Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reason for current economic crisis

I think I know the reason for our current economic crisis. Let me illustrate it with a story, by way of example.

One morning I needed to find the phone of my doctor. I remembered full well that it comes up in the first page Google search results. If I just type his first and last name, then Houston TX, I get his phone address and phone. I usually misspell his name, but Google fixes that, suggests the correct spelling, and in fact shows the correct results anyway.

This morning, however, I did not want to wake my family members in any of the rooms that had a computer and I called 1411 on AT&T. I was greeted by an answering machine that asked for city and state. Then it asked the for business name, only to transfer me to the operator.

The operator, it has to be mentioned, knew what I was looking for, but he could not spell it. After a few attempts at spelling, he transfered my to another operator. This lady said that there was no such listing. When I told her that I had this number yesterday, she asked for the business name. I knew the name of this business office much less that the doctor's name. And I did not know the exact address either, so I could not help her. I hanged up after 15 minutes of wasting theirs and mine time.

Now, if any one of them looked it up on Google, they would have the answer, and the spelling problems would be resolved by Google also. But it must be a matter of pride for the telephone company to not allow them to use Internet, and they had to use their slow, cumbersome, and inefficient system - and we found nothing. I am sure they have spent many millions building the system.

Now I can posit the reason. Since AT&T is paying their operators for the time, and the same result can be had free and fast on the Internet, AT&T is wasting its money. Eventually, they will have to fire somebody, possibly those same operators, or somebody else.

However, this is just one example. I am quite sure that there are many areas of industry where new ways of getting information and doing things are so much faster and cheaper than the old ones that those companies that don't or can't switch are bound to keep bleeding money and to eventually downsize or outright fail.

Moreover, it is happening fast, since in the today's world which is interconnected everything is happening at Internet speed. Already travel agents can't compete with online information access, and real estate agents are following soon.

The subprime crunch and the mortgage crisis are therefore not the reasons, but only the consequences. They were the last attempts to try to make money with old means, and the pile-up and the subsequent crash exacerbated the situation but did not cause it.

Is there anything that can be done? Really, no. Everything will somehow shrink and shed the fluff, the old generation will go away into retirement, and the new one which has grown up digitally will start from the low point to go up. But the good side is that going up will probably be as fast as going down.

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