My Dad is a pretty excellent investor. And he’s got something else in common with Warren Buffet… He generally doesn’t grok tech.
Sure he gets how traditional tech relates to investing. Things like industrial technology, more efficient trains, hybrid cars, recycling. About high tech, however, he says “So what. It’s like everybody doing each others laundry.” In other words, there’s no net economic benefit that he can see.
Because I am deeply immersed in the high tech world, this thinking both annoys and amuses me. I’ll address some points I’ve tried to make in the past:
- Me: Technology has made phone communication cheaper and better.
- Dad: Sure, but cell phones suck. Bad reception, dropped calls.
- Me: Point taken. How about word-processing and email. These have helped business productivity and efficiency.
- Dad: Touche. I used to have a secretary who typed my mail, memos, etc. Then I got a computer. At first I hated it, but eventually I preferred it to dictation.
- Me: Great now we’re getting somewhere. How about the Internet? Surely it’s pretty useful. Online banking, online shopping, vast information!
- Dad: I can’t find useful information… just lots of noise and useless junk. I don’t bank or shop online. Email’s OK though, kinda.
- Me: What about satellite TV? You guys have that and seem to like it.
- Dad: Yeah, but what does TV and lots of channels have to do with improving business or the economy or even society?
- Me: Hmm? *sigh* How about we change the subject?
Well, I’ve put words in his mouth, but this distills some of the conversations we’ve had about high tech. And I think so far I’ve failed to make a convincing case. But I don’t give up easily. I’m going feed my “high tech” addiction by playing WoW (World of Warcraft) for awhile, but before I go here are some notes-to-self for part II of this blog:
- Tackle the transformative nature of technology first: Google, Web 2.0, President Obama’s use of the web to win the election.
- Applications of high tech that currently make a difference:
- MRIs and other medical imagery (tech: superconductors, computer analysis and visualization).
- Computer simulation for planes, trains, autos, engines, buildings, bridges, etc. (tech: computers, computer design).
- LEDs: The future of green lighting. (tech: semiconductors, physics)