by Simon Black, Sovereign Man:
To paraphrase that great scene from Airplane, it looks like I picked the wrong week to unplug from the Internet.
Aside from a few hours when we docked in Honduras last week, I was on a self-imposed Internet exile and went several days devoid of any communication with the outside world.
I missed a major scandal at the Fed, another terror attack in Europe, the start of a US military campaign in Syria, political chaos in South Africa, and more.
But it was totally worth it.
I was on a cruise ship for most of the week speaking at a high-end investment conference, and it was as fantastic experience.
Most conferences are pathetic money grabs and giant wastes of time, so I turn down just about every request that my office receives to speak at other people’s events.
But this one was organized by my friends Robert Helms and Russell Gray, two very classy and knowledgeable investors who always put on great events.
What I enjoyed the most is that, in addition to speaking and having the opportunity to teach hundreds of people, I also had the opportunity to learn.
Learning is our great gift as a species… one of the things that separates us from animals.
Humanity rose from nothing because of our ability to learn, and our ability to pass on what we learned to the next generation.
As the infinitely quotable historian Will Durant wrote,
“Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again. So our finest contemporary achievement is our unprecedented expenditure of wealth and toil in the provision of higher education for all.”
‘Education’ doesn’t mean ‘university’. It means learning from other intelligent, talented people.
This is especially true in our modern Digital Age where wealth is derived from knowledge and information, not land and capital.
Hundreds of years ago aristocratic landowners dominated the economy.
Decades ago it was the business elite who controlled the capital and manufacturing capacity.
Today it’s knowledge and ideas that win.
Google (okay, ‘Alphabet’) started as nothing more than an algorithm to improve Internet search.
19-years later it’s one of the largest, most powerful companies in the world.
Ditto for Facebook, whose simple idea of connecting users propelled it to become worth more than $400 billion in just 13-years.
In fact Facebook is 20% more valuable than Johnson & Johnson, the largest manufacturing conglomerate in the world.
(Bear in mind that JNJ has been in business for more than a century longer than Facebook; it was founded in 1886 when Grover Cleveland was President of the United States.)
Or consider Blockchain, the financial technology that virtually eliminates the need for consumers to hold their savings in the banking system.
The simplest Blockchain is a mere 200 lines of code. That’s it.
So in other words, the centuries-old, multi-trillion dollar banking industry is at risk of being disrupted by just 200 lines of code.
Knowledge and ideas are real wealth today, and that’s why I always welcome the opportunity to share my own and learn from others.
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