A Picture of “Less Bad”

Recently published estimates of second quarter investment in equipment and software provide an excellent example of the U.S. economy’s “less bad” trend. While the level of overall expenditures on equipment and software remains depressed, in line with its levels of 2000-2002, the quarter to quarter percentage change is rising — though still negative — as can be seen in these images.



“The Ten-Year Century”

An interesting op-ed ran in the WSJ last week. Authors Tom Hayes and Michael S. Malone argued that in a world of rapid and persistent change, time moves so fast that trust becomes ever more crucial:

Changes that used to take generations—economic cycles, cultural shifts, mass migrations, changes in the structures of families and institutions—now unfurl in a span of years…

Call it the advent of “the 10-year century”: a fast shuffle that stacks events which once took place in the course of a lifetime compressed into the duration of a childhood…

…when a computer chip goes through as many computations in a single second as there are human heartbeats in 10 lifetimes, a 10-year year century seems positively pokey. But we humans have a slower metabolism, which will make this rapid fire of events ever more difficult to comprehend, much less manage.

More disturbing, we have few safeguards—software shut-off switches, virus protections, firewalls, etc.—in place to check or repair our new global über-system when it misfires or goes completely off the rails…

So how do we control this increasingly out-of-control, interlinked world? Venture capitalist Bill Davidow has proposed the equivalent of online “surge protectors” to stop run-ups and panics on the Internet, the same way stock markets stop runaway trading. At the least we need better analytics to predict where change is taking us next.

Most importantly, trust will become the critical factor. Without the luxury of time, trust will be the new currency of our times, whether in news sources, economic systems, political figures, even spiritual leaders. As change accelerates, it will remain one true constant.

The authors are clearly on to something, and it’s an important dimension of the ‘Schumpeterian destruction’ of our age, an immensely powerful force that’s having significant and ongoing economic and social impacts.

One of our favorite books on the subject at hand is Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life by Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores. Solomon and Flores have a strong grasp of the importance and potential value of trust, or more specifically, of the act and skill of trusting. It’s more of philosophical discourse than a how-to book — though the thinking they offer should increase one’s capacity to trust skillfully (which includes knowing when to mistrust!).