This week I had the opportunity to attend the “Friedman Global Forum” hosted by the Pulitzer Prize author and New York Times Foreign Affairs columnist Tom Friedman. It was a fascinating experience. The theme was “Leaders on the Rise in the Next New World“. There was a wide cross section of attendees from all over the country. I sat with a software start-up owner from Santa Cruz, and a science teacher from St. Louis and a Produce distributor from outside Seattle. It was such an engaging and creative day of discussion regarding the state of the global economy, global politics and the interconnected social revolution that is impacting pretty much everything. Tom Friedman had it right in 2004 when he concluded the world is flat. It is a unique period in history for investment, and opportunities are popping up faster than ever before and in regions across the globe.
The feeling there was the merger of information technology (IT) and globalization was the single biggest event in the last decade; Bigger than September 11th, and bigger than the financial crisis. That sure is debatable, but there’s no question that the advancement of the web with smarter mobile devices have changed the way people live their lives. It’s changed commerce. It’s changed communication. It’s changed political corruption. It’s connected the world like never before.
Power is shifting in this next new world. It’s moving from west to east. From men to women. From centralized autocracy to more fragmented democracy. Power is definitely shifting. The global population has grown from 2 Billion people in 1950 to 7 Billion today. And we’re younger. The average age on planet earth is just 29 years old. Only 11% of the global population is over the age of 60.
Things move so much faster today. Information travels at the speed of light. But knowledge doesn’t. That’s a big problem. Competition has become fierce with the “always open” model in place. It’s a struggle to keep up. There’s no room for downtime. Being average is officially over. No longer are there high wage middle skilled jobs. Technology has provided, but it’s also taken away. Education is the only answer. There is very little left for dropouts. It’s a brutally tough position which so many Americans face being out of work for over 6 months. One approach is to think like new immigrants. They are paranoid optimists. They came to this country for a better life opportunity, and recognize things can be taken away quickly.
Fast moving technology is leaving some people behind. Companies are more efficient and profitable than ever before. But the median income in the US keeps falling. Productivity is spiking but job creation is flat. Technology doesn’t automatically help everyone. Today is somewhat Dickensesque, for many it is the best of times. But for others, it really is the worst. Raising 3 little girls has me constantly wondering what this world will be like in 20 years. Opportunities are out there. And success will go to those that are laser focused with razor sharp skills.
Don’t worry about this week. It’s behind us. Sell-offs are healthy. We’re focused on what’s ahead.
By: Mike Frazier