Tuesday, April 01, 2008

 

Make the most from your catastrophes!
(And WIN valuable prizes!)

Yesterday I declined to review the consequences to American society (and to the rest of the world) of an economic meltdown that is in all likelihood unstoppable. Some features of the economic madness may be reversible and at least some of the consequences may be postponed in the short term. But what the pundits are now referring to as a "crisis" or a "crunch" of one form or another is quite a bit more than that.

James Altucher—author, financier extraordinaire and columnist for the Financial Times—has also been harboring "deep thoughts" lately1 and has found a way to cheer himself up. He writes,

A psychological trick I always play on myself to resolve anxiety is to picture the worst-case scenario in any anxiety producing situation. If I can survive that it relaxes me because I realise things aren't all that bad.

I don't know if the Altucher Anxiety Alleviator was suggested by his therapist or if it came to him independently as he was climbing the guardrail of London Bridge.

While the Altucher method may not work for absolutely everyone, I know that readers of Simply Appalling need to relax a bit, so I thought I'd pass along Altucher's catastrophes for you to contemplate and transcend—

Meteor hits the world. What are the odds of a meteor hitting? When have we come close? How big does the meteor have to be? What would happen?

World financial collapse triggered by a bank collapse. Thank you Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) for this one. If the human race loses faith in the dollar it might plunge us back into caveman times. How can it happen? What happens if nobody knows how to value the $200,000bn in derivative bets out there?

We run out of oil. Super investors T. Boone Pickens and Peter Thiel are on top of this one and placing their bets accordingly. The Middle East would plunge into chaos, industry would grind to a halt etc.

We run out of clean water. This is the only one that will probably happen within the next 30 years. Only 0.001 per cent of the world's water is drinkable. The supply is never going to change but the demand is rocketing thanks to the modernisation of the developing world. More than half of all hospital stays in the world are due to water-related diseases.

Flu pandemic.

Terrorism. It's pretty easy to build a dirty bomb, or stage a bioterror attack on our water or air supply.

Alien invasion. OK, this is somewhat tongue in cheek, but let's assume there's at least one civilisation out there more sophisticated than ours.

All the bees die. Bees have been mysteriously disappearing, and Albert Einstein is often mistakenly quoted as saying that if bees suddenly disappeared, people would die out.

The oceans collapse (all the species in them die). The oceans are eroding and species of fish are disappearing.

The Amazon rain forest dies.

Nanotechnology goes awry. Once cellular computers can replicate themselves, what if there's a bug and they sweep over the planet via superfast replication?

Major particle accelerator accident.

Biotech experiment unleashes disease.

Ozone layer disappears.

Everyone gets depressed. One in five people are clinically depressed and almost 50 per cent of people have some mental disorder. The situation is getting worse with global economic development. What if we all lose the will to live?

Encounter with a rogue black hole. What happens if Earth runs into one?

Giant solar flare.

Global warming.

Pollution.

Nuclear war.

Robot takeover.

Biblical apocalypse.

Major earthquake.

Category-five hurricanes on New York and other cities.

Everyone moves to a virtual reality.

Massive tsunamis.

Evolution wipes out the human race. We simply start getting age-related diseases earlier.

Cosmic-ray blast from a nearby exploding star.

Volcano spreads ash all over the planet.

If after going through this list you find that you're still experiencing anxiety, please advise me at once so that I can provide you with additional material.

Altucher, ever the entrepreneur, hopes to turn his catastrophes into a book and go on the talkshow circuit, which is probably wise when you consider the state of the hedge funds. For my part, I'm hoping to have my bomb-shelter completed and stocked by summer.

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Footnote

1There's little wonder that Altucher has been having deep thoughts. He manages a fund of hedge funds and has authored three books, the latest (2006) entitled SuperCash: The New Hedge Fund Capitalism.

One reviewer wrote

Altucher describes in easy-to-understand terms the strategies used by the smartest managers in the world—those who are running the hottest hedge funds—to show how they are making money today. SuperCa$h is a great primer for those who are looking to trade like the pros. And it helps that Altucher writes in a clear and fun style!

And another reviewer, unidentified (Altucher, we wonder), has concluded—

As hedge funds have become more mainstream, some of their strategies are less capable of producing extraordinary returns. In response, hedge fund managers and other sophisticated investors have found new ways to turn cash into supercash. Examine these new ways with hedge fund manager James Altucher and supersize your returns.

It's odd, but I once had a thought remarkably similar to this on the occasion of dining at a McDonald's. Now I regret that I did not "go for the gusto." [back]

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