift will cause many new jobs to be created.

Jobs Going Away
  • Power generation plants will begin to close down.
  • Coal plants will begin to close down.
  • Many railroad and transportation workers will no longer be needed.
  • Even wind farms, natural gas, and bio-fuel generators will begin to close down.
  • Ethanol plants will be phased out or repurposed.
  • Utility company engineers, gone.
  • Line repairmen, gone.
New Jobs Created
  • Manufacturing power generation units the size of ac units will go into full production.
  • Installation crews will begin to work around the clock.
  • The entire national grid will need to be taken down (a 20 year project). Much of it will be recycled and the recycling process alone will employ many thousands of people.
  • Micro-grid operations will open in every community requiring a new breed of engineers, managers, and regulators.
  • Many more.
2.) Automobile Transportation – Going Driverless

Over the next 10 years we will see the first wave of autonomous vehicles hit the roads, with some of the first inroads made by vehicles that deliver packages, groceries, and fast-mail envelopes.

The first wave of driverless vehicles will be luxury vehicles that allow you to kick back, listen to music, have a cup of coffee, stop wherever you need to along the way, stay productive in transit with connections to the Internet, make phone calls, and even watch a movie or two, for substantially less than the cost of today’s limos.

Driverless technology will initially require a driver, but it will quickly creep into everyday use much as airbags did. First as an expensive option for luxury cars, but eventually it will become a safety feature stipulated by the government.

The greatest benefits of this kind of automation won’t be realized until the driver’s hands are off the wheel. With over 2 million people involved in car accidents every year in the U.S., it won’t take long for legislators to be convinced that driverless cars are a substantially safer and more effective option.

The privilege of driving is about to be redefined.

Jobs Going Away
  • Taxi and limo drivers, gone.
  • Bus drivers, gone.
  • Truck drivers, gone.
  • Gas stations, parking lots, traffic cops, traffic courts, gone.
  • Fewer doctors and nurses will be needed to treat injuries.
  • Pizza (and other food) delivery drivers, gone.
  • Mail delivery drivers, gone.
  • FedEx and UPS delivery jobs, gone.
  • As people shift from owning their own vehicles to a transportation-on-demand system, the total number of vehicles manufactured will also begin to decline.
New Jobs Created
  • Delivery dispatchers
  • Traffic monitoring systems, although automated, will require a management team.
  • Automated traffic designers, architects, and engineers
  • Driverless “ride experience” people.
  • Driverless operating system engineers.
  • Emergency crews for when things go wrong.
3.) Education

The OpenCourseware Movement took hold in 2001 when MIT started recording all their courses and making them available for free online. They currently have over 2080 courses available that have been downloaded 131 million times.

In 2004 the Khan Academy was started with a clear and concise way of teaching science and math. Today they offer over 2,400 courses that have been downloaded 116 million times.

Now, the 8,000 pound gorilla in the OpenCourseware space is Apple’s iTunes U. This platform offers over 500,000 courses from 1,000 universities that have been downloaded over 700 million times. Recently they also started moving into the K-12 space.

All of these courses are free for anyone to take. So how do colleges, that charge steep tuitions, compete with “free”?

As the OpenCourseware Movement has shown us, courses are becoming a commodity. Teachers only need to teach once, record it, and then move on to another topic or something else.

In the middle of all this we are transitioning from a teaching model to a learning model. Why do we need to wait for a teacher to take the stage in the front of the room when we can learn whatever is of interest to us at any moment?

Teaching requires experts. Learning only requires coaches.

With all of the assets in place, we are moving quickly into the new frontier of a teacherless education system.

Jobs Going Away
  • Teachers.
  • Trainers.
  • Professors.
New Jobs Created
  • Coaches.
  • Course designers.
  • Learning camps.
Prototype of a 40′ X 40′ 3D Printer capable of printing a small building

4.) 3D Printers

Unlike a machine shop that starts with a large piece of metal and carves away everything but the final piece, 3D printing is an object creation technology where the shape of the objects are formed through a process of building up layers of material until all of the details are in place.

The first commercial 3D printer was invented by Charles Hull in 1984, based on a technique called stereolithography.

Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands of items and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did during the Henry Ford era.

3D Printed Dress

3D Printed Shoes

Jobs Going Away
  • If we can print our own clothes and they fit perfectly, clothing manufacturers and clothing retailers will quickly go away.
  • Similarly, if we can print our own shoes, shoe manufacturers and shoe retailers will cease to be relevant.
  • If we can print construction material, the lumber, rock, drywall, shingle, concrete, and various other construction industries will go away.
New Jobs Created
  • 3D printer design, engineering, and manufacturing
  • 3D printer repairmen will be in big demand
  • Product designers, stylists, and engineers for 3D printers
  • 3D printer ‘Ink’ sellers
Boston Dynamics’ BigDog

5.) Bots

We are moving quickly past the robotic vacuum cleaner stage to far more complex machines.

The BigDog robot, shown above, is among the most impressive and potentially useful for troops in the immediate future–it’s being developed to act as an autonomous drone assistant that’ll carry gear for soldiers across rough battlefield terrain.

Nearly every physical task can conceivably be done by a robot at some point in the future.

Jobs Going Away
  • Fishing bots will replace fishermen.
  • Mining bots will replace miners.
  • Ag bots will replace farmers.
  • Inspection bots will replace human inspectors.
  • Warrior drones will replace soldiers.
  • Robots can pick up building material coming out of the 3D printer and begin building a house with it.
New Jobs Created
  • Robot designers, engineers, repairmen.
  • Robot dispatchers.
  • Robot therapists.
  • Robot trainers.
  • Robot fashion designers.
Final Thoughts

In these five industries alone there will be hundreds of millions of jobs disappearing. But many other sectors will also be affected.

Certainly there’s a downside to all this. The more technology we rely on, the more breaking points we’ll have in our lives.

Driverless drones can deliver people. These people can deliver bombs or illicit drugs as easily as pizza.

Robots that can build building can also destroy buildings.

All of this technology could make us fat, dumb, and lazy, and the problems we thought we were solving become far more complicated.

We are not well-equipped culturally and emotionally to have this much technology entering into our lives. There will be backlashes, “destroy the robots” or “damn the driverless car” campaigns with proposed legislation attempting to limit its influence.

At the same time, most of the jobs getting displaced are the low-level, low-skilled labor positions. Our challenge will be to upgrade our workforce to match the labor demand of the coming era. Although it won’t be an easy road ahead it will be one filled with amazing technology and huge potentials as the industries shift.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Communicating with the Future” - the book that changes everything.


I believe that some of these extinctions and geneses will occur at very different times, and I hesitate to speculate on which ones will occur in order. But I do think that all of these changes in the fundamental structure of the employment market and the nature of the workforce are going to be life-changing for all of us.

Further, I believe that the vanishing jobs are going to leave a vacuum in their wake, for some time before those qualified to step into the newly-created positions will be able to counterbalance this unemployment by techno-extinction. Career counselors, students, Human Resource professionals, management recruiters and all individuals involved in business planning (as well as those involved in career advice) must incorporate these coming changes into their projected resource needs and staffing requirements.

Not only will some careers disappear only to be overtaken by brand new ones, but entire industries and business will face extinction if they cannot anticipate, adjust and evolve proactively.

Douglas E. Castle for  The Global Futurist Blog

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