The price of water … in space

September 30th, 2014

The other day, I wrote that the value of water is far too low in most industrialized
societies – mainly because it’s so cheap – leading to waste and pollution.

Today, I came across this very  interesting article in BBC News:
The companies vying to turn asteroids into filling stations

In this article, Chris Lewicki/president of the space mining firm Planetary Resource
says that it “costs nearly $ 2 billion per year to launch enough water – 6 tons per person –
to sustain the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

That’s $ 2,000,000,000 for 6 persons in 1 year, or

$ 333,333,333.33 for 1 person in 1 year, or

$ 913,242.01 per person per day!

Of course, the scientific research on the International Space Station is important,
but don’t these figures make you think about the 780 million people
on Planet Earth lacking access to clean water and what it would
take to provide access to clean water for everyone?

How long-term is our thinking?

September 30th, 2014

How long-term is our thinking, when contemplating
a purchase, or any decision for that matter?

Consider Pareto’s principle, whereby 80% of the effects come from
20% of the causes. How about applying this principle to our purchases?
It would mean that 80% of the time, we are only using 20%
of the products or services purchased. Not that far off, isn’t it?

Pareto’s principle therefore also helps us to explain, why we are easily
bored and unsatisfied with many of our purchases. The fact that we hardly
ever use them, proves that we didn’t really need them in the first place.
Looks like Theodore Levitt was wrong.

The unfortunate consequence being that we buy even more – often useless – stuff,
i.e. junk. It’s good to remember that a free market economy is also defined by
the fact that we will be served junk, as long as we are happy to consume it.

In the words of the financial author Dave Ramsey
“We buy things we don’t need with money we
don’t have to impress people we don’t like“.

Sometimes, we really are a sad lot.

To be continued …

The impulse society

September 29th, 2014

Paul Roberts is the author of a new book titled
“The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification“
and Ben Steverman comments on it in
The (moral) dangers of upgrading your iPhone.

“Since the 1970s, individuals, companies and the government
have become increasingly and dangerously focused on the short term,
Roberts argues. Companies buy back their own stock rather than pursuing
research and development. Families rack up debt rather than saving.
And individuals drop everything to obsess over the phones buzzing
and beeping in their pockets. While keeping us connected, these
digital devices can also create new anxieties, bleed bank accounts and
make it harder to focus on, you know, life”.

The author correctly points out that
“the market’s agenda is different than ours and
it helps to remind us of that from time to time.”

Good point and good read!

On value

September 29th, 2014

“Things only have the value that we give them“.
(Molière, playwright)

Who – or what – decides?

September 28th, 2014

Who – or what – decides, which products and services add real value and
which ones don’t? Do these products and services solve real problems?
How many are pure divertissement, keeping us from focussing on
what really matters? Do we own the products or do they own us?

Was the economist Theodore Levitt wrong, when he said that
people didn’t want a quarter-inch drill, but a quarter-inch hole?

On April 5, 2013, the actor Bill Murray posted
this memorable tweet, which sums it up rather nicely:

“My iPhone has 2 million times the storage of the 1969 Apollo 11 spacecraft
computer. They went to the moon. I throw birds at pig houses“.

Sounds like “panem et circenses“ 3.0 to me.

PS: Speaking of smartphones, isn’t it strange that it is easier
to take pictures with them than to make phone calls.
Faulty design? Pure coincidence?

To be continued …

Price vs. value – a short comment

September 27th, 2014

The cheaper a product or service becomes, the more indiscriminately we
use it and the less we value it . “Cheap“ and “free of charge“ increase
waste and waste increases pollution, not just the environmental
kind. We often choose a low price over a high quality,
but end up paying more in the long-run.

Let’s consider water and air for a moment.
Do we really value both fairly in most industrialized societies?
You’d think we would, as we can’t live without either.
The sad reality is that, because we pay little for water and nothing for air,
the value of both in a totally commercialized world is low,
far too low, resulting in waste and pollution.

To be continued …

Attitude matters

September 26th, 2014

“Quality is not what you put into it, it’s what the customer gets out of it“.
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator)

You’re not the product

September 25th, 2014

“Our business is not based on having information about you.
You’re not our product. Our products are these, and this
watch, and Macs and so forth. And so we run a very different company.
I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money?
Follow the money. And if they’re making money mainly by
collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried.”
(Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc.)

Wouldn’t it be nice, if more companies thought this way?

To be continued …

On data, sharing and not so cheap deals

September 24th, 2014

Data, data, data!
Of course, data itself is not the problem. The problem is how it is increasingly
being gathered, exploited, traded, used, shared and – unfortunately – given away.
Nowadays, chances are that someone will have sold our mind
– its content that is – before we have a chance to lose it.

I’m not a native speaker, but “sharing with“ isn’t the
same thing as “turning over to“, or is it?

Speaking of “sharing“, it goes without saying that it existed in the “good old days“ too.
But as far as I can remember, it used to be more personal and valuable.
And it involved a lot more trust than it does nowadays.
For example, we didn’t just lend our highly cherished vinyl LP’s to  everyone.
First, we made sure that we could trust the person and her record player of course.

And have we forgotten that a cheap deal is not necessarily a good deal?
“Pay me well, but let me buy cheap“ just doesn’t work, especially in a globalized world.
Furthermore, money isn’t the only medium of exchange anymore, so is data.
That shouldn’t be so difficult to understand. It’s funny, but when I was writing this,
I had to think of my grandfather. He used to say “If it’s cheap, it can’t be any good“.

Have we also forgotten that a free deal is an illusion?
If the Roman poet Virgil were alive today, he’d probably exclaim
“I fear geeks (without the “r“), even those bearing gifts“.
It seems that the proposition “for free“ has always
magically incapacitated our ability to think clearly.

Haven’t you ever wondered what would happen, if zero price met zero tolerance?
The business model would be kaput.

While we are very slowly starting to realize that our personal data is a valuable currency,
we remain rather clueless about a fair exchange rate. Not only that, but there is no
central authority, something like the Fed or any other Central Bank,
issuing or controlling the supply of this new currency either.

To be continued …


September 23rd, 2014

“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! ”
(Eagles: Hotel California, 1977)