With earth getting close to inhabiting 8 Billion people – many of whom are demanding more food and energy than ever before – firms and governments are looking for new ways to manage the growth in demand. Yet, as some commodities like coal are replaceable by new energy techniques, others which are essential to all living mechanisms, are not. And while a revolution is happening in the energy sector, few technologies are really harmless.
Chapter 1- Demographics
Until the 19th century, our ancestors ate what they hunted; meat could not be stored so reproduction depended on the weather (a bad harvest meant fewer babies). Population growth was linear. The 19th century brought the industrial revolution which changed the way we saw food and energy. Food was now mass-produced, meat could be stored and wealth started to increase throughout the world. Life expectancy jumped from an average of 30yrs in the 18th century to 55yrs in the 1960s to 75yrs today. Population growth exploded from 500 Million people in the 16th century to 6 Billion in the 20th century.
Today 7 billion souls roam the earth (don’t try counting to 7 Billion it would take you 200 years). The world reached 1 billion by 1800, it reached 2 billions 130 years later and, it took it 30 years after that to reach 3 Billions. To go from 6 to 7 Billion it took only 12 years!
This extraordinary and maybe unnatural explosion in population supplemented with an increase in life expectancy has eaten into earth’s resources. The challenges of continually feeding and producing energy for such a large number of people have certainly put a strain on our planet.
Lately, fertility rates have been crumbling all over the world, women are having fewer babies, population growth is slowing and might even start to decrease by the end of the century. Developed countries like Germany and Japan (Japan sells more diapers for adults than for children; a testimony to how old Japan’s population is) are growing older and pressuring young generations to work more. The consequences of having an old population are economically and socially disastrous; health care costs become astronomical and innovation decreases with an older population. Should a reduced population be the norm or can earth feed us all at no cost?
Experts forecast that phosphorus, an essential element for life, used in fertilizers, is quickly being depleted with no substitute. Oil, which is more expensive and harder to find today than in the past, is set to be replaced within the next 100 years. Nuclear power is a cleaner alternative to oil until it is not. Solar farms face big challenges in terms of storage and costs that are still much higher than traditional energy sources. Natural gas is hailed as a saviour; however, the consequences of drilling it are still widely unknown. The world needs clean energy and it needs a lot of it!
Whether we end the century with 6 or 10 billion people, should not deter us from the righteous path: Clean and efficient excavation of food and energy constituents.
From being called the most valuable company in the world to being declared dead Apple is no ordinary company. Everyone has an opinion, but few differentiate between short-term and long-term expectations.
Without Jobs, Apple is just another tech company; albeit with an amalgam of great products from another time. However great products do not shield against technological evolvement, visionaries do. In the tech world the real cost of dwelling is extinction.
Phase 0: Apple with Steve Jobs is changing the world. Jobs is able to revolutionize how we listen to music, how we read online and how we use our phones. Like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, he is always in search of new realities.
Phase 1: After Job’s death, apple is still thriving. A year after Jobs’ death the stock reaches its all time high. Most think it is because Apple is this amazing company, but the truth is that it is because its competitors are so far behind that they are still trying to catch up to Job’s genius.
Meanwhile, expectations on Tim Cook and Apple continue to rise. Unsurprisingly with no genius at the realm, Apple is not able to deliver. No new life-changing products are introduced, mistakes are made and the stock starts to tumble. From September 2012 until April 2013, the price almost halves from 700 to 390.
Apple had failed to meet expectations and it got punished. Selling yields more selling until investors realize that: Ah Apple is actually still selling iPhones all over the world, there is no reason to sell and the stock rebounds a little. Investors are mixing short-term expectations with long-term expectations.
Phase 2: With no other company having a Steve Jobs, Apple still has the upper hand. The products that Jobs designed are still top-notch. The competition failed to surprise the world. They are just copying the genius’ work.
So we are in a phase where competition is playing catch up. It should be no surprise knowing that very few are able to do what Jobs did.
This is equilibrium; this is how statistically it should be. Steve Jobs was an anomaly. Most people are closer to monkeys than to Steve Jobs when it comes to bringing life to their visions.
Phase 3: Apple and its peers are copying each other trying to increase their share of the market with marginally better products. This is a return to equilibrium.
Phase 4: The tech world does not support equilibrium. A new Steve Jobs appears and does to Apple what Apple did to Blackberry. Sadly, prodigies are not abundant, they appear on rare occasions. In this buoyant world that craves for innovation the main cost to a tech firm is the opportunity cost: Having no visionary at the realm is more costly than having failed products.
Hopefully management will realize they are monkeys compared to Jobs. They should recognize that the most significant use of their cash is not to pay it as dividend or share buybacks as Carl Icahn requests but to spend it on finding a new anomaly, a young anomaly that will once again rejuvenate the company. There is no better use to their cash than to spend it on the only thing that can help Apple endure time: A Visionary.