New Buzz: Derivative Society…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 16, 2009

We’ve become what I like to call a Derivative Society. (Did that sound impressive? I hope it sounded impressive. I added the “what I like to call” bit to make it sound impressive. And also to throw you off the trail because I haven’t really thought the whole “Derivative Society” thing through entirely. It just popped in my head, and I thought I’d write it down because I gotta get back to work, and I honestly don’t have a lot else to say about this week’s comic.)

Derivative Society. What I mean is that we are saturated with information. Media provides us with news and analysis way, way beyond our capacity (or desire) to consume it all. We are overwhelmed. But instead of using our awesome technological powers to gather and report information to add clarity, we sweep past the basics and drill deeper and deeper looking for hidden treasures. Not because it is at all helpful. But just because we can. We analyze the analysis of the analyzer’s analyzation. Which is asinine.

“Is the economy moving forward or is it moving backward?” is the simple question we could ask and the simple question that could be answered. Instead we are more interested in the derivatives: How fast is the economy changing? Are we accelerating out of going backward? Are decelerating out of going forward? Is this decelerating beginning to accelerate? Or is it decelerating at an increasing deceleration? Are crude oil prices going up or down? Who cares? Are the stocks of gas refineries in the Pacific Northwest enough to meet anticipated demands of the 2011 summer driving season? Now that’s sounds interesting! Let’s base the current price of gasoline on that!

So we’re left now with a stimulus package that was declared dead even before it was written. There’s no time to let anything actually work in a Derivative Society. We’ve already thought it all out. The only thing that can save the economy now is news of a future stimulus package. But once we anticipate what it might contain, that won’t work either.

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