Mother Ninglun’s Almanack for the 2010s: 2

Under this somewhat facetious heading appear posts (of dubious authority) on such things as globalisation and the future — looking at our new decade. My Yale course and non-fiction reading feed into this series.

One globalisation process we — you reading and me writing this — are enthusiastically embracing with our blogs and Facebooks and Twittering is just this: the revolution in technology, just as epic as the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, or even as the invention of the printing press.

Some indeed say that the printing press is in for hard times in the next decade: Year will be more than just a page-turner, it’ll be a new era.

The seeds of the future are planted in the present. Much that will delight us this year was born during the past decade.

First and foremost, the book is about to undergo a transformation as profound as any since the birth of moveable type printing, almost 600 years ago. The printed page has been dependably static since the first page rolled off Gutenberg’s printing press.

That is all changing. ”Electronic ink” is now used in the manufacture of ”pages”, similar to a computer’s screen, but consuming much less power. These form the foundation for the first generation of ”ebooks”, electronic book readers.

Amazon has started to sell its ebook, the Kindle, in Australia; expect Barnes & Noble’s Nook sometime this year. Everyone, everywhere, is waiting for Apple to introduce its ”iPad”, a much-rumoured but still mythical ebook that will (if the rumours are to be believed) look a lot like a larger version of the iPod Touch.

Books, magazines and newspapers will all be quickly translated into electronic formats suitable for ebooks, the better to provide a pathway into the reader’s wallet. The ebook promises to be the salvation of the publishing industries, but only if enough readers adopt it.

Still, we’ve already digitised our music and our movies – why should our books face a different fate?

Now there is one area I don’t see this happening: the idea of taking a Kindle to the toilet doesn’t grab me. Further, my own toilet reading is usually a reference book like Webster’s Word Histories, which I just browse at random. That’s so much easier with actual paper. Of course, not that you really want to know, in the good old days of outdoor dunnies with pans in them we used to use strips of newspaper to, you know… Perhaps that’s where the habit of toilet reading began. My country cousins had sheep sale catalogues, I recall.

On another tack altogether there’s a great example of the potential of blogging in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Blogger who blew the whistle on hedge fund.

WHEN John Hempton started a blog as he recovered from pneumonia, he did not expect to send shockwaves through the finance industry.

But that is exactly what the 42-year-old fund manager did through his Bronte Capital blog. His exposé of an unrelated US hedge fund would eventually lead to $426 million in investments being frozen and authorities seizing control of the Albury fund manager Trio Capital shortly before Christmas.

Investigators are focused on the fate of $118 million in Trio’s Astarra Strategic Fund, which is supposed to be invested in international hedge funds through a British Virgin Islands company…

Mr Hempton, who has since become the chief investment officer of his part-owned funds management business, also called Bronte Capital, says he is a ”creature of the globalised world”. The finance specialist has predicted the collapse of Latvia’s banking system in the racily titled blog post ”Hookers that cost too much, flash German cars and insolvent banks”.

And he said his approach in his blog and his investment philosophy was simple.

”I find something interesting: you pull on the piece of string and mostly you find a piece of string. But sometimes you find something attached,” he said. ”[There was] nothing that led to the uncovering of Astarra you could not find on the internet. This was not hard, I just did the work.”

I don’t expect my blog to have such a dramatic effect on global finance, but it does go to show, doesn’t it, another element of the future that is already with us.

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