Monday, October 24, 2011

1318 reasons to be concerned...

Apparently, according to New Scientist, 1318 trans national corporations effectively control sixty percent of the world's economic activity, through a series of interconnected companies. Of this, a 'super entity' of 147 super connected corporations actually control forty percent of this sixty percent.

They conclude that, using purely scientific methods, it is true that one percent of the worlds population overwhelmingly controls most of the world's wealth.

So the 'one percenters' occupying many of the world's capital cities right now are actually scientifically correct. One percent of the people control most of the wealth. The scientific American does not try to scientifically assess in the same way the world's power elite, but money and power are often interconnected - if not overtly, but I suspect the connections may still look quite similar.

New Scientist goes on to say that this is not some conspiracy theory - and that in fact this type of concentration of control occurs frequently in nature, and occurs because of this inter connectivity of networks. The image associated with the article is a good one - though basically meaningless. Nonetheless, I'll copy it here because it's quite pretty and I guess a visual representation of what is being talked about...

The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy. Superconnected companies are red, very connected companies are yellow. The size of the dot represents revenue <i>(Image: </i>PLoS One<i>)</i>

These connections, represented by different coloured dots, came about for business reasons, independently and without a grand scheme in mind - just that each of the 1318 companies had controlling connections to two or more other entities, and that these entities in turn had interests in, on average, 20 other entities.  So the economic web takes shape, till eventually well over half of the businesses we interact with are ultimately controlled by these 1318 trans global companies.

Is this bad? Well, New Scientists doesn't seem to think so. In fact, they go on to say that the concentration of power in such interconnected systems often leads to the stability and therefore success of the entire population interacting with it. Again, New Scientist sites similar natural studies of highly evolved and successful ecosystems to point this out.

Unless, they add, with wily understatement,  one or more of the 'super entities' falls on hard times. Then this can actually cause the entire system to have to radically evolve, or cease to exist. Suddenly.

It appears to me that we are witnessing this exact phenomena occurring, as already some of the bigger players in this network have either completely unravelled (say a Lehmann Bros from a few years back) or are beginning to unravel (say the growing contagion of debt default occurring in Europe at the moment, and the consequences that is likely to have on the private sectors in the affected countries).

Once you add into this mix a number of smaller, powerful networks, based not on business but on the ability to rapidly communicate, and you can see we are in for interesting times. I'm not necessarily talking about human or business networks here either - think about the growing number of entirely mechanical share trades occurring every microsecond of every day in every country. These share trades occur, not based on business logic as such, but on a series of algorithms designed to automatically detect the fastest way to make profit. So every day, thousands upon thousands of share trades occur between computers, without a human being even overseeing things. A number of mini share trade meltdowns have already occurred - and these meltdowns eventually effect REAL businesses - and no one seems to have any idea how to stop them from happening again.

Another factor in the turgid miasma of existence we've got to include is the internet itself - which has in fact enabled the power of the abovementioned microtrade technology to grow - not to mention the surge of social media, and the overturning of traditional media in the process. Now just about everybody has their own audience, and everybody has their own tailored information stream too. The keepers of the old media don't want it, and are doing their best to understand it - so they can work out how to control it - but as yet, they have either failed dismally, or have found a good way to spend money without actually making as much as they used to.

A third factor, which is equally influential but too vast a subject to touch on here, is the interchanges, both political and economic, between the superpowers of China, India, the US and members of the struggling Eurozone. These will become more important as their people start to loudly wonder when they stopped being citizens and started to become consumers...

It seems as though we could be headed for a system reboot. Watch out for the blue screen - you thought it was a thing of the past - I predict it will return with a vengeance.

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