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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Inflationary Thought

As housing prices continue to zoom forward to dizzying heights in Alberta, I began to ask myself how people can possibly afford these prices. I have reconciled myself to a lifetime of renting - trying to purchase a home with an average price of $427,000 is well beyond a single income.

And yet some of my friends have done it. Admittedly, they beat the major increases and bought when prices were more sane, but they did buy. How? At least two of them were able to do so with inherited wealth. And again this gave me pause.

Those of us in the fundraising business have heard for about a decade now that a major transfer of wealth was going to occur. Trillions of dollars were going to become available for savvy fundraisers to try and gobble up. Boston College's Social Welfare Research Institute estimates the figure to be $41 trillion, with at least $24 trillion going to heirs, leaving (after taxes) some $6 trillion for philanthropy.

So I wonder if the rise in housing prices (and the accompanying inflation of all expenses) has something to do with this transfer? Has it already begun, and we are seeing the early consequences? Heirs are far more likely to spend an inheritance than save it themselves (Bast's Law of Inheritance #1). If so, house prices may well continue to rise, as more and more people receive the fruits of their relatives' labour and penchant for saving.

So let the buying frenzy begin! Oh, wait a minute, it already has. OK, so let it continue! But will this inflationary atmosphere continue, and in effect eat into the buying power of this massive transfer of wealth?

Kind of makes you wonder if there is a globalist conspiracy that manipulates world economies, a la Bretton Woods.

I feel a movie script coming on.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The End of Truth?

I have been thinking a lot of about truth, credibility and the Internet recently. We are in the midst of an extreme shift in the creation and sharing of knowledge with the advent of the Internet. We are a click away from the most obscure information, and the most popular and the most drab of information.

But what, or better said who, filters this information and deems it credible and reliable?

According to the Cult of Wiki, we do. We become the keepers of our own knowledge, and can edit and correct others at a click. A fine and noble goal. But it is really only those who actively input and edit in Wiki that define the information as truthful. This is a dramatic shift in the gatekeeping of knowledge. Up to this point, we have relied on academic credentials and peer review to ensure our truths and our knowledge are as accurate as possible. Academic articles and books have to pass through an obstacle course of approvals and checks before they reach publication. Now, anyone with access to a computer can publish and be believed.

This can be dangerous. Truth becomes diffused, dispersed amongst an indescribable number of bytes. We can create our own truths and send this out to the billions of Internet citizens for approval at best, or at worst, complete and blind acceptance.

This can also be revolutionary. We have already seen this with Iraqi citizens blogging about realities - citizen journalism at its best. Knowledge freed and shared across the world.

In 20 or 30 years, what will knowledge and truth look like? We may not recognize our antiquated attempts at knowledge gatekeeping.

Or we may long for the day that we had such controls in place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Strange Universal Energies

I had a somewhat weird flight back to Calgary on Monday. The first strange thing was that it left Kitchener-Waterloo international airport for a direct flight to Calgary. K-W has truly hit the big time - and it was chock full of travelling folks too. As we were coasting down the runway, I looked out the window to see a black cat leaping for its life towards a neighbouring farm. Black cat? Hmmm. But off we went.

About a third of the way in to the flight, I looked out the window again. This time I saw another Westjet plane travelling suspiciously close to our own on a parallel course, but definitely getting closer. Now I have travelled a lot, but I had never seen this in mid-flight before. Although it was a bit lower than us, it was CLOSE - it actually went completely below us and then popped out again and went north. I was so concerned, I actually called over the flight attendant, who had a pithy, "The boys up front know what they're doing," for me. At that point, another plane, even closer than the first, zoomed past us in the opposite direction. I became dubious the boys knew what they were doing. I think they may have had it on auto-pilot and were taking a quick nap.

So then I thought I would try and relax with some satellite TV. Started out happily watching and then the screen went blank. No TV. Everyone else had TV. Why not me? Then it blinked back on. The remainder of the flight it continued to blink on and off, and generally annoy me. But this makes some sense. I do have a strange electrical energy. Some of my friends won't let me near their computers because of this strange blinking ability. Might be because our house was hit by lightning when I was young. Might be because I am naturally spiritually gifted.

Might be because the black cat walked across our plane's path.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A-conferencing we will go....

Well, here I am again, at yet another conference. I refer you to my earlier post (April 11/06) where I pontificated on conference basics that everyone leaves with:

1) Feel the love.
2) Be the change.
3) The moment is now.

Seems to hold true yet again. Arun Gandhi spoke to us today about non-violence. A lovely man, grandson to Mahatma, bringing with him a gentle message of hope. Standing ovation all round. But I have to admit I didn't agree with everything he had to say. Hard to disagree with such a cultural icon, but then again, I never said my life would be easy. I was particularly struck by his view that we are not born violent - it is a learnt behaviour. That's why we need all these military schools and army drills. I would disagree. I think we need these schools and drills to learn to kill more effectively and efficiently, in a more organized manner. Our fight or flight reactions are still very close to the surface, and we can lose our veneer of civility very, very quickly. Witness New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When our comfy structures collapse around us, survival mechanisms click in pronto. Survival of the fittest - dog eat dog and cat eat dog too.

So am I still being wooed by conference messages of hope? I would say yes, but perhaps I have brought a more critical analysis to this one than the last.

Seems I'm not ready to start humming Kumbaya quite yet.