We live in interesting, dangerous times.

Many of our client relationships go back decades, the longest goes back to the mid-1980s. Therefore, some of our clients have heard this recurring theme from yours truly a time or two before. Yet, I will state it again because I think it is important. We live in interesting, and dangerous times. Interesting and dangerous because we humans are gaining knowledge at an ever increasing rate. As a result, our world is changing at an ever increasing rate. And change is stressful. It can be frightening. Disruptive. Challenging. Wonderful. Horrible.

I attended an online seminar earlier today presented by Nobel Prize winning economist, Robert Shiller. Among other topics, he spoke about the importance and immediacy today of narratives. In the 21st century news travels fast! Information “goes viral”. Markets respond to news, sometimes overreacting. Professor Shiller believes that one narrative that exists today, which investors may overreact to is that automation will cause great unemployment, which will have a negative effect on asset values. He tends to think that inflation and interest rates will move back to a more typical pattern before too long. I disagree.

How can I disagree when the US unemployment rate is currently 3.7%? Well, firstly, I think that the rate at which automation becomes capable of replacing human labor will increase. By a lot. I doubt that the rate of re-training of workers will keep up with the rate of worker displacement. And while there will be a need for robot designers, builders, etc. it is axiomatic that the number of workers required to manage automation will be far fewer than the number of workers displaced.

Secondly, there is the problem of underemployment. Many displaced workers find employment, but at a lower rate of pay. Underemployment has likely contributed to the low to moderate rate of inflation that we have experienced in the US during recent decades. In my opinion this trend will continue for some time. The bond market seems to agree that inflation will remain low for quite a while. As of today a 10-year treasury note only pays 1.7%. If you commit to 30 years you can get slightly over 2%. Let me repeat that: An investor looking for a safe long-term return can get 2% per year if she is willing to commit to holding the investment for 30 years. A 30-year commitment for just 2%!?! As an investor, even though I think that inflation will remain low, it is difficult to commit to a 30-year hold and only get 2% in return. Those who do buy long-term bonds must think that the alternative(s) are extremely risky.

In spite of the stressful disruptions that I anticipate, I tend to be optimistic. There is so much potential for a better tomorrow. Or a worse tomorrow. Following below are some videos, and some information that I find interesting, and that give pause. Enjoy.?!

What have robots learned lately?

Take a look at some of the latest robot technology in action. He’s called Atlas, and he’s a gymnast. One study done not too long ago found that plumbers would be among the last to be automated out of work because robot tech was not able to move about and manipulate objects very well. I’m not so sure. Some of the other robot videos on the site illustrate the manipulation capabilities. After you click the link you may need to scroll down the page a bit and click the triangle to activate the video.


Full House deep fake.

Do you remember the Full House television series? It was about a widower who moved to San Francisco along with his three young daughters and two best friends. In the show’s opening scene the family can be seen cruising in a convertible, and living life amid iconic San Francisco sights. What if you could use artificial intelligence to merge the face, including mustache of a man (Nick Offerman) onto the bodies of each of the cast members? It would look like the video attached below. Kind of fun, and the song is pretty good, too.

Embedded below are several additional examples of “deep fakes” for your amusement and amazement. The technology required to do this is now inexpensive, and available to practically anyone with a reasonably good personal computer. However, as THE RISE OF THE DEEPFAKES video (2nd below) points out this technology may be used for fun, or for evil. Investors, voters, and all of humankind must beware. Things are not always as they seem.

Bill Hader deep fake.

CNBC report on deep fakes.

Keanu Reeves deep fake.

Jim Carrey deep fake.

A recent New York Times piece, excerpted below states that at least 70 countries have had disinformation campaigns.

Despite increased efforts by internet platforms like Facebook to combat internet disinformation, the use of the techniques by governments around the world is growing, according to a report released Thursday by researchers at Oxford University. Governments are spreading disinformation to discredit political opponents, bury opposing views and interfere in foreign affairs.

www.fpai.net is secure.

A while back we noted that our secure website (www.fpai.net) with extended validation SSL certificate was temporarily messed up. (Technical term.) As of a few weeks ago all security goodness (another technical term) has been restored. Now, if you are using the Microsoft Edge browser, which we like, your address window should look like the one below when you log onto our site.

If you browse using Google Chrome your address window will likely look like the one below. Note: In Chrome you can confirm the site information by clicking on the lock icon. Since Edge and Chrome are the only browsers that we use we are unable to tell you what you will see in other browsers, but we can tell you that www.fpai.net will be secure.

Thanks for reading!

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