The Increasing Rate of Change

Big Red Car here.  The ATX is shining bright and the sun is out —- eeehaww!  Well, bit of overselling on the part of the Big Red Car as there a cloud deck at about 2,000 feet.  It is, however, 62F headed to 75F and when it is this warm this early that can only be a  good thing.

Just think — if YOU lived in the ATX, you would be warm, cozy and happy.  Of course, Chicago has its own merits.  [Haha.  STFU, Big Red Car.]

So The Boss was reading something that got him thinking about the rate of change and how it has varied through the years.  He had been reading a biography of Washington and was very intrigued by the manner in which Washington carried on an extensive domestic and international correspondence with much emphasis on “making the post” in Alexandria, Virginia.  Washington was writing and transmitting his letters to ensure that the afternoon post rider or carriage was able to send his letters along expeditiously.

It took about a 4-6 weeks to get a letter to Europe and 4 days to Philadelphia or New York.

The nature of change

A day does not go by that the Big Red Car does not discover some good new application of technology that is immediately usable.  In fact, there are so many that it is often like drinking from the firehouse.

There are differing levels of complexity — and simplicity, perhaps.  The Boss uses both Evernote and Pocket which essentially do the same things but at different levels of complexity.   Sometimes we are drawn to the elegantly simple at the expense of a bit more complexity.  Results may vary.

Every aspect of our existence is being bombarded by change and not just in the arena of technology.  Technology — raw tech or delivery tech, is how I like to think about it — is woven into everything.

The elements of change are seen in a myriad of pursuits that are otherwise thought of as intellectual, political, social and business.  This is certainly not a comprehensive list.

The Boss is very fond of saying:  “Nobody has 20 years of useful experience any more — we all have one year of experience twenty times.”  One cannot do what they did five years ago in almost any endeavor.  The world is moving too fast for that.

Examples

The Boss loves to ride the subway in NYC.  It is entertainment to that simpleton — in the nicest context of that word, mind you.

The Boss used to have a pocketful of tokens — but not since 2003 has it been possible to use a token.  The NYC subway system began to plot the change as far back as 1994 with the advent of the first MetroCard and turnstile.

A little considered element of the token system was the necessity to handle thousands of pounds of tokens and to take them from the turnstiles on a daily basis.  The conversion to a magnetic strip eliminated this labor and also allowed the system to change fares without having to change the size or design of the tokens and to modify the turnstiles.

This is also a perfect example of how a discreet introduction of a dash of technology can have an enormous impact on labor and the efficiency of labor.  Make no mistake, the MetroCard dramatically reduced the labor associated with handling and accounting for tokens.  Jobs were eliminated that are never coming back.  Ever.

Another example is the complete automation of on line banking.  To call it banking is a huge misnomer.  Today financial institutions are able to provide such a broad offering of web based applications that it is perfectly possible to never set foot in a bank again.

An interesting observation is that financial institutions — as an example Wells Fargo Bank, USAA Insurance Company, Charles Schwab — have begun to overlap and to develop their capabilities in such a fashion that it is almost impossible to differentiate their services other than through some knowledge of the history of their development.  Each is now providing all of the services of the other and in a similar manner.  There are some distinctions but there are no huge differences.

Good government

Technology has not been the friend to government that it could and should be though there are isolated instances of it being done well.  The Boss recently renewed his Texas Drivers License which had to be done in person as he had not had a picture taken in over 10 years.  He went to the Texas Department of Transportation facility in Pflugerville and it was like a Google facility.  Hmmm, might have been an Amazon like process.

Other than having to wait for his new license to arrive via snail mail, the entire process was streamlined, pleasant and incredibly professional as one would expect from a cutting edge tech experience.  This was an example of government harnessing technology like a rented mule and it just wreaked of efficiency.

On the other hand — OBAMAcare.  We will not pile on but you know what I am saying.  This is a disgraceful application of relatively simple technology run amok.  [That is a charitable description, Old Sport.  The Big Red Car is primarily offended by the wholesale waste of money and the failure to make fairly simple technology work correctly.  This is not politics, this is process.]

The new OBAMAcare tech guy, Kurt DelBene, — a salty and seasoned high tech executive from Microsoft who shepherded the MS Office programs into a single interactive bundled suite and then moved them to the cloud  — will ultimately make this mess work.  [Teaching point:  the government should have lured this guy into the effort four years ago.]

Social change

The speed with which specific social changes have recently happened is breathtaking — gay marriage, immigration, marijuana.

Gay marriage was batting zero for everything at the ballot box when suddenly an inflection point was hit and it is almost no longer a matter of any conversation let alone controversy.  It is difficult not to attribute this dramatic change to Vice President Biden’s dragging President Barack Obama kicking and screaming to the altar.  Those who plead “fatigue” may strike a resonant chord but nonetheless the battle was over in almost an instant.  [Don’t believe they had not focus grouped that idea to within an inch of death.  It was targeted toward the youthful demographic.]

The Big Red Car still thinks that if the voters of North Carolina were polled again on Amendment One it would go down to defeat but it would simply not be the news today that it was when it happened less than two years ago.  Things are moving on.  [Like they say in the Viagra commercials:  “If you have an erection lasting for more than 4 hours…..  People just can’t stay incensed for very long.]

The immigration debate is a similar proposition in which both parties are fighting over a voting bloc.  [The Big Red Car lives in Texas and understands the implications of immigration changes.  The Big Red Car has no problem with an orderly and pragmatic resolution to having 12-20MM illegal immigrants being recognized and assimilated but something has to be done on the border first.  More than 50% of illegal border crossings are now OTM (ICE’s sensitive description of Other Than Mexican)].

The President is a former pot head by his own admission and with a bit of pride it seems.  He is a step or two removed from the antics of Rob Ford, the Toronto Mayor, but nonetheless he is an unrepentant pot head who even contradicts his own administration’s findings that marijuana is not as harmless as a cold beer.

Marijuana will be legalized in the entire US — not a program that the Big Red Car supports — possibly before the next Presidential election.  There is, after all, a decent chance that the next President will not be a pot head.

Simplicity

In spite of the overwhelming drumbeats and tsunami wave of change, there is a fascination with living an elegantly simple life unencumbered with material goods and with a facile and peaceful mind.  I think the HGTV channel has a show on this, could be wrong.

The issue becomes a balancing act — how much change can we absorb and continue to function efficiently with a bit of certainty in our actions?

It is the Spice Analogy — a pinch makes life more flavorful and a handful ruins it.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Don’t forget to pay your property taxes today.  Now that will put you into a good mood no?

 

 

  • jim mchugh

    Speaking of subway tokens…back in the day and soon after I graduated from B-School, I started working in the consulting group a Arthur Andersen in Boston. In those days, ALL new recruits had to spend at least a busy season on the audit staff – the boot camp of Andersen. One of my first audits was the MBTA (the ‘T’) – the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. I had the balance sheet responsibility to audit the CASH accounts. One of the process steps was to audit (watch) the counting of cash at random times in the huge cash counting room – think locks, guards, fenced rooms – and lots of old fashioned coins and bills. Brings another meaning to getting your hands dirty.

  • In Chicago, we are going to get 10″ of snow…..hmmm, what’s that about change?

    • JLM

      .
      For some reason this year the weather extremes seem well, EXTREME. I just mailed all my property tax checks and the temp is 78F.

      I do love a bit of snow and when you are steeled to it, it’s a lot of fun. I remember hustling a lot of money as a kid shoveling snow.

      I had several stockbrokers who used to take the train who I sold “futures” to — who got the first shoveling in the morning. I was hard at it by 5:00 AM.

      Don’t worry, this is probably your last winter in Chicago any way, no?

      BRC
      .

  • Living in the land of vines and olives, I have no idea what all this means Big Red Car. But I suspect that Sister Anne de Beaupre would approve of the unblemished and perfect prose. Old hens make good soup, as we say over here.

    • JLM

      .
      Haha, good one. One must remember that anything ever uttered is out there.

      Sister Anne also taught me the “cross over” dribble with which I befuddled defenders for almost a decade thereafter. Now if she had any “hops”, ahh, that would have been something but a nun can’t fly in their habit, no?

      Stay well, friend.

      BRC
      .

      • You to BRC.
        But before I see a Texan do a decent cross-over dribble, I’m more likely to see a Liverpudlian such I myself shoot a bear a from a tree and neatly step aside lest his pride (or anything else) be duly shattered 🙂

        • JLM

          .
          Wrong season for bears, all sleeping.

          In the summer with dogs.

          BRC
          .