(My apologies to Lewis Carroll, who wrote “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” the inspiration for my headline.)
Ever since the Dow began to plunge late this summer, followed by even worse news of financial woes in the banking industry and the auto industry, pundits have been telling us they knew it all along. A quick look at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com reveal a plethora of books that prove, yes, there was evidence out there that this fall and winter would be disastrous for the economy. Big Deal. Thanks for the heads up.
Meanwhile, other pundits are saying it is only going to get worse before it gets better.
And I’m thinking, I should probably pay off all my credit cards as soon as possible and start hoarding cash. But then I think, “Will cash be worth anything when this is all over?”
An Internet check of predictions about 2009 revealed something very interesting to me – Web Bot Predictions. There’s a couple of different sites to look up for this, but here are two:
No, I haven’t lost my mind. But I think it is an interesting concept that predictions can be made from a robotic web crawler looking for trends; and it seems to work! For example, the urban survival site is actually an analysis based on the peoplenomics site (peoplenomics.com, a commercial site that businesses can subscribe to, in order to track financial trends. From their site, here is an explanation:
In June 2001 I began to correspond with a reader of my website who said he was willing to share access to a promising new web technology, on the condition that I protect his identity. The person related that he had been a very senior programmer with a software company in the Pacific Northwest (you can guess which company, right?) and besides being a SQL ace, he was also heavily into linguistics and a language called Prolog, which is more like an artificial intelligence language than anything else.
I was skeptical, to be sure, but a few days after we began the email exchange of ideas, he sent me a program he had written that allows a computer to be turned into speed reading tool. It was based on rapidly displaying individual words on a computer screen. He said this was a technology that he had developed and sold for a while on the Internet. He also explained how the development rights to the technology had been sold to a company ( http://www.ebrainspeed.com ). In essence, after looking up the patent he held for the technology, I was convinced that this fellow was for real and might be on to something with the method of looking for linguistic shift on the Internet as a tool to forecast future events.
He described how technology worked. A system of spiders, agents, and wanderers travel the Internet, much like a search engine robot, and look for particular kinds of words. It targets discussion groups, translation sites, and places were regular people post a lot of text.
When a “target word” was found, or something that was lexically similar, the web bots take a small 2048 byte snip of surrounding text and send it to a central collection point. The collected data at times approached 100 GB sample sizes and we could have used terabytes. The collected data was then filtered, using at least 7-layers of linguistic processing in Prolog, which was then reduced to numbers and then a resultant series of scatter chart plots on multiple layers of Intellicad ( http://www.cadinfo.net/icad/icadhis.htm ). Viewed over a period of time, the scatter chart points tended to coalesce into highly concentrated areas. Each dot on the scatter chart might represent one word or several hundred.
Here’s a link to that page so you can read more: http://urbansurvival.com/simplebots.htm
The really, really bad thing about all this is, I don’t think — no, I KNOW — that I’m not smart enough to really talk about this web bot stuff. It makes my head hurt, in much the same way pondering Black Holes, the age of the Universe or Time Travel Paradoxes does. (I looked that sentence over several times. “Does” is the right word. So there!)
Anyway, cut to the chase.
The Web Bot Prediction is that we are screwed. Just how screwed, I can’t tell you — the real data is only for “subscribers,” and I’m not one.
So, back to the personal finance question. This is my take on this — we shouldn’t hoard our money, but go ahead and put it in the bank. But we should take very good care of our own situations and pay off all the balances we can and reduce our financial imprint and hunker down. Get by on less! Buy less! But if we need something and we can afford it, buy it now.
Somebody out there needs to make a sale.