The Ease of Condemning our Connectivity

People are always looking at their phones!

No one just lives, they have to take a picture and post it!

Why don’t people stop looking at their phones and just be present in the moment??

That’s what you hear people talk about, that’s what most of the think pieces say that I’ve read.

It’s easy to think because until 10 or so years ago the lifestyle that we lived didn’t exist and so we have nothing else to compare it to.

And maybe that is true.

But think about it differently for a moment.

Never in our whole history have we been so connected to each other.  So able to reach out and just touch each other with thought and images.  Either individually, with texts or phone calls, or in mass, with social media.

We connect with people, we feel each other’s joys and worry and laughter and fear and curiosity and sadness.

Is that a bad thing?

Would we have been able to generate $34 billion in crowdfunding if we didn’t have these connections?

How much music have you learned about because someone posted it on social media?

How many artists have you discovered?

How much art have you bought or funded through Patreon?

How many more people in how many different parts of the world are you tethered to through that phone?

And how many times has the support given to you on the screen been the thing that helped you through a moment?

We are connected.  Connection is not a bad thing.

It’s not all sunny days.  There’s lots of issues.  But the fact that we carry around our phones and want to connect our existence to the larger one that exists in our phones is NOT really a bad thing.

I’m not convinced that people are so disconnected with the moment because of the phones.  I lived most of my life without a phone and I’m not particularly addicted to it now.  I don’t check social media on it except in waiting rooms.  I live with you guys on my laptop.

But I don’t live my life present in every moment because I’m not checking my phone.  I live in my head, easily distracted by daydreams and memories and worries.  And I’m not unique. Most humans were not super present in a moment before phones.  It’s just wasn’t as obvious.

I would not be surprised to find out that people with phones are more present in the moment because they are looking for things to share and connect. Where as I’m just drifting through, only aware enough to keep from falling into holes.

The phones aren’t the end of civilization.  They are just the newest iteration of it.

Imagine the future historians

Looking back at us.

People worry that our time in history will be a blank.  That our electronic life will degrade and be erased.  So there are active efforts to create archives.  To curate a picture of our existence.

Imagine how much there is.  If you have kids, you’ve probably already taken 2000 pictures of them so far this year.  Maybe more.

Heck, maybe it’s 18000 pictures.  For many of us taking pictures of our daily lives is just part of how we live our lives.  So 18000 pics a year is probably not unreasonable.

But the archivists, they are just trying to curate a historical record.  They don’t want 18000 instagram photos.  They want a few representative ones.  And I think that’s a mistake.

I think there is a deeper value to our 18000 pictures per year.  That maybe curating is NOT a good thing.

We have posed pictures and artwork from MOST of history.  We have mostly curated historical records because the vast majority of humans did not have the knowledge or the means to write their own records and thoughts.

But now.  We document so much individually. It’s not a complete picture, obviously.  But it’s a much more REAL picture of human life than has ever previously been recorded.  It’s pictures of us being us in real time.

Imagine how absolutely fascinating it would be to see CCTV footage of a busy street corner in London or Beijing from 1000 years ago!   Imagine being able to pull up an ancestors instagram and see their garden and their baby and their dinner!    If only!

I think about how I pour over old 1880s photos of street scenes in NYC.  I want to just SEE what it was like.  What the people were doing and how they lived. I find it so much more fascinating than the posed pictures. We are the first to provide that level of minutia to future generations.

Maybe it will degrade.  But I bet technology will find a way to preserve it better.  And as long as we continue to be technologically advanced, our massive documentation will be valuable and interesting.  Better because it wasn’t curated.

Regulations in the Financial Industry are Necessary Burdens

Quoting from NPR’s article : House Passes Bill Aimed at Reversing Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations

“Hensarling’s nearly 600-page bill would defang Dodd-Frank by repealing the so-called Volcker Rule, which prevents government-insured banks from making risky bets with investments. It would also scrap a requirement that retirement advisers put their clients’ interests ahead of their own, which goes into effect on Friday.

Perhaps the biggest partisan flash point — the bill aims to scale back the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFBP, to regulate large banks and payday lenders.”

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  THIS IS A BAD BAD IDEA.

The financial industry is not going to self regulate.  If the world learned anything from the subprime mortgage crisis, it’s that the Financial Industry is going to do whatever makes the most immediate money.  Period.

But on a personal note, let me ASSURE you that the financial professional that you deal with for your investments is just a sales person.  He or she was hired solely because they are good at sales.  They would be just as good selling waffle irons or cars.  They have the barest, sketchiest understanding of the financial instruments they claim to advise you on.  They only know how to sell it.

And worse than that, they THINK they do understand.  If there is a financial planner who reads this, they will assure me that this does NOT apply to them. They have letters after their name because they passed tests.  NOPE.

The people who build the financial instruments that the sales person you deal with sell, they understand it.  Mostly.  But they are not interested in you.  They are interested in creating a product that is easy for the sales person to sell to you.

It really doesn’t matter if these are individual financial investments or large bank investments.  The ABSOLUTE key to the instrument they are designing is HOW EASY IS IT TO SELL.

They want to make money.  They are NOT worried about your financial future.  They are NOT worried about the economy except how it will effect their particular products financial appearance.

They need the product to look good.  That is why the subprime mortgage thing happened.  They took a thing that is risky as hell but makes a decent amount in the short run, and repackaged it in a way that is easy to sell.  HIDE the moving parts, hide the risk – sell the numbers that look good.

So smart people create a product that is easy to sell and hides all the working parts, marketing people learn enough to come up with a sales pitch.  They then teach sales people how to sell the product without spending too much time actually explaining the product.  And the buyers buy that pretty pretty number that sits on top of every sales pitch.

I dealt with these financial professionals from a home office for many years.  The number of times I explained to highly successful sales people how the product ACTUALLY WORKS was astounding.  They don’t need to know how it works to sell it to you.

In the 90s nearly every insurance company in the country was the subject of a class action lawsuit for their sales practices.  For overselling the future values and benefits of universal insurance.  That is what self regulation is – paying out lawsuits is negative feedback.  The industry should self correct.  But No.

They are still selling universal insurance as an investment.  And the sales people still don’t understand what they are selling.

Do not doubt that they will repackage those subprime mortgage bundles and sell them again quite successfully if we deregulate.  Because they have very very pretty numbers on top of an opaque package that buyers don’t understand.  Even bankers.

Financial Services Companies don’t want products that will benefit the buyer. They want products that are easy to sell. It’s not that they are against benefiting the buyer.  But that isn’t their focus and if they aren’t regulated to consider it, they won’t.  Making money is their focus.

Regulations are cumbersome and expensive for the financial industry.  But let me assure you.  They work.  They force the industry to consider the benefit of the buyer.  They limit their greed.

DO NOT LET THEM do this.