Ian Bentley (May 20, 2010) on SICU, After we strip away all the crap ... where does the SAVVY investor put his money?
I say invest in natural resources and in humans. The first category doesn't just include established resources like oil, water, metals, etc... but also new ones under development like solar energy, high-tech materials, and others. The second category is not so easy to define. Let's start by saying to invest in innovative and hard working people who understand the new emerging society.
In my opinion, the entrepreneur of tomorrow is a community builder, a democratic leader, a good mediator, a giver, who understands how to cement strong synergistic relations, to create inter-dependencies, who knows how to empower, not only to motivate, and above all, one who believes in humans. Only such person can unleash the full creative and productive capacity of large masses, now strongly interconnected. Only such person can align the interests of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of independent and empowered individuals.
I think it's just about creating the proper environment that increases creativity and productivity. In every epoch we did it with the means of that time. Economical entities are subject to evolutionary lows. They compete with each other, they rely on scarce resources, they "die", they "mutate", etc. I can conjecture that at every epoch we had an equilibrium, a stable ecosystem. The most creative and productive entities at that particular time were at the top, driving the society. Moreover, I believe that economical forces are stronger than human forces. It's the economy that shapes the human mind, not vice versa. The means of production of the epoch lock humans into a specific web of relations, institutions, which in turn shape the human spirit. We adapt to survive in the context, which is itself defined by things we don't control like the climate, resources, tools, relations we MUST forge to accomplish vital tasks, etc.
At some point in history, one could extract potential from a group of people with a whip and a spiteful God. These people had to be kept ignorant, their self esteem had to be destroyed. This was possible in a world where information didn't flow, where the levels of communication, collaboration and coordination between slaves were ineffective. The printing press made democracy spread. The whip was replaced with a carrot, and God with desires. The control did not disappear, it only got more sophisticated. The machine was also introduced. It offered tremendous production potential. Our relation to it completely changed the way we treat each other. People got more educated, but not to become independent, complete human beings. They got specialized, compartmentalized, functionalized for the new economy. They are still unable to understand the system they leave in, unable to communicate, to collaborate. They are still dependent. The corporation was the answer to this era, the most efficient economical entity. The system which could extract the most from a group of individuals, in concert with an intricate system of financial, political, and cultural institutions, ultimately shaped to its image. But it went too far, it destroyed families, it overworked almost everybody, it lobotomized 90% of the population... It spread almost to destroy its host societies.
The new digital technology brings the next big change. It creates a new climate. Never in human history a technology spread so fast, touched so many people, in such a short time. It is a popular technology, putting powerful tools in everybody's hands. It is a democratic technology, it doesn't discriminate on wealth, race, sex, culture... It enhances communication, collaboration and coordination. It empowers... This is why it is so potent. The massive change it is causing is just starting to become visible. What will be the wining economical entity emerging in this new context? Obviously the one capable to better extract creativity and productivity. This is the one we should invest in!
But this time the population will be informed, empowered, aware. How can you deny it? If the printing press raised the level of education and self awareness to this level, imagine what will the Internet do... Moreover, this technology, by the nature of the tools it offers, it naturally rewards the social beings, the ones who are open to share, to collaborate. Individualistic behavior is not punished, but it becomes less effective. Organic network-type organizations will thrive. Collaboration, openness, and sharing will replace protectionism, secrecy, and individualism. Not because messiah is coming back. Not because all of a sudden humans become spiritually enlightened. Only because a new economical context is emerging, in which these new values convey a better chance to survive. Yes, the world is going to get better, thanks to our technology, thanks to the human spirit who is always striving to surpass itself.
In very era, wicked individuals have tried to increase the cooperation of people within the organizations they've controlled, taking into account the human spirit at that time. After the communist revolutionary hype wore off, the masters of communist societies lost the cooperation of their subjects. These systems have collapsed. How are you going to gain the cooperation of the newly emerging human spirit? It all comes down to individual cooperation...
But there is also another thing. In times of transition from one social order to another entrepreneurs must be able to find new ways to get to resources. These periods are normally accompanied of financial and economical downturns, not necessarily because the needs of the people are reduced, but because the established financial and economical systems on which these societies rely are clogged. As new means production and exchange emerge, they interact with the old ones and introduce some degree of disorder in the entire system. Moreover, those who are in control of the classical means fight to maintain their control, which restricts access to resources to the new comers. The new comer must be skilled in finding alternative ways to access to resources, new ways for funding, new ways to attract human capital, new ways to get to natural resources, new ways to market and distribute products. The new entrepreneurs in times of transition need to be skilled in the art of bypassing old established monopolies.
I will invest in these people and organizations who are well positioned to thrive in the future I just described.