Living Large – Technology Revolution Raises Tide
It’s hard to believe that my kids will never truly know what it is was like to live without a microwave, VCR, GPS device, internet connection or many of the other modern day inventions. In my elementary school days, when I had to write a report about Alfred Hitchcock, I was forced to drag my mom to the public library, chase down some librarians, and comb through floors of book shelves, only to find the book I needed was already checked-out. Today, it’s amazing to watch my kid, barely old enough to pull the milk container out of the fridge, scamper over to the computer, type in a few search words on Google (GOOG) and access an endless pool of information for a homework assignment. Fortunately for my wife and me, my daughter has not discovered Facebook yet.
Rising Tide Lifts All
In the uncertain times we live in, many people lose sight of the incredible advancements achieved over our generation, and ignore the difficult challenges and problems entrepreneurs are solving today. And many of these advancements have trickled down to wide swaths of the population. The minimum wage worker, cleaning dishes at the local restaurant, may not be able to afford the new $500 iPad from Apple Inc. (AAPL), but technology advancements have benefited the less privileged in different ways. For example, similar computing power used in the iPad has also been used in the logistics and sourcing departments of retail chains like Family Dollar (FDO), thereby making goods cheaper for lower-income consumers.
One person who has not lost sight of these advancements of productivity is Mark J. Perry of the Enterprise Blog. In a recent article, Perry compares what a consumer working 152 hours in 1964, earning an average wage, could purchase versus an average consumer today (46 years later) working the same 152 hours. Beyond the average wage of $2.50 per hour increasing to $19 per hour, Perry shows the unbelievable increase in the quality and number of products.
Perry places the continuing technological revolution in context by stating:
“Americans today can purchase low-priced electronics products that even a billionaire in the past wouldn’t have been able to buy.”
Another person that knows a little about technology, Sergey Brin (Co-Founder of Google Inc.), put recent technology advancements in perspective in the company’s 2008 annual report:
“Our first major purchase when we started Google was an array of disk drives that we spent a good fraction of our life savings on and took several car trips to carry. Today, I walked out of a store with a small box in my hand that stores more than all those drives and cost about $100. Similarly, the processors available today are about 100 times as powerful as those we used in 1998.”
Advancements in our standard of living are not only limited to electronic gadgets and internet searches, but also tangible benefits continue to be realized in the most important elements of our human survival. A picture says a thousand words, and these charts speak volumes about our standard of living:
Obviously, everything is not a bed of roses and some of these improvements have come at a cost. Our country has lost millions of jobs over the last few years, and globalization has significantly increased foreign competition in broad areas of our economy. But before you succumb to the devastation rhetoric of the nay-sayers, please do not forget about the almost imperceptible rising tide of technological innovations that are allowing us to live better lives, even in uncertain times.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, GOOG, and AAPL, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in RSH, FDO, Facebook, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.