Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Archive for the tag “downside of the new economy”

This is what creative destruction looks like: disruption in the taxi, TV, and retail industries.

If you wish to become obsolete or gain hands-on experience with bankruptcy laws, the above strategy will work well. Cartoon is provided courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Companies and industries that can’t keep up with changes in technology or demographics or the internet are getting hit hard.

A few more hits to the old way of doing things:

  • collapsing price for taxi medallions
  • tricks to hide low TV audiences; gaming the ratings
  • more closures of Sears stores
  • Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy protection

The wide use of Uber and Lyft has affected the taxi industry. As one measure of the technological disruption, consider the price of a taxi medallion in New York. One cannot operate a taxi there without a medallion.

There is apparently a thriving business, or at least there used to be a thriving business, in buying a medallion and then renting it out to someone who wanted to drive a taxi.

The market for medallions has collapsed. Consider the following graph by Mark Perry, described in a tweet on 7/6/17.

Read more…

The power of rationalization when you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion. The tale of Silk Road, part 5.

According to ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, his ordering the execution of a renegade employee is morally the same as the U.S. President ordering one of the above wartime launches. Illustration courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This is the second of two posts describing the frightening power of rationalization on display in the story of Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, as he developed the Silk Road website where you could buy anything you wanted. The story is told in American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. This is the fifth post in a series. You may enjoy reading parts one, two, and three.

You might want to read part four before diving into this wrap-up of the rationalization discussion.

How can body organs be okay?

Shall we extend this discussion into body organs?

I suppose there might be some way for informed consent to be given in a situation where a body organ is extracted and sold on the Dark Web. I can’t get my brain around it, but I suppose there might be some possible way to do so that would be consistent with libertarian concepts.

I have a real problem with thinking that organ providers in China gave informed consent.

Maybe I’m missing the boat or maybe just can’t stretch my brain far enough, but I don’t see how libertarian concepts can be used to justify the sale of either hand grenades, rocket launchers, or livers & kidneys. That seems to be a rationalization to do what you otherwise feel like doing.

There is even more rationalization in play.

How do beatings and torture fit in?

Read more…

How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 2.

Above organs were reportedly available for purchase at Silk Road. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

While developing Silk Road, Mr. Ulbricht had a girlfriend, whom I won’t name. She knew he was raising and selling dope on the website and broke up when he would not end his involvement with the site.

(This is part 2 of a discussion of a book on Silk Road, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. Part 1 here.)

His girlfriend came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior later in the book, well after they broke up. (Based on a few ways that the description of her conversion and faith are described, I will make a wild guess the author of the book is not a believer).

At one point when they got back together for a while, his girlfriend persuaded him to attend worship at what appears to be a charismatic congregation that operated without a formal pastoral leadership structure.

After the worship she asked him what he thought about the morals that were discussed during the worship service.

Read more…

How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 1

On what basis do you decide which is the right path?   Image of “decisions” by Impact Hub is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What is the relative moral ranking of people selling the following illegal products:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Lethal poisons
  • Harvested body parts

Early in the growth of the Silk Road, which was a hidden place on the internet where you could buy anything you wanted, and I mean aaaaanything imaginable, a debate emerged about the outer limit of products that would be allowed on the site.

The website was set up and run by Ross Ulbricht. Ultimately the feds busted him, his senior staff, and another couple hundred people who worked for Silk Road or sold stuff there.

Read more…

Retail brick-and-mortar stores continue their slide

The near future for a lot of Sears stores. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I read but did not keep track of a WSJ article describing e-commerce companies moving into otherwise dead shopping malls and converting them into fulfillment centers. Sounds like a good way to recycle vacated malls.

Some other articles on the deteriorating retail market. Also, an explanation why sales of vinyl records have slowed.

7/7/17 – USA Today – Sears to close 43 more stores as retail crisis continues – This is in addition to the 66 closings I mentioned on June 16, which is in addition to 180 announced since January 1st.  Article says this brings the year-to-date total to over 300. I obviously missed 20 recently that were mentioned in the article.

Article says J.C. Penny is closing 138 stores, Macy’s is closing 68, and Radio Shack has shuttered over 1,000 stores since Memorial Day.

Read more…

If it seems like the economy hasn’t quite recovered in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, it isn’t just your imagination

What economic growth feels like in the Inland Empire. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

If you are living in California more than, oh, say 15 miles from the ocean, you likely wonder why the statistics saying the economy is going fantabulously well don’t seem to fit with what you see while looking around or what you hear after talking to people.

Two articles explaining why you might be feeling that disconnect, why something just seems off.

First, business activity including employment in the Inland Empire area of Southern California is only now, in early 2017, returning to the level when the recession started.

Second, it isn’t just your imagination that lots and lots of younger people are still living at home when it seems like they should be out on their own. We are talking people who have graduated and are employed.

5/25/17 – Daily Bulletin – Inland business is back to pre-recession peaks – with one big exception.

Read more…

More worlds far away I’ll never visit, including a fraud education tidbit for CPAs.

Image of in-person illegal drug sale courtesy of Adobe Stock. I don’t quite know what image to use for an illegal on-line sale.

There are many dark places on the underside of life that I will never see. One item on the long list of reasons why I blog is to look into those places by explaining what I read on the ‘net. I describe those places as worlds far away that I’ll never visit.

Two topics for today:

  • Deep background on Silk Road, the marketplace for anything
  • Selling positive pregnancy tests online

From 2013 through 2015 I wrote about 10 articles on Silk Road and the Dread Pirate Roberts who ran that dark world where you could buy anything you wanted. You could buy drugs, weapons, forged passports, poison, anything. You can find my old posts here.

Turns out Dread Pirate Roberts (an unfortunate choice of names that sullies the reputation of one of the best slap stick movies ever!) is Ross William Ulbricht. He is currently serving a life sentence at the New York Metropolitan Correctional Center. The Bureau of Prison website lists his release date as “Life.”

Now there is a full length book describing his assent to the peak of the dark world and descent into a life of free federal housing for the rest of his natural life. At a current age of 33, that will be a looooong time.

6/13/17 – Wall Street Journal – The Dark Web’s Dark Prince Review describes American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road.

Review summarizes the origin of Silk Road, its rapid growth, and challenges of running an organization with a billion dollars of illegal sales.

Reviewer suggests there is not really that much unusual about Mr. Ulbricht: he suggests people who love Ayn Rand, have extreme confidence, and can build a competent website are on both sides of each street at every corner of Silicon Valley.

Read more…

More on the downside of technology innovation

Sometimes technology can be a bit scary. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Just like technology is constantly being used in ever more exciting ways, technology is also being used in ever more scary ways. A few articles illustrating the downside:

  • Hotel hacked by ransomware, locking guests in rooms
  • Police surveillance cameras hacked with ransomware
  • Software to help plagiarists evade plagiarism detection software
  • Cloning voice patterns to create voice recordings
  • Insurance companies using social media for background checks

1/28 – The Local, in Austria – Hotel ransomed by hackers as guests locked in rooms – A 4-star hotel got hit hard by cyber crooks, who locked the key-based door system. Every door in the place was locked Guests could neither get into a room or leave.

Hotel paid a ransom in bitcoins  of 1,500 Euros, or about US$1,608.

This was the third hit at the hotel. They successfully defended against a fourth attack.

Oh, the hotel has a plan to prevent future attacks…

Read more…

More disruption in the electricity grid from all that solar output

Curtailed electricity in California during 2016 was greater than the output from any one of those towers. Photo by James Ulvog.

The routine surge of electricity during the late morning and early afternoon in California is disrupting the electricity system. Matching the excess production of electricity during the day with highest use in the evening is going to be expensive for consumers.

The underlying issue is solar is neither reliable nor dispatchable.  The issue is beginning to be a problem and will get far worse.

3/5/17 – Wall Street Journal – How California Utilities are Managing Excess Solar Power – There is so much solar power in California that when the sun is bright, there is too much electricity and it must be sold cheaply just to get rid of it. Then, when the sun goes down and demand goes up after people get home from work, there isn’t enough electricity and the spot price goes sky high.

Article says that during the day, the wholesale spot price of electricity frequently shrinks to zero. Occasionally the wholesale spot price can hit $1,000 a megawatt-hour after dark. That would be about a dollar a kilowatt. $1.00.

At the end of the article there is a comment that on 178 days in 2016 the wholesale price went negative. The spot was below zero. The solar plants in California had to pay someone to take the excess electricity. I wonder what that does to the bottom line at Ivanpah? (That is a rhetorical question. – Impact on them is zero because I think they are on a multi-decade fixed price contract.)

Huge battery plants can store electricity during the day and discharge at night. That is expensive. Article says the price ranges from $285 up to $581 a megawatt-hour, which is in contrast to a natural gas peaker at $155 to $227 a megawatt-hour. That is around twice as expensive.

3/18/17 – David Danelski of Press-Enterprise at Daily Bulletin – Here’s how California ended up with too much solar power – The amount of solar power now online in California is so high that it is disrupting the electricity market.

The impact of so much solar capacity shows up at two times during the day.

Read more…

Deep background on disruption in music and publishing. Up next? Hollywood.

Does the graph remind you of the newspaper and music industry? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Does the graph remind you of the newspaper and music industry? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Several articles provide an in-depth view of the disruption taking place in several industries due to the IT revolution.

  • Hollywood is ripe for the same creative destruction we’ve seen in music, newspapers, and publishing.
  • New York Times is shrinking their physical space and staff size
  • Prime time TV still having a rough time

The question to ponder in the back of your mind is what are you going to do when this wave of disruption overturns your industry?

January 2017 – Vanity Fair – Why Hollywood As We Know It is Already Over – Looking for a good article on how technology is going to do to Hollywood what IT has already done to music and publishing? If so, this is what you’ve been looking for.

Check out the article to help understand the massive change surrounding us.

Disruption of music industry

First, music and newspapers. The author saw his first indication the music industry would collapse when he started downloading music. Instead of driving to a store somewhere and spending $20 to get one song he wanted, he could spend a buck and get the song immediately.

Author says the music industry has shrunk by half in the last decade. Remember that is after the first round of disruption hit.

Disruption of newspapers

Next were the newspapers. For a long time, the web part of the New York Times was physically separate from the headquarters. “Banished” is the word the author used. At the same time, startups like Instapundit (yeah Professor Reynolds!) and DailyKos were figuring out how to blog. Then WordPress and Tumblr allowed anyone on the planet to start blogging, and doing so for free.

Author says a lot of people didn’t want to wander over to a newsstand and buy a whole newspaper or magazine when instead they could read the single article they wanted, online, for free.

To illustrate the concept, I’ve never bought a copy of Vanity Fair and doubt I ever will. I certainly didn’t drive over to Barnes & Noble to buy the current edition so I could read this article. A blogger I read (see above!) mentioned it and I clicked over.

The end result of the loss in audience?

Read more…

Newspaper revenue continues to fall off the cliff

DIfference between this guy and the newspaper industry is this guy has a rope. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Difference between this guy and the newspaper industry is this guy has a rope. Oh, and he is doing this intentionally. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Previously explained Still falling of a cliff, newspaper edition. The post has two graphs from Carpe Diem showing the collapse in newsroom employment levels and industry revenue.

Here are a few more articles describing the cliff that newspapers are falling off of.

(Yeah, I know. Bad grammar.)

10/27 – New York Times – More Wretched News for Newspapers as Advertising Woes Drive Anxiety – At the time the article was written (late October), layoffs had already taken place in the Times and Gannett, with layoffs expected at the WSJ.

Read more…

Still falling off a cliff, newspaper edition

newspaper-jobs-7-16

Graph from Carpe Diem used with permission.

If you want a picture of what utter collapse in an industry looks like, check out the graph above from Professor Mark Perry on employment in the newspaper industry.

From a peak of 457,800 in 1990 to 180,100 in July 2016 is a drop of 60.7%.

Advertising dollars are doing the same thing. On 4/30/15, Prof. Perry published the following graph in his post, Creative Destruction: Newspaper ad revenue continued its precipitous free fall in 2014, and it’s likely to continue:

Read more…

News from Bakken – 6/15

Whether a boom time or slow down, all the oil activity has disrupted life in North Dakota. Photo by James Ulvog.

Whether a boom time or slow down, all the oil activity has disrupted life in North Dakota. Photo by James Ulvog.

Two reports on the issue of whether transitory housing will remain in Williston: one court case closed with one remaining; city allows another year and a half to remove the camps.

Young guys who moved to North Dakota and decided to stay have brought their wifes to the area and guess what? Lots of them are having babies. By the way, our son is in that category, our daughter-in-law is someone who moved as well, and our grandson is one of the following statistics.

Finally, an indicator why people in North Dakota don’t like all the changes. I get it. Really, I get it: there are ugly sides to economic expansion.

6/8 – Amy Dalrymple at Oil Patch Dispatch – Williston Wins One Crew Camp Court Case, Another Looms – There are two cases and process against the city’s plan to shut down all crew camps. The case in state court has ended with the judge refusing to issue an injunction.

The federal case is still pending.

Read more…

More illustrations of disruption from technology

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

While tech innovations have opened up new frontiers, innovation is disrupting some fields. Here are a few articles making this point that I’ve accumulated recently:  newspaper circulation continues to collapse, higher ed is increasingly vulnerable to disruptions, and accreditation agencies (which illustrate regulatory capture) show why disruption is needed.

1/20 – Richard Tofel at Medium – The sky is falling on print newspapers faster than you think – Author pulled together circulation numbers from March 2013 and September 2015 for the 25 largest newspapers in the country.

Guess what? Circulation is collapsing.

Here are just a few of the numbers he accumulated: Read more…

Why I am so optimistic – 3

The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The number of people working in manufacturing has been declining for many years. Those job losses will continue at the same time as technology disrupts other industries causing the loss of more jobs.

This is not a new concept. Technological advances have devastated farm employment over the last 150 years.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Prof. Thomas Tunstall pondered Where the New Jobs Will Come From. Sub headline on his 11/4/15 article said:

In 2007 iPhone application developers didn’t exist. By 2011 Apple had $15 billion in mobile-app revenues.

Consider the percentage of the population employed in agriculture over time: Read more…

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