Surviving Human Nature

Some Topics

Future & Predictions

There is no future and talk of the future is an invention based on past experience. The truth is that no-one really knows what will happen next. The human sense of the future is an important survival strategy, however. What we can do is pay attention to the most relevant information we have right now, compare current circumstances with past events that are well known and use intelligent extrapolations to guess what is most likely to happen next. Smart humans are extrapolators who develop a sense of consequences from experience.

My premise would be that the societies and economies of the 21st century will have a different set of operating rules and projections based on the 19th or early 20th century are academic amusements of little practical value; nobody knows what will happen next. The world's stock markets are testing grounds for predictions. All methods of analysis are based on extrapolation. You assume that stock’s future performance can be predicted if you review past performance and analyze stock values using charts and computer programs. Analysts study sales and earnings rates, historical stock prices and calculate numeric measures such as price-to-earnings ratio. If stock performance prediction were simply a matter of applying mathematical equations to past performance data, then everyone could become rich investors. However, accurately predicting the future is impossible, so that uncertainty prevails and all investment involves risk.

Stock prices fluctuate with general market factors, investor mood and confidence, factors that cannot be calculated in advance. It does not matter if you are a well-informed rational analyst, a gambler, a prophet, a psychic or just a woman with "good intuition" - all fail to accurately predict what will happen next. Two predictions -- that stock values will change and that human nature will not change -- are reliable prophecies. While social and economic conditions are unprecedented in the 21st century, human nature has not changed ,Stock markets go up and down because investor confidence goes up and down. The formula for wealth is to buy for less and sell for more. People buy stocks when they have extra money and feel confident and sell stocks when they are afraid or just want to spend the money. Most investors are conservative, since they do not want to lose money. At the same time, conservative investors will gamble, when they see or hear of others making more money. The “me too” mimetic motive often interrupts or replaces a more reasonable long-term plan. Promoters and traders use gossip to excite “me too” buying or “not me too” selling. The expansion of market commentary in the last decade of the 20th century established an unprecedented level of investor gossip that involved every citizen who reads newspapers, magazines, television or browses the internet. The increasingly chaotic interactions of markets, currency exchanges, government policies and failing countries in the 21st century make predictions conspicuously untenable.

I have often admired the mass movement of flocks of birds and schools of fish and wondered at how the behavior of so many individuals could be so well coordinated. The mass movement of investors is coordinated by messages broadcast in multimedia, in a self-referential, recursive manner. Technical traders make money on price changes and are indifferent to the real value of the stock. Equity and commodity markets reveal human tendencies. The dialectic of optimism and pessimism is always at play. At times, over confident investors will feel powerful and in control; they overestimate their knowledge and ability when they mortgage the house to buy stocks. At other times paranoid, pessimistic attitudes prevail; the relevance of bad news is exaggerated, fear of impending doom renews interest in superstitious ideas and market values decline, sometimes precipitously.

Krugman asked: “Will limited supplies of natural resources pose an obstacle to future world economic growth?” He described three competing views: “1. Speculation caused by investors, looking for high returns at a time of low interest rates has gambled on commodity futures, driving up prices. This inflationary bubble will burst and high resource prices will decline.2. Soaring resource prices are based on fundamentals especially rapidly growing demand from newly meat-eating, car-driving Chinese. Given time we’ll drill more wells, plant more acres, and increased supply will push prices down again. 3. The era of cheap resources is over for good — that we’re running out of cheap oil, running out of land to expand food production and generally running out of planet resources to exploit. Concerns about what happens when an ever-growing world economy pushes up against the limits of a finite planet ring true. For one thing, I don’t expect growth in China to slow sharply anytime soon. That’s a big contrast with what happened in the 1970s, when growth in Japan and Europe, the emerging economies of the time, downshifted and took a lot of pressure off the world’s resources... the bad weather hitting agricultural production is starting to look more fundamental and permanent than El Niño and La Niña, which disrupted crops 35 years ago. Australia, in particular, is now in the 10th year of a drought that looks like a long-term manifestation of climate change. “

In late 2014 world oil prices dropped and surprised almost everyone with vested interests. Oil-dependent economies suffered sometimes drastic reduction in government revenues. Reduced oil and gas production and increased cost worldwide would be a long-term benefit for all humans. Reduced consumption reduces air water and land pollution and is a perquisite of controlling climate change.

A study funded by the UK Energy Research Centre concluded that the world should forego extracting a third of its oil and half of its gas reserves before 2050… The majority of the huge coal reserves in China, Russia and the United States should remain unused along with over 260 thousand million barrels oil reserves in the Middle East, equivalent to all of the oil reserves held by Saudi Arabia. The Middle East should also leave over 60% of its gas reserves in the ground. The development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil – oil of a poor quality which is hard to extract – are also found to be inconsistent with efforts to limit climate change.


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