Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gadget Decoys

I have looking into replacing my good old iPAQ with the Blackberry Bold.

Since its announcement I have been trying to get my hands on a real unit just for a few minutes to get a feel for its browser, GPS and other applications. Everywhere I have asked so far (Rogers, Best Buy, ...), I get only a decoy and it is chained to a security device on top of that!

When cellular devices were just phones you could get a reasonable feel for the keypad from the decoy. But to make a decision on a $600 device (that's the price without a plan) based on the colored sticker representing the screen, without having a chance to see the the actual resolution and display quality or without looking at the bundled navigation application etc. is just nonsense.

We can test drive a car but not a smart phone! If we applied the same logic to car dealerships, you would be seated in a body of the car you're interested in, without engine of course. The decoy would be tethered to a central pole, and you would be asked to test drive it by pushing it around the pole with your own legs (two large holes to the ground are provided on the driver side for that purpose!).

WirelessWave has an ad inviting prospects to come and "play" with the Bold. I am going to find out if they too play with decoys only. Stay tuned!

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The loss of Natural Capital

Economist Pavan Sukhdev in a recent interview with Deutsche Welle (DW) provided some interesting numbers on the value of "natural capital" being lost compared with the financial capital lost during the current financial markets crisis.

While the losses to financial firms were estimated to be $1 Trillion to $1.5 Trillion, a task force called "The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity" (TEEB) headed by Sukhdev has looked at the cost of deforestation and degradation of the environment and estimated the loss in human welfare as capital item to be $2 Trillion to $4.5 Trillion yearly for the past several years.

Sukhdev asks "Why is it that a one-off loss of $1.5 trillion in financial capital to a group of Wall Street firms attracts so much attention, whereas the ongoing loss per annum of twice this amount of natural capital is barely reported?" He offers two main reasons: First, natural capital is public property whereas financial capital is mostly private. Second, the losses in natural capital are ongoing and gradually increasing, so they're not as noticeable as a big loss over a short period of time.

TEEB has also estimated the investments needed to address the loss in natural capital. They seem quite modest when compared with the trillions of dollars invested in the bailout of the financial system. I liked Sukhdev's crisp way of presenting fundamental facts. He articulates what many people have been feeling instinctively around the world or have been attempting to put into perspective. The full text of the interview can be found here.

One dark thought that Sukhdev's data triggered in my mind was that unless something else forces change, it's going to take a catastrophic natural capital loss over a relatively short period of time for our governments to recognize the urgency and act as decisively as they're trying to do in the current financial crisis.

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