2018: The “Disposable World” Arrived

A great evil lurks in the world – unseen by all but the few who manage to hold an open mind against a sea of group-think zombies.

It’s the massive spread of disposability.

Got started slowly:  Once upon a time, mid dieselpunk era, there was a certain substance to life in these United States.  One wage-earner could keep a family fed and under a roof with perhaps a second-hand car to get around in.  One “company job” and retirement with a nice union pension…

Then the Great Implosion began.

While Pappy urged us when young to “Pick a career you like and get really good at it…” technology was already nibbling away at the foundation.  Jobs have gone from the “one-for-life” to a long-running sequence of one (to 3) primary jobs plus a collection of side-hustles.

Even then, it’s not enough.  Workaholism and Urban Survival have merged.

We have – as a nation – become the gerbils on the running-wheel.  Average duration of a job these days?  About 4- years, but as the Bureau of Labor Statistics advised in their “Job Tenure” report this year, that depends on which demographic you’re looking at:

“In January 2018, median employee tenure (the point at which half of all workers had more tenure and half had less tenure) for men was 4.3 years, unchanged from January 2016. Median tenure for women, at 4.0 years in January 2018, also was unchanged from January 2016. Among men, 30 percent of wage and salary workers had 10 years or more of tenure with their current employer in January 2018, slightly higher than the figure of 28 percent for women.”

We can gaze gentle off into the distance and ponder this first “data marker” as we try to envision where disposability is driving.  Craftsmen are a shrinking breed and machine-feeders are the rage. Drives things like “open borders.”  Unit Labor Costs matter.

The second-up data point, closely-allied with disposability – is the commoditization of people and that’s been done with lots of technology.  As one commenter on this site noticed overnight:

“Is anybody else noticing that our cell phones with these voice recorder, camera and video features is turning people into snitches trying to capture the next viral video or time in the spotlight. It seems to coincide with the 15 minutes of fame phenomenon that social media is producing. People either want to be stars for a few million hits or be the person who captures an event that gets them a few million hits…its also coinciding with this incessant need to be liked, adored, pity’d or enflamed.

The 3 worst, most recent technological creations, are the 24-7 news cycle, smart phones and social media. Theyre changing how we view and react to each other and not in a favorable way. The future is getting creepier by the day….”

There’s a concept taught in business schools called SDLC which, according to Wikipedia, means this:

“The systems development life cycle (SDLC), also referred to as the application development life-cycle, is a term used in systems engineering, information systems and software engineering to describe a process for planning, creating, testing, and deploying an information system.[1] The systems development lifecycle concept applies to a range of hardware and software configurations, as a system can be composed of hardware only, software only, or a combination of both.[2] There are usually six stages in this cycle: analysis, design, development and testing, implementation, documentation, and evaluation. “

If the coffee is slamming your neurons about, there’s obviously something missing that software wonks and academics don’t address.  We call it:

System Degradation Obsolescence Cycle.  SDOC,

You almost never hear software engineers talk about how their technology will be superseded.  That’s because to SQL / XML jocks, you simple add and subtract tables, or toss in new functionality and recompile.

But, as the Open Source movement has demonstrated, non-commercial software tends to be less bloated.

What leaders at all levels fail to plan for adequately is that following an SDLC there logically follows a SDOC.

You see the process now and then, but since the grand social cycles are so slow, we don’t appreciate their importance.

Still, new products, made by new employees, come out at “top tier pricing.”  Almost immediately, the products value begins to collapse as competing products offering the same *(and sometimes better) functionality come along.

Over time, technology becomes totally disposable.  As do people involved.

One of the more interest SDLC to SDOC’s to consider is the ultra-high resolution CRT displays of the 1980’s.  I remember when they first came out, a 17″ color monitor was the cat’s meow.  And the price point?  About $600-bucks.

Today, they are often given away; showing up in the FREE section of Craigslist.

How’s this relate to Money?

Just getting to that.

We see disposability coming to the stock markets worldwide.  Because just as it was once upon a time smart to be a Buy and Hold investor, positions are changing more and more frequently.

We keep track of the markets both globally and domestically using Aggregate Indices.  They tell us a ton about the reality of 2018.

Consider the U.S. Aggregate Data as follows:

  1. Dec. 29, 2017:  22,362
  2. Sep. 28, 2018   24,888
  3. Nov. 39, 2018   23,356
  4. Dec. 31, 2018   21,254  *Based on early futures trading

By our reckoning, using aggregates as we do – to make the Big Data bigger – the present bear market began October 3rd of this year – the date of our Aggregate high (25,006).  How long it will last is anyone’s guess.

But regardless of specific duration, we’re pretty sure that it’s likely – at least in part – to fall victim to the disposability concept.

Millennials are changing, gone shape-shifter on us. De-consumption and minimalism is not useful to corporations because their lifeblood is growth.  Other than demagogues monetizing sexual preference, weather, and trying to keep borders open to artificially “grow” the economy, we look at the world today much differently than the past.

“What is the least I need?”   That’s a sure-fire killer for companies that exist only to show a profit and reward the Owners.

American-style Capitalism only functions well when challenged.  A massive natural disaster?  Terrible wars?  Yes, we need those sinkholes in order to create “growth.”

Socialist governments eventually all blow up because they make the mistake believing stimulus can come from government spending and thus, is adjustable.  Worker’s Paradises – like the Soviet Union and Venezuela, however, clearly demonstrate that is not in fact possible.

What’s missing?  (And our quest around here…) is the Adaptive Economy.  Such an economy would be able to work well when growth is required.  Or, as population growth globally slows, such an economy should operate in balance even with negative growth.

So far, we haven’t done it.

But, when we look at global population change – and the outlook (blue) for what’s ahead, we don’t see much potential for a return to rapid growth.

The highlighted area is where we’ve been since the 2009 market washout that followed the Housing Bubble blowing-up.

No doubt in our minds – something else will blow up shortly.  Corporations and banks have a marvelous way of “Never letting a good crisis go to waste.”  They monetize such events by shaking out the taxpayer’s wallets.  The thing to watch, though, is the larger global trend.  The change-rate of people is going down and as growth slows, it won’t stop the biggies (like oil depletion) and it won’t prevent possible famine.  Just too many people for that.

If you squint just so, you can see how this fits with stories like “China factory activity shrinks for first time in over two years, 2019 looks tougher.”

As the year ends, we hope you’ve had a grand year investing.  For 2019 we wish you agility and profits.  We think those will be had by looking to the Big Picture and how it tends to historically rhyme.

Quips and Tips

Speaking of slowing trends:  U.S. companies repatriate over half a trillion dollars in 2018, but pace slows.

Depletion never sleeps, but it’s sometimes hard to remember that when stories like “Brent crude rises over $1, but set for first yearly drop since 2015” come along.

I don’t normally point you to press releases, but this one from Tractica offers 10 A.I. predictions for 2019: Artificial Intelligence Capabilities and Commercial Applications Will Continue to Progress Rapidly in 2019, But Growth Will Also Bring Growing Pains, ….

I’ve referred a couple of times recently to “news shortages” but who would have suspected this?  “Suspected Malware Attack Disrupts Some Major Newspapers Nationwide. The FBI Has Been Alerted.”

We continue to wonder how long the bureaucratic nightmare masquerading as government of the EU can hold together.  Most recent fuel for t hat fire? “Romania slams EU for treating it as ‘second-rate’ country.”  What’s the saying?  Under-promise and over deliver.  Not the other way around as Brussels seems to manage.

Planning for tomorrow:  Here Are All the Stores Open and Closed on New Year’s 2019.

Well, that about wraps it up – final column of 2018 and the first one of 2019 is on the way.  Markets will end the year on an up note, but not likely enough to pull out a win for the year, quarter, or month.  So, on that note, let’s do Moron the ‘morrow.

27 thoughts on “2018: The “Disposable World” Arrived”

  1. When I look at that graph you should immediately understand why the big push on immigration (legal or otherwise). the problem as I see it is you can double the population of the US with these folks if that were your goal and there would be no increase in growth rapid or not as the vast majority of these people are not productive, not educated and will immediately go straight into the welfare system ……and if this is the way you would go about destroying a country in addition to toppling it with a ridiculous health care implosion (Obama) this would be it ………. just a matter of time. I remember my own Father telling me that I would live through a depression 10x that of which he did and when it was all over we will look like a cross section of 50’s Russia and China – bikes everywhere and sharing your home with several other family’s….

    • Clawsy your father was a WISE sage. Truer words have never been Spoken.
      Enjoy the moment. Live with consciousness NOT compulsiveness


    • “immigration ”

      We see hordes of people wandering the planet for food and medical services.

      Share with them or kill them.

    • Ten Times? How about a 100 times? Quants and computing algorithms working at the speed of light never been a factor in past depressions like they will be in the next one.

    • Funny how wise fathers are I remember mine telling us boys growing up,that we would have less freedom then he had and our children would have less then us,that Americans would buy into anything as long as they thought they were getting something for nothing,that during the cold war he would snort and say the Russians are pikers compared to us as far as propaganda goes, and he also said another revolution is coming I won’t see it but perhaps you will,he just may be right….

    • My Dad said 35 years ago that the USA was being turned into a third-world country. I didn’t understand him, now I do.

    • Sorry Claw.. One in three laborers is already on social programs.. And 76 percent of laborers with children get the EIC tax credit.. Another give away program..

      Out sourcing jobs and importing goods and services to a minority more profit has already created a nanny state. We discourage an education with expensive school costs and limit income.
      How can you blame the people that have been forced to seek out the system. programs to survive. Forced to see a bleak future of servitude the working poor.
      Industrialists of the past made money they made it slower..the actions that brought about fast profit has only made the path of the collapse

      • Walmart is actually one that pays their employees more per hour. at least here..
        One in three nation wide.. the soup lines of the thirties is already here.. what was it figured fifteen thousand common laborers per walmart across the usa on food stamps..


        in almost any industry that has common laborers there is approximately one in three that receive some sort of benefit.. whether it is housing, daycare, food stamps.. the local shelter here that hands out meals is handing out more meals to children than to homeless adults right now..
        the what 76 percent that get the EIC tax credit.. pay in a thousand get back seven thousand.. that is a give away.. the Social Security that isn’t a give away since everyone paid in to it.. if I could have directed my portion of payments to a more secure non touchable fund.. I would have millions just from what I paid in..
        the same for everyone else..
        in the end everyone just wants to survive to have their needs met.. before we deregulated almost all households were one income.. the best years of my life I made under two dollars an hour.. today you realistically have to have an income of over five grand a month on a wage labor position to make it. and that is if you don’t have daycare.. if you have daycare well add another three bucks an hour to that..per child

  2. Re: SDOC

    In the day IBM made this a selling point when doing business with them. They called it a migration path. You don’t get stuck with something that can’t be made new and improved for as long as you have money to spend. Now it’s thrash it and trash it. If I remember the AS 400 was a 76bit bus machine expected to be used in phones,instrumentation, and control centers for the next 50 years long after the main use was gone. A modern PDP-11 if you will.

  3. A great thinker post this am George. I am really looking forward to the AI world getting actual virtual reality.

  4. Certainly in my career, staying with one company for a very long time is severely limiting to higher salaries. My current company did not value my skills as highly as an outside company after 2-3 years of me growing my capabilities. I tell my children to really keep an eye on changing companies at least every 5 years, if they want to progress up an income tree. Now am at a company where my salary and lifestyle were in sync. I like what I do and the company I do it for and the people I work with and pays all my bills with some left over, and I eliminated all my debt, so no more reason to move around. The 401K, vs pension, made this a much easier personal decision then in the past, when the risk of losing a pension made this movement difficult.

    It certainly can be tough these days, if a person is not developing valued skills. But I see it all the time, people complaining about value of an Uber driver for instance. If your only valuable skill is ability to safely drive and be on time, you are competing with maybe 100M other people with that same skill.

    So yes the world is changed, from my grand fathers ability to turn a screwdriver and support your family with an assembly line job to one where skills and work ethic are more valued.

    The work ethic part seems to be what is lacking these days, where people expect to exist in a middle class lifestyle while providing nothing back to society in return. In a capitalistic society that value is reflected in what someone is willing to pay for your goods or services. In a socialist society there is no feedback of your worth, other then your ability to protest or your position in the ruling party.

    You don’t like your position in a capitalistic society it is up to you to adapt and change. Don’t like you status in a socialistic society, protest to government to take from other citizens to give to you.

  5. Your SDLC-SDOC comparison is spot on…but most engineers do plan for it. I recently had drinks with a client/engineer that works for Apple. that opened up a bit too much and told me that they are always working 5-7 years in advance. The Apple technology that’s out today was first conceived in 2013. They monetize the heck out of it and squeeze every last penny out of that technology first…before they reach the next gen products. There is actually a team deep in the top secret halls of Apple working on the 2025 launch.

    The issue they run into is that the next gen products often become obsolete before their time at bat is up. In other words, while it may have seemed to be a great idea a few years ago, competitive products or consumer focus groups showed that it wouldn’t forecast to be profitable.

    When Apple fails to have a major announcement at Apples WWDC or a fall event, it’s because they are re-tweaking the scheduled next gen product or skipping that and fast tracking two generations ahead. That becomes problematic at the final manufacturing stages…and affects pricing. Which is why we have $1,000 iPhones now.

    I am sure it is way more complicated than what my tipsy client stated that night, but imagine being in Apples marketing department trying to work with engineering to stay ahead of the shape shifting millennial consumer. It’s mind blowing to say the least. But the spin doctors at Apple are the best in the world to bridge the gap until the next AHA product is introduced.

  6. What seems to be causing so many of your learned and astute community to be commenting. Is it the water?

  7. George

    “System Degradation Obsolescence Cycle. SDOC,”.

    In the 1980 and 1990 the automation system I worked with had complete hardware upgrades about every 5 years. The major reason was that vendors could not get the older electronic parts in quantity to keep producing the older systems. They were also making improvements in functionality of how systems worked.

    As an example I saw us go from magnetic core memory to dynamic ram memory then to static ram memory and on and on.

    We stayed with the same vendors so we could migrate our software to the new systems.

    That sparks a question. How will the AI systems that take over the world deal with the failure rate of electronic parts and who will do the maintenance?

    • “That sparks a question. How will the AI systems that take over the world deal with the failure rate of electronic parts and who will do the maintenance?”

      The computers and robots driven by the AI itself.

  8. When I was a youngster I had read “Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith and ever since I have been wondering, why was that not good enough? My answer, GREED!!

  9. I’ve learned I was a ‘disposable’ TV broadcast engineer, also. All the custom video linking and auxilliary broadcast microwave channel equipment was sold off by the ‘strip & flipper’ company that took over. Obsolete equipment now. Broadcasters are just an outlet arm of a broadband media company. Remote TV now comes via broadband from a cellphone camera… anywhere there is coverage.

  10. It seems to me that this has a tie in to your column today: Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars: https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_cooper2a.htm

    Everything that is happening to this country has been planned, there are no accidents. The drivers know what they are doing. IF you haven’t seen this yet, you will be quite amazed at the tie in of math-humanity and economics. Brzezinski said: “that “in earlier times, it was easier to control a million people, literally, than physically to kill a million people” while “today it is infinitely easier to kill a million people than to control a million people.”

    They are not bringing in millions upon millions of illegals and refugees for growth (plus 10-30,000+ each month, month in and month out across our Southern border for years). They are not bringing them in to vote Democrat. They are not bringing them in to keep America alive and prosperous. Have a guess at why?

  11. Some people I know can monetize fame. In my case, it has generally been a negative. I could make more money in an office, shop or a lab than I ever could by being known for anything. To each their own, I suppose.

    I’m thinking(again) of buying a modern smartphone mostly for social creds and a backup for the internet, after the Centurylink debacle. If I was a serious trader and lost the net for 15 hours, it could have been a disaster. As it was, it was an inconvenience. Power backup is easy compared to comms backup, since you can create the whole power system, but communication requires someone on the other end, and a path. Short wave has its place, but it’s no internet.

    FWIW, many foreigners are leaving China – especially those with something to lose. Not just Americans either. People are even abandoning businesses there or selling for what they can get. Xi, et al are making visas more difficult, and among other things, nationalism is increasing to a level of concern. Those who are young and just visiting or teaching English are staying for now. I don’t know what this means yet, but I’m a bit concerned. The Chinese folks on the ground are friendly, but the door that Nixon opened may be closing. Not good, IMHO.

    Happy New Year to George, Elaine, Cats and Family!

    • Mike, I’ve never messed with a smartphone because I’ve never needed to, and it’d be personally insulting, owning a telephone that was “smarter” than I.

      Instead, I carry a clunky old Panasonic Toughbook (actually a clunky almost-new one) around. I’ve a Panasonic CF-31 with a 3rd gen i5, full Mil-spec, titanium and bulletproof. I replaced the Sierra wireless card with a new and unlocked Sierra Airlink. The computer has full cellular Wi-Fi and WAP hub capabilities, built-in on-board GPS, eight BT channels, “stealth” (IR screens, for viewing whilst wearing a tactical eyepiece), touchscreen, voice command, thumb scanner, USB3, etc.

      The computer does everything an iPhoneX will do, for half the price* and with 3x the screen size, and you can run over it with a loaded dump truck and not bust the display.

      *If you buy it used. New list on a decked-out MIL or LE spec CF-31 is well-north of $7000. They’re typically in the $700-$1300 range on auction sites… YMMV

      As I said a couple days age, I’ve become a contrary SOB in my old age. I absolutely, utterly, refuse to EVER be a slave to a frickin’ phone. Even when I was “working,” I refused. I figured if I didn’t do consultatin’ today for Company A, I’d be doing it tomorrow for Company B, or Company A would offer me even more money, later.

      My ‘puter is never far away. When I’m working, my phone is.

      Gamber or Havis docks range from ~$300 to over $1200 new, but can be had off fleabay for <$100, with a little patience. After 10 years if trying, I've finally figured out RAM mounts might handle a tablet, but they can't carry a full-armored Toughbook. BTW, I have two computers, an "everyday" and a "doomsday," and I have a Havis dock for each vehicle I use for long-distance driving. The only difference between the two computers is the "doomsday" is kept in a Faraday cage, and has a complete set of Railroad Rights-of-Way and certain other interesting mapping features and maps, and a redundant backup or two…

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