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January 1, 2018

by S.R.Weber

It is a delicious part of human existence not just to relate to the now, and to the past, but to cast forth interesting scenarios of the future, and see what happens. In making these anticipations, we can create more detailed plans much better--if we are good at the anticipations, that is. There are several things we must watch out for when creating any prediction. Two of the most obvious is to assume too much continuity with what is at hand when the prediction is made; and, to give in to wishful thinking. A prediction should be grounded in a love of reality more than be a sort of mixture between desire and reality perception. The mountaineer, about to climb the mountain, has got to have a pretty good idea of the mountain and also of the weather--quite apart from all desires of some ideal form of weather (or an ideal form of the mountain).

The sequence I'll suggest some predictions is, however, not uninfluenced by what the news media right now are talking about. In the economic section, one of the most obviously intense "chat item" now is Bitcoin, or, more generally what we can call 'virtual currencies'. In one way or another something has got to be said about this theme, whether we consider it boring or not, in any prediction for 2018 even vaguely touching on economical developments.

So, virtual (or crypto) currencies. We'll tackle that first.

Logically, one may want to ask: is such as BitCoin technically sound? Or can a dedicated nerd sort of empty all of what's going on there into his or her own pocket? As far as I can tell, it's perhaps technically okay but if it isn't, if there is a vulnerability to hacking that is severe, then there is nothing in principle against the possibility of fixing it; if need be, by building a new type of virtual currency. And there are many already.

Also logically, we should ask: is it merely a game that only works for as long as there are newcomers paying those who already are in the game? In other words, do these virtual currencies have it in them to be currencies that tackle normal currency waves--both ups and downs, without relying on an impossible endless growth?

Again, it seems no technical reason why not. A virtual currency should be able to exist without reliance on growth propelled by newcomers, if we speak in terms of what is abstractly possible.

More interestingly, however: would it still be interesting? If a unit of virtual currency matches, say, 20 U.S. Dollars, and that's roughly how it is five years later, would the virtual currency still have an appeal? And what is that appeal? Anonymity? Lack of central bank regulation of it? Or the appeal of it being a product of recent technology?

I don't believe one whit in "anonymity" when it comes to anything that has to do with the internet. There simply is no anonymity there--except as a pretty, unrealistic hope. There is no anonymity if somebody really wants to find out who did what on the internet and this somebody has the resources and the time. That should be obvious to all. For those who thrive on conspiracy theories, the notorious NSA knew most about cryptocurrencies many years ago--according to fairly trustworthy documents anyone can find on the net. The structure of such as BitCoin is an implementation of an idea that isn't at all new in its general form.

Add to that the very simple fact that governments can simply decide to rule out this and that economical transaction unless it is non-anonymous. That's what they can, and that's what some governments already have begun doing, and most governments are thinking about it.

So, no, BitCoin isn't interesting because it is anonymous because it isn't (in the long run, at least) anonymous.

Well, then, how about the fact that no central banks or such are behind virtual currencies? Could that not be an asset? Well it could. Only that a central bank is ruled by human beings, whereas a virtual currency is ruled by an algorithm that only a fraction of a minority of people on the planet have any chance of understanding. And this is not an algorithm that has existed for a millenium and stood the test of time. It may not be hackable, but can it give stability, endurance, so that people put their savings into the trust of this algorithm, rather than tuck it under their pillow? Is it not better that a lot of stuffed chirts at central banks do their little commitee work and decide how many green bills to print to-day? So, while there are a thousand and one ways people can get rich, and for some, no doubt, virtual currencies have been the way, I simply consider them rather boring. Like most things "virtual" in the computing industry, the virtual tends to first fascinate enormously then rather fade into the background as a tool to be used only when one certainly benefits in some very concrete way from it. This definite benefit I have yet to see with the virtual currencies, at least if we look slightly more than a year ahead. But then, I'm bored with stock trading, too, and, in case you view virtual currencies as a sort of stock, you have a different take on it and perhaps you should go ahead for all I know. (But I'd rather by stocks in Coca Cola than a semi-hysterical sort of half-existing coin.)

Next theme. Pollution. Many years ago I was shocked that CO2 got so much more attention than all the other challenges to Nature--to the extent that such as diesel was approved of, alongside elcars, just because that particular CO2 gas happened to be somewhat less with them. Never mind sulphur compounds! Who cares about smog anyway? And all the other things done to reduce Nature, the environment, that which keeps humanity alive, basically.

It is of course therefore enormously pleasing that in 2017 there has been a radical rethink of at least some of the bias of total focus on CO2 and, for instance, such as diesel and plastic have had a well-deserved hard time in 2017. The political dialogue has changed track. Of course, it is to be expected that the biased focus on CO2 led those who weren't accustomed to think of Nature to just turn a cold shoulder to all environmentalist conferences. This should show politicians that complex reality deserves more attention than riding on waves of hype around one or two supposedly idealistic themes. With the USA pulling out of climate agreements, nature protection has got to do a reboot. I do have a hope the reboot can begin to happen for real in 2018. For instance,India and China have cities that every day, more or less, are living statements of the urge for politicians to make new laws entirely, to protect air, trees, ground water, rivers, and even oceans. One of the themes that ought to be included in the list is the pollution of that nanotechnology involves: most humans have now microfibers and such inside them, because they have eaten some product that involves, in the food chain, some animal or fish that have been exposed to such as wastewater containing nano-elements from households (eg cleansing cloths made out of nanotechnological elements).

Since internet is being used intensely for news exchange and since it doesn't have editors and since news strongly affect voting the 'information wars' or 'cyberwars' have achieved importance in all national and military budgets around the world. It is hard to be anonymous on the net but militaries can usually work out tricks to do this fairly well: does this mean that the internet has go to have its technical foundations changed, so that it is possible to have agreed-upon evidence of who said what? There is at the present no obvious push for such a change of the internet but, if you think about it--what with all the blah blah of fake news and meddling in elections in USA and so forth--internet only exists due to the support of the large nations on the planet and if these nations feel threathened they may get the sense of urge about changing it. Meanwhile, schools around the world are having to begin to try to think out ways to really teach kids how to think for themselves--and to actually not believe in well-presented nonsense or half-sense. But before any change of the internet takes place, will the EU get chopped into pieces? Will it loose more than the UK? Or will the EU remain and endure everything, and UK perhaps later rejoin? I think the latter. EU has something about it--and it can handle a lot. Within a decade after UK leaves EU, we may see that it rejoins; but of course the concept 'UK' may by that time be somewhat altered. There is a faint chance they won't withdraw at all but they seem fairly committed to it.

Last few years have seen property prices going wild while money interest rates have been kept very flat: and for some not-too-smart reason, those who calculate what they call 'yearly inflation' seem to have lost track of the fact that money must be measured in terms of how much property one can buy with it--amongst other things. And so of course there is enornomous 'inflation' in this sense. When money is less and less worth, that's when we have inflation. So the central bankers around the world are somehow wrapped up in a paradigm of calculation that makes them unable, or unwilling to see what any child can see, namely that we have had devastating inflatation for most currencies for most Western nations each year for the past five years. This means that many are getting nearer the sense of being slaves when they try to live in the expected way: as citizens doing law-abiding work, benefitting from their education, to subsist a home and a family. Normal work don't sustain a home. Only abnormal quantities of work, or abnormal work, sustain a home, in very many places on the planet where politicians pride themselves of what they smugly call 'economical growth'.

So, a question we should ask: is there any reason to expect any change as to this state of affairs in 2018, anywhere? I mean, a statistically big change?

People have pointed out that property prices, in several places around the planet, seem to be either stalling or falling or at least look as they might do so. I suppose they must, if there is any reality to the dictum that prices are coordinated according to demand. But does this dictum hold when there are very few actors who are to a large extent able to control whole markets? A few billionaires own most interesting properties not owned by the state: that can be said for this city, for that city, and for the other one, though I have not seen a complete statistics. If these billionaires fix prices between themselves, and politicians are weak on landlord laws, the slave-like conditions can increase and increase and it may be highly obscure who anyone should revolt against to change all this.

I imagine that something can change in this area but I think the fundamental changes in the property markets-- the changes necessary to benefit the majorities of people, that is--need more time before they come. The patterns of price setting must be understood by a majority and that requires something like a celebrity and a book acquiring world prestige, talking clearly and frankly about it. It may come, but I think a slide in property prices is just about all the revolution we'll get speaking of the first months, at any rate. If even that.

Currency trading. The dollar (USD), the euro (EUR), the yen (JPY), australian dollar (AUS), the british and canadian currencies, the chinese, the african currencies, the indian currencies, and so on. Where does all this go?

Given the incredible vastness of these currencies, no person can simply decide the longterm development even given a considerable wealth with which to trade. It's true that governments and huge corporations can and all the time do "jilt" the values, and have some legal right of doing so, and can in that way benefit of the fluctuations, especially if they are good at secrecy. But the general sense of it is that these currencies, and the swiss franc (CHF) also, are more a 'map' of the world than anyone's personal projection. It is a changing map, of course, because the world is in change. And that's part of the fun to relate, ever so slightly at least, to currencies.

In the hope of no atomic-or-biological-or-chemical war of a kind that blows over and makes a mess, there can be a relative stability of the largest currencies. The most stable, usually, are those that are associated with democratically elected governments. Why this is may not be because God decided that governments must be elected democratically, but rather that there is a correlation between democracy and transparency/honesty relative to economical affairs in this world. It is hard to see that the Chinese currency is anywhere near taking over the role of the greenback (ie, the USD). It's a currency that is affected by the obscurity of the reports on the economic sitautions in China. Perhaps very much is well with China, speaking national economical health. But it is very hard to know because it surely wouldn't be spelled out if it wasn't so. That type of uncertainty is more than a leading world currency can cope with. It becomes then more a token of belief in the party, to buy that currency.

Since currencies provide a critical part of the healthy circulation of the economical transactions in by far most markets, a degree of stability in currencies is a cornerstone for having meaningful economy. So the world needs something like USD, EUR, CHF, JPY and so on. It needs that these do exist and keep on doing their little dances. And my sense of it is that they will do just that.

As for many tech themes--elcar presence, robot presence, digitalisation of society, all such things seem to roll on pretty much on their own. Some people--perhaps a majority of all who are philosophically inclined and see things in perspective--don't think all that much of this digitalisation. But since it is cheap, and since money generally speaking is lacking, it just moves on and on, at least for the time being. The elcars are probably the most pleasant aspect of this, if only they weren't full of the remote controls of the automaking companies. It would be interesting if somebody successfully made a really nice electric car that didn't have a single computer in it. A billionaire could probably do it--for himself. But in this world, with the hype saying, 'it's digital, so it is easier!', it is unlikely to catch on. Have you ever seen an ad saying, for instance, "Why not buy it on the net? A great idea! It is slower, it is more complicated, and it takes a long time before you get to see it and even more if you want to return it, but it is a good idea!" The ads you have seen probably say, "Just buy it directly on the net! It's fast!". They don't say, "Just buy it indirectly on the net! It's slow and messy!"


The 2018 is still to be formed. We can do it right.

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