Thursday, 25 April 2013

7 Secrets Wealthy People Know About Amassing And Maintaining A Fortune
Latest from Forbes:

1. Cash Flow Is Important. Buy MLPs, Sell The Steak House.

'Where does Brad Pitt put his multi-million-dollar paychecks? It’s not too much to presume that he, like much of Hollywood, has money invested in master limited partnerships (MLPs). Conversations with five of Hollywood’s top money managers revealed a cult following for these stocks, which generate strong yields and cash flow. Like real estate investment trusts, MLPs pay no taxes. Hence, they have more to share with investors, and payouts are more lightly taxed.
They’re certainly more than one-hit wonders. The Alerian MLP Index’s returns beat the S&P 500′s on a 1-year, 3-year-, 5-year and 10-year basis. The index, holding some 50 MLPs, favors gas-and-oil infrastructure companies like Enterprise Products Partners, Kinder Morgan KMI 0% and Plains All American Pipeline.

Alan Goldman, a Los Angeles business manager with a star-studded rolodex and client roster, says he’s often left talking his crew out of pitches on the next trendy restaurant, instead advising more consistent investments, like MLPs. “We find that they need to be more conservative than Joe Average.” Goldman sighs. “The restaurants are very, very popular with entertainers. We look at something like a restaurant and just assume that the money is gone.”'

2. Think Like Zuck. Think Trusts. Click to link to rest of Forbes article.

Alvin Toffler is arguably one of the best all time futurists. The Financial Times see him as the ‘world’s most famous futurologist.’ Characterized as important early influence on radical centrist political thought. In his earlier days Toffler was a White House correspondent, and editor of Fortune magazine.

After leaving Fortune magazine, Alvin Toffler was hired by IBM to do research and write a paper on the social and organizational impact of computers, leading to his contact with the earliest computer “gurus” and artificial intelligence researchers and proponents. Xerox invited him to write about its research laboratory and AT&T consulted him for strategic advice. This AT&T work led to a study of telecommunications which advised its top management for the company to break up more than a decade before the government forced AT&T to break up.
In the mid-’60s the Tofflers began work on what would later become Future Shock.
In 1996, with Tom Johnson, an American business consultant, they co-founded Toffler Associates, an advisory firm designed to implement many of the ideas the Tofflers have written on. The firm worked with businesses, NGOs, and governments in the U.S., South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Australia and other countries.
In his book The Third Wave Toffler describes three types of societies, based on the concept of “waves”—each wave pushes the older societies and cultures aside.
·  First Wave is the society after agrarian revolution and replaced the first hunter-gatherer cultures.
·   Second Wave is the society during the Industrial Revolution (ca. late 17th century through the mid-20th century). The main components of the Second Wave society are nuclear family, factory-type education system and the corporation. Toffler writes: “The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass productionmass distributionmass consumptionmass educationmass media, massrecreation, mass entertainment, and weapons of mass destruction. You combine those things with standardizationcentralization, concentration, and synchronization, and you wind up with a style oforganization we call bureaucracy.”
·  Third Wave is the post-industrial society. According to Toffler, since the late 1950s most nations have been moving away from a Second Wave Society into what he would call a Third Wave Society, one based on actionable knowledge as a primary resource. His description of this (super-industrial society) dovetails into other writers' concepts (like the Information AgeSpace AgeElectronic Era, Global Villagetechnetronic age, scientific-technological revolution), which to various degrees predicted demassification, diversity, knowledge-based production, and the acceleration of change (one of Toffler’s key maxims is “change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways”).

In this post-industrial society, there is a wide diversity of lifestyles . Adhocracies (fluid organizations) adapt quickly to changes. Information can substitute most of the material resources (seeersatz) and becomes the main material for workers (cognitarians instead of proletarians), who are loosely affiliated. Mass customization offers the possibility of cheap, personalized, production catering to small niches (see just-in-time production).
The gap between producer and consumer is bridged by technology using a so-called configuration system. “Prosumers” can fill their own needs (see open sourceassembly kitfreelance work). This was the notion that new technologies are enabling the radical fusion of the producer and consumer into the prosumer. In some cases prosuming entails a “third job” where the corporation “outsources” its labor not to other countries, but to the unpaid consumer, such as when we do our own banking through an ATM instead of a teller that the bank must employ, or trace our own postal packages on the internet instead of relying on a paid clerk.
Since the 1960s, people have been trying to make sense out of the impact of new technologies and social change. Toffler’s writings have been influential beyond the confines of scientific, economic and public policy discussions. Techno music pioneer Juan Atkins cites Toffler’s phrase “techno rebels” in The Third Wave as inspiring him to use the word “techno” to describe the musical style he helped to create[8]Toffler’s works and ideas have been subject to various criticisms, usually with the same argumentation used against futurology: that foreseeing the future is nigh impossible. In the 1990s, his ideas were publicly lauded by Newt Gingrich.
Alvin Toffler co-wrote his books with his wife Heidi. A few of their well-known works are:
·         Future Shock (1970) Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-27737-5
·         The Eco-Spasm Report (1975) Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-14474-X
·         The Third Wave (1980) Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-24698-4
·         Previews & Premises (1983) William Morrow & Co ISBN 0-688-01910-2
·         The Adaptive Corporation (1985) McGraw-Hill ISBN 0-553-25383-2
·         War and Anti-War (1995) Warner Books ISBN 0-446-60259-0
·         Revolutionary Wealth (2006) Knopf ISBN 0-375-40174-1

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

There are touchscreen displays and 3D displays, but now there’s one that combines the two: a flexible screen that users can pinch, poke and stretch.
The screen, designed by Dhairya Dand and Rob Hemsley, both of MIT’s Media Lab, is calledObake, named after a shape-shifting spirit of Japanese myth. It’s comprised of a flexible rubber sheet laid over a set of actuators. The whole thing sits under a camera built from a Kinect projector that beams images onto the sheet. The camera also measures how deep the screen is poked into it or how far its stretched.
If you pull on it, the sheet makes a little mountain. Poke it and it dents. Rub your finger on it and it senses the friction. Stretch it and it shows the distortion on the image.
All this is geared to making touch displays that are truly 3D. Current technology lets you see 3D images, but that’s an optical illusion rather than the real thing. And virtual reality allows users to manipulate objects with gestures, but a screen that you can actually touch and stretch is the next best thing to being there. Dand and Hemsley call it a 2.5 D display.
There’s another aspect to this work: The two told ExtremeTech that the current state of the art touch screens are still working with the same assumptions that guided the mouse. Even though point, drag and click has been replaced by touch, drag and tap, it all still assumes a 2D image.
A lot of 3D displays operate the same way, and don’t take advantage of the range of gestural controls. But the reason for that isn’t just that technically it’s hard. As computer users we have all collectively gotten used to certain ways of doing things with our hands: We pinch and zoom, tap, point and click. It’s become a part of our collective vocabulary.
It’s similar to the reason keyboards look the way they do. Keyboards mimic a typewriter, even though there is no logical reason to have a QWERTY keyboard on any computing device — there are more efficient ways to arrange keys, for instance. But the QWERTY keyboard was standard and it’s what most people knew how to use.
So creating a 3D display that used completely unfamiliar gestures would be self-defeating. Dand and Hemsley wanted to build something that was interactive, yet not so baffling that it is unusable.
That’s why they went with the design they did: the stretchable surface allows for gestures lots of people know already; at the same time it can go beyond the capabilities of a typical touch screen.
There’s a long way to go, of course, before this gets on to a smart phone. Actuators are relatively large, and there would have to be room for pressing in as well as extruding, and the need for a projector. Odds are this technology will first show up on tabletop applications.
Brain Wave of The Future
What If You Could Move Objects With Your Mind? Well, That Time Has Come.

You slip the wireless headset on. It looks like something a telemarketer would wear, except the earpieces are actually sensors, and what looks like a microphone is a brain wave detector. You place its tip against your forehead, above your left eyebrow.

A few feet away is a ping-pong ball in a clear tube called the Force Trainer. The idea is to use your thoughts alone, as recognized by the wand on your forehead, to lift the ball. Your brain's electrical activity is translated into a signal understood by a little computer that controls a fan that blows the ball up the tube. Levitates it. As if by magic. It's mind over matter.

All you have to do is concentrate. On anything, it doesn't matter. The harder you concentrate, the higher the ball goes. A musician says he played a song in his head and focused on a particular chord change. A former high school tennis star focused on his 120-mph serve. One woman brought the image of a candle flame to mind. The ball rose.
Concentrate. Concentrate.

A sound erupts -- first a groan, then a woooo, WOOOO -- like a Halloween ghost.

The ball spins, slowly at first, then faster.

Concentrate, concentrate.

And then the ball rises inside the tube. Up it lifts, two inches, four inches -- a foot!
You giggle and your concentration is broken; the ghostly sound fades and the ball drops back into its nest with a gurgle.

You have just controlled a physical object with your mind.

Competing mind-over-matter toys from Mattel and Uncle Milton Industries are coming to a store near you. They are the first "brain-computer interfaces" to enter the consumer mainstream.

Toys, but so much more. They embody a dream of the ages: controlling the world with your thoughts. Telekinesis. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Inches, Not Yards.

When I entered the world of innovation, one of the most common things I would hear was that my peers wanted to do something new: like start a company or take an unconventional career path. 

That they needed ‘a great idea.' 

That surprised me a bit, especially living around an entrepreneurial city like Brighton UK; since most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas; they discover them!
In recent years the likes of Google, for example, did not begin as a brilliant superordinate vision; but as a project to improve library searches, followed by a series of small discoveries that unlocked a revolutionary business model. Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t begin with an ingenious idea. But they certainly discovered one.
Meanwhile, Pixar started as a hardware company that never found a market, and got into digitally animated movies by making a number of small bets on short films.  Twitter began as a side project within Odeo, a podcasting company that was going nowhere.  After asking employees for suggestions about what the company should do, Odeo founder Evan Williams gave Jack Dorsey, then an engineer, two weeks to develop a prototype for his short messaging idea.  People inside Odeo loved using it and Twitter was soon born.
The truth is, most entrepreneurs launch their companies without a brilliant idea and proceed to discover one, or if they do start with what they think is a superb idea, they quickly discover that it’s flawed and then rapidly adapt.
Of course, everyone wants to make big bets. But brilliant ideas are over-rated and people routinely bet big on ideas that aren’t solving the right problems, including Google Wave and WebVan.  Pixar storytellers must make thousands of little bets to develop a movie script, Hewlett Packard cofounder Bill Hewlett found that HP needed to make 100 small bets on products to identify six that could be breakthroughs.
Just as Twitter went from a small bet to a big one, small bets are affordable and achievable ways to learn about problems and opportunities, while big bets are for capitalizing upon them.
Seasoned entrepreneurs will tend to determine in advance what they are willing to lose, rather than calculating expected gains.  They don’t teach this in business school; just the opposite, in fact.  But the next new billion-dollar idea is virtually impossible to predict, even for a visionary like Mark Zuckerberg for much of Facebook’s early history.
Unlike some of the old guard venture firms who still seek to bet big on ideas before the entrepreneurs have proven they are actually solving user problems, Y Combinator, Lean Startups and the Customer Development model, as well as the way some ‘Super Angels’ invest, are predicated on small bet philosophies and affordable losses, while seeking to help entrepreneurs iterate as cheaply and quickly as possible to find valuable problems.
Expect great debates to come between these two camps on things like expected exit values: big bets versus little bets.  After all, the old VC mantra was to find the next billion-dollar idea.  “We’re out to hit singles and doubles,” angel investor Dave McClure has stated reflecting a shifting tide, “We’re not trying to hit a home run every time and strike [sic] out a lot.”  Traditional VCs privately chafe at this kind of talk.  But with the rise of Y Combinator, and DST’s recent announcement to invest $150,000 in every seed-stage Y Combinator company, everyone understands the game is changing.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Robats: Whatever Next?

What is the Future Value of Your Biggest Unfixed Asset?

How much is your house worth? For many in the industrialised west, and now more and more the emerging east and south, the family home is the largest investment most people make.

Well, in 15 or so years time the land that you own might just be worth more than the fixed asset of bricks and mortar. 

Advanced Manufacturing technology such as ContourCrafting, is already automating home building in Africa. Professor Khoshnevis of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California has spent the last 15 years working on a machine that prints buildings. Contour Crafting is faster, cheaper, and uses less energy than conventional building methods. The system offers unprecedented design flexibility (right angles, wild patterns, soft curves).

And that is just the beginning. By 2025+ such technology will build new homes in a few hours; and when coupled to 3D Printing and other emerging rapid manufacturing technologies; flooring, wall and stair panels, interior fixtures and fittings, and all and sundry domestic modcons will be made on the spot for pennies per kilo!

So how much will your house that you are/have struggled to pay for be worth in 15 or so years? In fact what other assets are going to lose their value? A serious reassessment of the future value of this and other capital assets need to be analysed.

Let’s do some inverse thinking here! What assets will not be affected by advanced rapid manufacturing?

Rare, orginal, classical and dead Poet’s Art Work; Antique Furniture, China, Objet d'art.  This is because of their rare chaste; so such purity will take on a whole new meaning and value. Rare elements such as Gold, Silver, Platinum and Iridium cannot be copied, so they are assets to invest in for the long term…What else?

As above, Land. The closer private terra firma is to urban repositories (exceedingly in the BRICS, E7 and N11 nations), the more land is going to accumulate in value. Around 50 percent of world population now live in cities and urban conurbations. By the early 2020s municipal living will be on the order of 75 percent. Land’s worth will escalate wildly. 93 percent of population growth over the next 20 years will be in emerging nations. Less than 5 percent in developed nation of Europe and North America.

What about investing in your creativity and imagination quotient? Will computers be able to emulate human ingenuity? May be by ~2030, according to Ray Kurzweil. But, one thing is for sure; the space of innovation possibilities is so vast and so fast that even if computer brains do out gun human inspiration by 2030, there is still so much for homospaian to do.

The bottom line as I write in 2013 - in fact I have thought of this for decades now - when machine intelligence and automated manufacturing matures to a point of ubiquity, supra-efficiency, with supra-low financial cost of both inputs and outputs; our imagination may just be our greatest unfixed asset.

Our biggest unfixed asset is our Imagination. An asset that no machine can devalue.