The Future of Education is Global Sourcing

by Tim Rohde
I just finished reading a blog post that compares educational achievement across the globe (read it here). As an American, it initially troubled me, since the main thrust of the discussion was the U.S.’s failure in math and science education, compared to other countries. One of the points the author focused on was [...]

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Wine Sales Grow on Social Networks
By Marisa D’Vari
What music would go best with this wine? As incredible as it sounds, the marketing folks at Wente Winery are drawing people to their winery by creating fun events exploring the connection between wine and popular music. These events are quickly turned into audio and video downloads available [...]

Big Bang¬Ö Bigger Science?

By Prof. Paul Padley
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rice University
In order to make great scientific discoveries, it is important to build great experiments. Outside Geneva, Switzerland, the most complex experiment ever built will soon start collecting data, and it is worth asking why scientists are convinced that something new will be found with it. Let’s look [...]

The Future of Repair

By Tim Rohde
The “disposable society” is taking a well-deserved beating from more and more people these days. The scourge of our environment, our pocketbooks and our souls may be headed, itself, for the dustbin of history. The forces pushing back against the disposable society come from some familiar and some surprising origins. The ecological imperative [...]

Today's Quote:

One must care about a world one will not see.

Bertrand Russell

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Food for Thought

April 14, 2013 Featured 1 Comment
Food for Thought

The Great Food Debate: Romance vs. Reality

By Jennifer Iannolo

There is a certain romance in strolling a farmer’s market on a Saturday morning. Stalls overflow with the colors and textures of the season, from summer’s luscious reds and velvety greens to the autumnal harbingers of orange and yellow. The senses come alive, eagerly anticipating a little taste of cheese, or perhaps a sample of honey.

For hard-core food lovers like me, this is a little piece of heaven. I’m noticing, however, that the farmer’s market seems more packed than usual these days — local is hip again.

Everywhere I turn, I find more people sourcing their foods from local farmers and purveyors, but here is where the romantic notions diverge. While some are opting for flavor and freshness instead of the usual fare on the supermarket shelf, others are doing it in an effort to go green, or to support their local communities. Whatever the reasons, however, it’s clear that there is a movement at hand.

So how did we get here? And, more importantly, where are we going?

Sunflower Crop

Sunflower Crop

Funny thing, movements. In this case, we seem to be giving a nod to the past, where sourcing food locally was less a matter or romance and more a matter of practicality: The farmer’s market was the only option in town. Supermarket chains changed the game, however, and suddenly it was easy to have tomatoes in the dead of winter. While this, in itself, was a marvel of technology and progress, it came with a cost, and in this case the biggest was flavor. As food became a commodity, and mass-production became the focus, flavor took second place to shelf-life. So while tomatoes might now last longer in your refrigerator, they are picked green and gassed to achieve that ruby-red color — and they have zero palate appeal.

In an effort to preserve the all-important pleasure source of flavor, many chefs (bless their hearts) turned to their local farmers as a viable resource. The Union Square Market in New York City became a chef’s shopping paradise, and some chefs went so far as to commission their own gardens planted with exactly the vegetables and herbs they desired. When their guests tasted the difference, they wanted those flavors at home. I don’t blame them: If you’ve ever tasted a real August tomato, you’ll never again eat the supermarket variety in December.

Fast-forward to 2009, and we now have a species known as the locavore: He who eats no food sourced outside of an x-mile radius, in most cases 100 miles. I recently discovered a cafe in England that sources within 30.

In large part, I find this to be a good practice. It creates locally sustainable food systems and makes us less dependent on the flavorless products of agribusiness behemoths. Whenever possible I, too, like to source locally. Having said that, I recognize that such practices are not feasible to the world at large. I happen to be in an area surrounded by farmland in most directions, so it would be very easy for me to push the ¬ďeat local¬Ē agenda.

But what of the world populations that don’t have such easy access? Or barely any food at all? In such cases romance is a luxury, and eating to live the primary focus.

The more I learn and research, the more questions that arise for me. I read books like Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and find myself in agreement with a lot of it. I watch movies like Food, Inc. and find myself disgusted by governmental intervention and subsidization. I also know, however, that the alternative presented by sourcing and eating locally cannot sustain the global food supply.

So where are we headed? I’m not really sure. Are we willing to give up avocados on the East Coast, or mangoes? And are these even the questions to be asking?

What questions are you asking?

Jennifer Iannolo is the co-founder and CEO of the Culinary Media Network, as well as the creator of Food Philosophy, a blog and audio/video podcast celebrating the sensual pleasures of food. Her new cookbook, The Gilded Fork: Entertaining at Home encourages you to invite friends and family in while keeping the stress out. You can find Jennifer on Twitter ranting and raving about food and sensuality — with a heaping tablespoon of sass — as @foodphilosophy.

The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be

April 14, 2013 Founders' Messages 1 Comment

How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world
that has such people in ‘t!

- Shakespeare’s The Tempest

In the final scene of the film Quest for Fire, after learning how to harness the power of the flame, the first futurist gazes toward the silvery glow of the moon, and then afar, to the stars in the heavens, as if to contemplate his place on Earth, and in the universe.

It was, perhaps, that first display of out-of-body awareness, that first reach beyond the self, that set humankind, relentlessly, on the path of progress.

What gave man that splinter of discontent, that compulsion to free himself from the shackles of Plato’s cave, to venture outward toward the light of better tomorrows?

It seems a singular trait of our species to always reach beyond our grasp, to consider other possibilities, to forever shatter the status quo.

What is it about us that compels our thoughts beyond today?

There are many views of the future, the most popular being that grand tomorrow we all dreamt of, as kids — that miraculous wonderland of scintillating sci-fi scenarios, that silver-mountain majesty of our wildest imaginations.

What ever happened to that future? Was it lost in the translation of dreams into reality?

Or, did we set course for a future so compelling that it would render science fiction a quaint remembrance of things past?

Could our wildest visions ignite the flames of our reality?¬†…¬† divinely wild dreams that shape our ends, to paraphrase a writer ahead of his time?

There has been more technological innovation in the past 100 years, than in the previous 100,000.

Human evolution is progressing almost exponentially, paving the way for a future far more elevating than anything our electric dreams ever could have imagined.

And therein lies the mission of — ¬†to investigate, to spotlight, to predict, to contemplate the-future’s nexus, as it heats, as it percolates, as it Becomes.

To ask questions that place tomorrow in perspective: Is there a limit to technological evolution? Is human advancement unquenchable? Why weren’t we content to remain prisoners of the cave? To simply hunt and gather? Was the thirst for progress inbred¬†– a divinely inspired need to make things better? And better… and then, better, again? Why does humankind seem destined to change its destiny?

We are living in a time in which the dogmatic restraints of ancient histories are clashing against the intrinsic longing for the hope and freedom of tomorrow.

It is an ironic juxtaposition that allows one of the world’s newest technologies to kick the sands of time in the face of one of the world’s most primitive and repressive regimes, proving that ideological luddites, while retaining the military might of oppression, are simply no force against the indomitable human will to evolve.

So, it is with a spirit of reverence for the most exalted promises of past and present that we launch

Because the-future is more than pulse weapons and ion propulsion and houses floating in the clouds. The-future is the panorama of our hopes, our dreams, our fears, and… our mistakes.

The-future doesn’t begin in some distant time, separated from us by eons, or millennia, or centuries, or decades… or years/months/days/hours… or even minutes.

The-future begins at the end of this sentence, inexorably linked… to NOW.

Arthur G. Insana
Co-founder/Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

Never Underestimate the Power of Tomorrow

Bill Gates said, “People always overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10.” While I half expect a letter from some poor Xerox PARC guy challenging the provenance of that statement, the truth of its content is undeniable. In the immediate rush of the present we can sometimes lose sight of the futuristic miracles emerging right before our eyes. Those 10-year cycles are coming to fruition every day and continuing on to create the miracles of the next 10 years.

There is a spot at the Boeing Museum in Seattle where you can stand between a P51 engine from the mid ’40s (capable of pulling a P51 up to 400 miles per hour) and look across the room at an SR71 engine from the early ’60s (capable of pushing the SR71 to more than 2000 miles per hour). Young men who flew P51s in combat scratched the edge of outer space at Mach 3 before their kids were out of high school. Less than 10 years later, they watched men walk on the moon.

In 1976, a bus shaped like the Space Shuttle arrived at my school. That day I watched a lady hold one of those famous shuttle tiles in her hand while she fired a jeweler’s torch at it for three minutes. I was the kid who got to come out of the audience and touch that piece of the future and find that it was hardly warm. The heat was directly converted into light and radiated away. Today, I have a dental crown made of that same material. I watched on a screen as artificial intelligence was used to render a 3D model of my tooth and guess VERY CLOSELY at the shape of my crown. After the dentist made some adjustments within the virtual world mapped from my molar, a robotic mill the size of a laser printer carved my crown from a billet of space history.

A couple of years ago, scientists in Copenhagen “teleported” billions of atoms about 18 inches, using quantum entanglement. An array of 122 lasers in Livermore, California, might soon ignite a pellet of Deuterium and usher in the age of nuclear fusion. While you read this, an artificial intelligence-enabled robotic scientist named Adam is¬†formulating hypotheses, designing and running experiments, analyzing data and deciding which experiments to run next.¬†I can’t help but anticipate the sudden roaring success of all this. I expect it all to be ready to industrialize and be delivered to my door by next fall.

Yes, I’m overestimating what can be done in one year. Are we all underestimating what can be done in 10?

Timothy Rohde

Co-founder/Publisher & COO

The Future of Repair

September 18, 2009 Myriad No Comments

By Tim Rohde

The “disposable society” is taking a well-deserved beating from more and more people these days. The scourge of our environment, our pocketbooks and our souls may be headed, itself, for the dustbin of history. The forces pushing back against the disposable society come from some familiar and some surprising origins. The ecological imperative has finally hit the mainstream. The “maker” and diy (do-it-yourself) movements are fostering a new enthusiasm for individuals to work with their hands. And several sites on the Internet have made it easier to find qualified repair professionals. All of this is converging with what appears to be a long-term need for average Americans to tighten their belts. While there are plenty of companies that have yet to catch on, repair is back and it’s here to stay.

Of all the long-term trends favoring repair over disposal, none is more compelling than the fate of the planet. Every year in the U.S., alone, over 200 million tons of trash go into landfills. Over 63 million computers are disposed of. Over 148 million functioning (or repairable) cell phones are dumped. Cameron Church of Conergy Deutschland GmbH once told me, “Remember, REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE are listed in order.” Repairing things indirectly reduces the need for new items and¬†directly supports reuse. While the U.S. is doing an increasingly good job of recycling, the opportunities for keeping repairable items in service is only now being explored in earnest by the mainstream.

This mainstream is divided into two camps: those who are more likely to hire a repair professional and those who are more likely to do it themselves. The world of professional repair has been enjoying significant expansion and enrichment due to new Web resources that promote and critique various services. Resources like Angie’s List, Service Magic and Yelp have brought much needed light to the world of repair services. These sites provide the ability for consumers to publish feedback about their service experiences. While this may seem harsh at first, it rewards quality and excellence by weeding out service people who undermine the public’s trust, thus clearing the field for better service providers. This increases the likelihood that a consumer will get something effectively fixed and ready to continue providing value.

This type of improvement is a predictable outcome of the information efficiencies we’ve come to expect from the Internet. We can file this under business-growth-through-efficiency, but there is another kind of emergent growth happening that is both more surprising and more inspiring:¬† the do-it-yourselfer is back and has been transformed into part cultural icon, part helpful info source, part performer….

The leaders in mainstreaming do-it-yourself repair are found in the diy (do it yourself) movement. One of their favorite haunts is the FIX section of¬† averages more that 150,000 unique visitors per month and is only one of many sites in the diy universe. Combine this with the 105,000 YouTube videos about repair and the 3,600,000 pages returned in a Google search of the term “diy repair” and you’ve got a whole lot of action around individuals repairing things. These resources run the gamut from highly informative and very ernest help to hilarious, don’t-try-this-at-home events. The common thread among these performances and articles is that something interesting comes from something broken or unused.

An even greater commitment to reuse (often through repurposing material) is found in the “maker movement.” Celeste Headlee’s succinct description of the maker movement says it best: “On a basic level, the movement is about reusing and repairing objects, rather than discarding them to buy more. On a deeper level, it’s also a philosophical idea about what ownership really is.” She goes on to paint the picture of this philosophy of ownership, namely – IF YOU CAN’T REPAIR SOMETHING, YOU DON’T REALLY OWN IT. The maker movement has a bill of rights which has caught the eye of several large industry players. It has a vibrant, interesting niche press lead by Make Magazine. It has Maker Faires that have now spread to every populated continent. They are celebrations of human ingenuity that honor some of the wildest artistic and engineering achievements executed with materials and objects that were discarded by the disposal-happy culture at large. These events are part science fair, part geekfest, part Burning Man… Note to world: this is not a fad.

Regardless of how much staying power and sustainability is built into the diy and maker movements, their impact on the future would likely be small, if not for the current economic decline. The ranks of committed diyers and makers has certainly swelled but, more importantly, the ranks of those who otherwise wouldn’t repair things has grown with the economic downturn. These new do-it-yourselfers search the Internet for answers and run into more than the Home Depot website. They find this new, vibrant culture that celebrates fixing things and making things. That convergence alone has the potential to reinvigorate the latent strains of self reliance and creativity that so strongly characterize the American past and deliver a new class of hands-on creators to the future.

Tim Rohde is Co-founder/Publisher & COO of

Is the History of Money the Future of Money?

September 1, 2009 CULTURE|shock, Featured 1 Comment
Is the History of Money the Future of Money?

Interview with Ron Insana by Arthur G. Insana

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.

Woody Allen

Money may make the world go ’round, as the song says, but given the whirlpool of global financial chaos that has been swirling¬†around us¬†for the past year, it would appear that the Earth is spinning out of control, with no brakes and little hope of slowdown¬Ö if you listen only to the non-profits of doom.

Have we reached¬Ö or will we reach¬Öthe end of everything? Is capitalism the promised cure? Is socialism the poison pill? Is globalization the inevitable future for economic stability?

World economists argue and disagree upon the severity of the current crisis, and offer sometimes conflicting prescriptions to restore global economic health, while politicians pander to PAC agendas. But where does truth reside?

As we look at the future of money, and the economic climate of Planet Earth, we thought that there is no better way to face the challenges of tomorrow than by understanding the successes and failures of the past — the evolution of economics.

Ron Insana, senior financial analyst  for CNBC, and a financial journalist for the past 25 years, also made forays into the world outside the newsroom, with his own hedge fund, and then as a managing director for SAC, one of the world’s most successful hedge-fund companies.

We have opened our special feature, Portals, to continuing conversations with Insana, for his insights, and occasional advice, as we attempt to navigate the turbulent financial waters that flow toward what some call an uncertain future.

t-f/c: What does history teach us about the way in which global economics evolves?

RI: We¬íve gone through an enormous revolution, both in economic practice and economic theory, over the course of human history. By the same token, some of the basic elements of economics have been at work as long as there have been civilized societies — whether older, primitive agrarian societies, or pastoral societies¬Ö or beyond that¬Ö mercantilist, capitalist, socialist or communist forms of economic structure.

Obviously, the ancients wouldn’t recognize the moderns, when it comes to economics. Having said that, if you look at societies as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, you’ll find contracts, for lack of a better word, that mirror some of the more sophisticated derivatives that we use today.

t-f/c: In what way?

RI… In the tendency toward economic behavior. Despite our most recent economic setback, the tendency is toward some form of capitalism as the most meritocratic way to allocate resources and wealth. And I don’t think that that’s going to go through some of the changes that some people anticipate today. Many are arguing that we’re heading toward something more socialistic in nature, … even though most people don’t understand capitalism and the way it works.

I doubt if we¬íre headed in that direction., and if we are, it¬ís a detour. Capitalism, as one famous person said¬Ö ¬ďis a terrible system of economics. The only ones worse are all the others.¬Ē

Entrepreneurialism and technological development are better fostered in an environment like our own, than in most of the other systems that have been tried and failed. So capitalism appears to be the best economic system

Capitalism didn’t exist prior to Adam Smith. It has its strengths and its weaknesses, in the sense that capitalism is (and this is an arguable point) a better way of allocating scarce resources; is a better way of fostering entrepreneurialism, innovation, technological advancement; and also is a better way of allocating reward, than any other.

People will make the case that those are arguable points. I don’t see how they are, given that history has shown that neither communism nor socialism, the two biggest rival schools of economics, have done any better.

Communism has been an out-and-out failure, which we know from the Soviets and the Chinese, who no longer practice it. They have a ¬ďcommand and control¬Ē economy, but there¬ís an element of capitalism that actually provides the engine of growth.

Socialism, as it’s constructed in Europe, or Social Democracy, has not benefited the economies of Continental Europe in the same manner as capitalism has in most of the Anglo-Saxon countries.

There¬ís also been a life-style choice¬Ö a kind of trade-off between working to live and living to work ¬Ė which is something the Europeans talk about all the time ¬Ė they work to live¬Ö the Anglo countries tend to live to work. So in certain instances, they have higher productivity, in some industries, and in other instances. Certainly, our rates of growth, our rates of unemployment, are much better, historically, than theirs. So, we could debate it for quite some time¬Ö but I think the evidence is pretty strong that capitalism, without being xenophobic or jingoistic about it, is considerably better as an economic system

That having been said, there are forms and variations of the theme that have been tried, from unfettered free-market capitalism to something that has a greater degree of regulation and government intervention. Somewhere between the extremes of unfettered free-market capitalism and too much government interference appears to be the capitalist system that works best.

t-f/c: Do you see any other potential system evolving out of the current economic situation?

RI: I don’t know…I don’t think so, because, at the moment, there aren’t any really credible alternatives. The notion that, somehow, large societies can achieve some sort of completely egalitarian state seems to be a Utopian ideal that is less than practical.

t-f/c: Simply because of population?

RI: Partly.. smaller countries have had greater success with experimentation around equal distribution of wealth, socialized medicine¬Öwork and living rules. But, when you¬íre talking about 300 million people, it¬ís difficult to implement such a system ¬Ö (unless communism were practiced in a very pure form ¬Ė each according to his needs, etc.). First, I don¬ít think humans tend toward economic equality. I think they tend toward accumulation.

Which is actually a post-14th Century phenomenon. One of the things that was interesting about the Plague, that the book, Connections, by James Burke, spoke about, was that one of the unexpected consequences of the Plague in Europe was that when the population was cut by half, suddenly materialism grew, because the survivors were able to accumulate the wealth that was left behind.

And there was an important change in the view of earthly existence that developed modern materialism. So, the notion of materialism may have accelerated the move toward capitalism ¬Ė which was largely defined by Adam Smith.

t-f/c: Which ran counter to religious philosophy?

RI: Not really. Religious philosophy prohibited things like usury, charging interest and profiteering, but obtaining wealth by brute force was never something that was frowned upon. People accumulated wealth as warriors, as emperors. The motivation might have different ¬Ė Divine Right of Kings, political power. Wealth was part of the trappings, and wasn¬ít necessarily for wealth¬ís sake. Power might have been the greater motivation, at the time. But there¬ís been no major¬† civilization, to my knowledge, in which the ruling elite did not accumulate both wealth and power.

t-f/c: Despite the constant rumors of a single world currency as the key to a stable global economic future, you don’t see that happening? Why not?

RI: Well, we have one ¬Ė it¬ís called the U.S. dollar. the de facto reserve currency of the world is the greenback. There are countries, which for various political purposes, are threatening to diversify away from dollar-denominated holdings of securities, whether they¬íre stocks or bonds, etc., in an effort to gain some political advantage over the United States. But, in reality, the most widely used currency in the world is the dollar, and will likely be so for quite some time, for a variety of reasons. The world is already dollarized, for all intents and purposes, and replacing a currency that¬ís as dominant as the dollar requires (particularly in the sense of a one-world currency) harmonizing the economic policies of every country on Earth that wishes to participate in a singe currency structure. Much in the way the European Union wanted to create the Euro. That process began in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome, after World War II, when it was decided that Germany was required to attach its economic fortunes to France, so that it would be disinclined to attack its neighbors in the future. And that led to the European Common Market, which led to the European Union, and harmonization of economic policies in Europe.¬† Ultimately, that led to a managed exchange-rate mechanism¬Ö which ultimately led to a single currency in Europe.

And, we¬íre still not sure that is stable. The economic policies of the countries in Europe are still wildly disparate. They have not ever maintained the criteria that is each country is required to maintain to support a single currency. They don¬ít have a singular central bank that has the type of mandate the Federal Reserve does that allows them to have an effective continent-wide monetary policy ¬Ė which is required for maintaining a stable single currency. All of that is a little heady; what I’m really saying is that they have not worked out the kinks they should have worked out, prior to instituting the Euro.

Given that experiment, it’s hard to see how you can take however many hundreds of countries there are in the world and create a system under which you have a single global central bank, harmonized economic policies among all the countries on the planet, where they’ve contained their budget deficits to three percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) (as is required by the Europeans). There are certain parameters around which their economies have to function in order to maintain the stability of the currency. Now it’s almost impossible on a global scale. Given the fact that the world is mostly dollarized, I don’t see a credible competitor to the dollar, in the near term.

t-f/c: Isn’t that philosophy of stability the reason this issue keeps coming up? Some people think that is the only way that the world may find financial solvency, in the near and long-term future?

RI: This is where George Soros goes with equilibrium theory¬Ö he¬ís got his own ideas about how to stabilize the global economy, through a notion he calls ¬ďreflexivity.¬Ē And, ultimately, that will lead to some sort of alternative to the dollar, through the International Monetary Fund issuing something called ¬Ēspecial drawing rights¬Ē ¬Ė it¬ís a very complex structure that he¬ís talking about. And it is 44 percent comprised of the dollar, anyway.

Complex systems, as we know from Chaos Theory, are inherently unstable, so I don¬ít know how you go from the relative stability that we have right now, to achieving a greater degree of stability when you¬íre trying to manage the entire planet with a single currency ¬Ė given that each country has its own set of political and economic concerns that have yet to be harmonized. You would need a single economic system, you would need a very cohesive political structure, which Europe doesn¬ít even have, in order to create a single global currency. And I think anybody who contemplates that notion hasn¬ít the foggiest idea of what he or she is talking about, when it comes to global economics. First of all, it¬ís not achievable in our lifetime, and second, if it ever is, it would involve the dissolution of nation states and a much more harmonious global environment than we currently have. China¬ís purchases of U.S. bonds keep interest rates down, and by extension, allow the U.S. economy to keep growing, so they can keep selling to our market.

If we have a collapse of the U.S. economic system, which we flirted with, dangerously, just a few months ago, China, as we saw from their export figures in the Spring, will suffer far worse than we will. So, a lot of this talk, to be utterly frank, is B.S. and is political posturing, and has nothing to do with economics.

t-f/c: So, therefore¬Ö clearly, we have reached a point in which all international economies are interdependent. What does that mean for the future of money?

RI: Same story, really. Money is money. It¬ís fungible. We¬íre not going to see the disappearance of major currencies, I don¬ít think, in our lifetime, or major currency blocks, for that matter. The Yuan (Chinese currency), which people are increasingly excited about, or Renminbi (RMB) — one is for domestic consumption, one is for trade — is gaining some traction at the outer edges of China as a tradable currency, but it¬ís not fully convertible. ¬†It¬ís still managed by the People¬ís Bank of China in a fixed exchange-rate regime, which is somewhat inflexible and problematic.

I don¬ít know ¬Ė money¬ís money¬Ö whatever is a storehouse of wealth, a means of exchange that facilitates trade is money, whether it¬ís gold, whether it¬ís paper, whether it¬ís an electronic entry, then that¬ís the evolution.

Increasingly, we¬íre becoming more and more electronic and it¬ís a book entry. However uncomfortable people might be with that — that¬ís more relevant than which currency is dominant on the planet.

One thing I¬íll say is that the experiment being tried right now with the U.S. dollar, is that we are the largest net debtor nation in the world that continues to borrow in its own currency. If we were to ever have a dollar crisis, while it would drive interest rates up, potentially, here at home, the net result would be to effectively screw our overseas bond holders because they would be paid back in devalued dollars. They would lose money. This is their chief concern ¬Ė that they would lose money on their holdings of U.S. Treasuries or other investments. Most net debtor nations are required to borrow in the currency of the lender. Which is why we¬íve seen currency crises in the past (like the Russian rubble crisis in 1998, or the Asian currency crisis in 1997), cause such havoc in those economies, because, effectively, their outstanding foreign debts increased by twice the magnitude of the decline in their currencies. In other words, if their purchasing power was cut in half, that meant their debt to foreigners doubled over night. That is, effectively, what happened in Asia in ¬í97 and Russia in ¬í98. and so, it becomes an extraordinary burden to pay back that external debt.

Whereas, instead of defaulting on our debt because of the devaluation of the currency, we actually end up benefiting, because we’re inflating the debt away with devalued dollars. It’s an old political trick, quite frankly, and it works to our benefit.

t-f/c: Well, if the world were to move to a totally electronic monetary system, how is the asset value determined? Is it just ¬ďperceived¬Ē value… if there is no actual physical money backing it?

RI: The notion of physical money is an interesting construct, given that loadstones, seashells, wampum and



other forms of currency were used to represent a medium of exchange, a storehouse of value, however you want to define the primary functions of money. It was either gold, precious metals, base metals, paper currency that was backed by gold or silver. Or then, just paper money and credit.

The fact that we’ve evolved toward an electronic book entry, which is quantified in dollars, is just part of the evolution of money. You work for a sum, and the sum is deposited in your account, electronically. And so you are trading your work for that electronic entry, which really is no more abstract than getting a piece of gold, which someone, somewhere, decided, because of its relative scarcity, was one of the most valuable commodities on the planet.

In reality, it’s just a commodity. Diamonds are not nearly as scarce as they used to be, whether they’re manufactured, or whether there’s a glut of diamonds, worldwide, because the Russians have become such prolific producers, along with South Africa. What’s to say that there couldn’t be some extraordinary find of gold that would alter its value?

It’s unlikely, because even today, the entire amount of gold that’s been mined in the history of the planet could fill about one-third of the Washington Monument ( It’s a relatively scarce commodity. But the fact that people still harbor the desire to go back to the gold standard is as arbitrary as any other construct, when it comes to money.

An electronic system is not really that much more abstract than swapping a loadstone for a sheep. How do you determine the value of a sheep, versus the value of a cow? Depends on who needs it more. These are relatively abstract concepts, even though they’re seemingly more acceptable because they’re physical. But we’re kind of past the point where a barter-style economy, or a gold-standard makes any sense.

t-f/c: But even when your employer deposits your paycheck electronically, there still has to be some tangible asset represented by the electronic deposit.

RI: You can withdraw cash. I suspect there has to be some physical currency to be utilized. Although, I would say 100 years from now, that might not be the case.

t-f/c: What would the nature of the asset exchange be?

RI: Why would the value change? The value is what the value is. It’s based on what people perceive as whatever the value of an hour’s worth of work or an hour’s worth of entertainment or an hour’s worth of output happens to be. That’s the value determinant. Or, on a relative basis, given the political and economic health of a particular country, what’s the value of a currency, vis a vis the political stability and economic output of another country? Those are perception-based values that change from time to time.

t-f/c: How does all of this affect the future of trade?

RI: Well, assuming that we don¬ít have another extraordinary setback that leads to something more like a ¬ďgreat depression¬Ē than a ¬ďgreat recession,¬Ē global trade will continue, and with any luck at all, will continue to broaden ad raise living standards of developing nations, Unfortunately, to a certain extent, that comes at the expense of developed nations. But it doesn¬ít have to be a zero-sum game. And economics isn¬ít ¬Ė despite the fact that many people say it is.

Living standards can rise through greater exposure to, or among, developing and developed nations as money and capital move toward the place that has comparative advantage for certain industries. So, as that globalization process continues, assuming that it does, it certainly alters the economic playing field. It may alter the balance of political power, But, on balance, it’s a good thing.

And again, barring any further disruptions, I suspect, or any move toward trade-protectionism, the tendency toward globalization is fairly strong.

There are too many technological developments now, that make it difficult to go back, unlike prior periods in history. Whether it¬ís the Internet, or whether it¬ís the ease of travel, whether it¬ís electronic communications — it¬ís too easy to connect with others, relative to the past.

Which means that not just our interdependence, but our interactivity, tend to increase and foster more and more, rather than less and less, globalization.

t-f/c: What do you say about the ¬ďfringe futurists¬Ē who talk about the New World Order — the idea that there¬ís a shadow government pulling all the strings, behind the economic scenes, and that our future is a bleak one under such elite rule?

RI: That just B.S. That’s been around for a thousand years; the Illuminati and all that. Anybody who’s worked in a large corporation knows that any large group of individuals can’t even make a singular decision on what to have for lunch. Ruling the world is not that easy. There’s too much evidence against conspiracy theories.

I’ll use oil prices as an example, where OPEC has tried to be an effective cartel for over 30 years now. And they’ve been so effective that from 1986 to 2000, the price of oil was somewhere between $15 and $20 per barrel, generating billions of dollars of losses for major oil companies and depleted reserves for the members of the cartel. And then, between 2002 and 2007, we had a super spike in oil that took it from about $30 per barrel to about $147 per barrel.

And everybody was crying conspiracy, and the conspiracy lasted for the entire time that the global economy was growing at such a clip that the supply-and-demand balance in petroleum products was historically narrow. And you had geo-political influences that helped drive up the price of oil, and the risk premium that was placed on oil as a commodity was much higher than normal because of Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Venezuela, difficulties in Saudi Arabia — all manner of influences that coalesced to drive oil prices to record highs, both in plain dollar terms and inflation-adjusted terms.

Since then, oil has gone from $147 per barrel to a low of $34 in March, and back to about $70 today.¬† So, if there were a conspiracy, it is a very poorly executed one — unless the five-year run has now created enough accumulated wealth to offset all future losses that would come from declining energy prices.

So, it¬ís nonsense, and this is something that Bill O¬íReilly of Fox News was pushing so hard in the fourth quarter of 2005 — that there was a group of people getting together in a room and dictating what the price of oil should be.

That would be all well and good, if the volatility of oil prices wasn’t so extraordinarily high. If you really want a conspiracy, you want $100 oil, forever.

And they don’t have it. So, they either are so good at hiding the conspiracy through extraordinary volatility or…it can’t be done. And there’s more evidence that it can’t be done on a sustained basis, than to the contrary.

Markets can be jiggled with or manipulated, for short periods of time, as we saw with gold, silver and the Hunt brothers debacle in 1980; as we saw with Italian conglomerate Ferruzzi Finanziaria’s attempt to manipulate grain prices in the mid-1990s; as we saw with Sumitomo Corp’s attempt to control copper prices in the 1990s. These games can only last for so long. There’s no grand-scale manipulation that everybody talks about. People can attempt it, but everyone who’s attempted a long-term manipulation and a long-term conspiracy, has failed miserably.

One of the great things about the Illuminati, if you read about it on the Web, in terms of a ¬ďone-world government¬Ē is that, as the one-world government continues to form, these individuals who are at the center of it had become so subtle, having failed at every attempt to achieve their one-world government, that now, we don¬ít even notice their influence. Which is a great argument for saying that they¬íve failed completely and it doesn¬ít work. And now, they¬íre so underground and so secretly manipulative that we don¬ít even know it¬ís happening. And that would be a form of thought control that is inconceivable and also flies in the face of the success of that type of structure.

t-f/c: What do you see happening, domestically, in the next year, five years, 10 years?

RI: Well there¬ís an interesting three-way battle going on right now, among Washington, Wall Street and Main Street. Washington is reflecting some of the populist anger that¬ís arisen from what were clearly excesses that took place on Wall Street over the past several years. Wall Street is fighting to retain its independence and its ability to innovate, financially, to put it gracefully. And Washington is trying to come up with some sort of hybrid environment in which there is more balance between unfettered free-market capitalism, which knows no bounds, or no limits on compensation, for that matter — and, something that is more responsible when it comes to compensation, risk management and innovation that rewards Wall Street disproportionally, relative to Main Street.

Now some of that is a perceptual problem, some of that’s a reality. We have the widest gap between rich and poor that’s ever existed in this country, and that’s causing certain social strains.

By the same token, I’m not sure that the current administration has the foggiest idea what it needs to do to put the economy back into the delicate balance that allows for rewards to be dispersed appropriately among the population.

And these are old friends of mine, many of them have gone completely off the rails, in recent months.

So I think there¬ís going to be a struggle. I think at the end of the day, the Obama Administration will lose more than it wins when it comes to trying to clamp down, whether it¬ís health care reform, financial regulatory reform, climate change legislation. I think that, given that most presidents are visitors rather than permanent residents of Washington, the powers that be — which turn out to be in the Capitol as opposed to the White House, and in the lobbying groups, in industry — will turn back the more ambitious agendas, for something that¬ís somewhat more watered down. That, I think, ultimately, is a good thing,

Regulatory overreach, or dramatic change that’s enacted hastily, without full understanding of unintended consequences, will largely get beaten back. At least that’s my hope. In the longer run, it’s a crapshoot.

Assuming that we get past whatever remaining headwinds we have in this crisis, the U. S. economy, as people have said, over and over again, has been remarkably resilient and tends to bounce back from these crises, more dramatically than people anticipate — whichever crisis you want to pick: 9/11; the bursting of the Internet bubble; the economic and banking crisis of 1990/1991; the biggest recession we ever had, prior to this one, from 1980 to 1982, where we had double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment, double-digit interest rates.

When the tide turns, it tends to turn for real, and you can get a protracted economic recovery that¬ís stronger and more durable than most people think. So that is the hope. The Federal Reserve has done a great job of helping to pull us back from the brink and possibly even engineer that kind of recovery. We may have a ¬ďW¬Ē recession, if you will, or a double-dip recession, and a ¬ďW¬Ē bottom in the stock market¬Ö who knows? That¬ís my first inclination. But that concept is beginning to draw a little too much attention, which, now instead of putting me in the minority, is starting to put me in the consensus. So, I¬ím beginning to take the ¬ďW¬Ē off my screen and put up a ¬ďV¬Ē and think that the economy might just take off like a rocket and surprise everybody. Because economies and markets do that.

We’ve had an extraordinary rally off the bottom from March, in the stock market, that has caught everybody by surprise. The people who are still bearish and think we’re going to hell in a hand basket just missed the opportunity to make 50% on their money, in the last four months, and will continue to say that we’re in a recession, even after GDP turns positive.

So, I think the near-term picture is probably a little brighter than most people realize. The longer-term picture revolves less around things like health care and financial market regulatory reform than it does around education. That is where we still come up horrifically short, when it comes to preparing children for an entirely competitive global marketplace, in which the only way to be rewarded is to be educated and to be an innovator.

That’s where the U.S. is falling farther and farther behind. And I think that’s the most important and least-discussed issue (at least, discussed honestly), in a way that would have some meaningful consequences for children.

t-f/c: What do you think the administration has to do to set the stage for our best possible future?

RI: The attempts that they’re undertaking right now would probably represent headwinds, rather than stimulus. I don’t think health care reform is going to stimulate the economy. And I certainly don’t think that financial market regulatory reform, even though it may be necessary, is a stimulant. And I don’t think that climate change legislation would stimulate economic activity. The best I hope for is that the administration does very little that is restrictive and does as much as possible that is stimulative. And that they don’t make the types of policy mistakes that get in the way of an economic recovery.

Art Insana is Co-founder/Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of

Hello world we’re coming soon!

April 10, 2009 Myriad No Comments

With our global future swirling in a maelstrom of uncertainty,

the need for an international cooperative of thought is rapidly rising. is the premier portal of breaking and developing news

on the blistering edge of advancements in all arenas of human achievement,

with the participation of leading educators, thinkers, prognosticators,

researchers, innovators and inventors who will join us in our ¬ďfuture¬Ē goals.


Our mission is to foster an international consortium

that will benefit from crossing cultural boundaries

to share in the fruits of human invention, regardless of political ideology.

It is our continuing hope that human evolution will not be stalled

by the winds of backward-reaching motivations

and will soldier on, always, with an eye toward better tomorrows.


We look forward to banding together as we keep a watchful eye on¬Ö

the shape of things to com.e ¬Ö.


Arthur G. Insana                                                                                  

Co-founder/Publisher & Editor-in-Chief                                   


Timothy Rohde

Co-Founder/Publisher & COO

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Founders' Messages

The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be

April 14, 2013

How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world
that has such people in ‘t!
- Shakespeare’s The Tempest
In the final scene of the film Quest for Fire, after learning how to harness the power of the flame, the first futurist gazes toward the silvery glow of the moon, and then afar, to the stars in the heavens, as [...]

Never Underestimate the Power of Tomorrow

April 14, 2013

Bill Gates said, “People always overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10.” While I half expect a letter from some poor Xerox PARC guy challenging the provenance of that statement, the truth of its content is undeniable. In the immediate rush of the present we can [...]


Earth Pledge Launches Eco-Friendly Textile Library

April 15, 2013

Earth Pledge Launches Eco-Friendly Textile Library

The Earth Pledge FutureFashion Textile Library online is the go-to source for eco-friendly fabrics.  They promote renewable, reusable and nonpolluting materials and processes at every step of the supply chain and work to assist designers and brands in their sourcing.  Since 2004, They’ve connected designers and suppliers in the sustainable design process, and have encouraged [...]