Editor’s Note: Our office is closed for “Recovery Day,” so please enjoy this classic Thanksgiving essay from Bill.
BALTIMORE – Markets have been calm over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Americans – distracted by friends and family – had better things to do than panic.
We celebrated at our family farm in Maryland. In addition to Thanksgiving, we attended a family reunion and a grandchild’s christening.
The three family events focused our attention on family history and how the culture of southern Maryland has evolved over the last 50 years.
Whether this has any parallels in other parts of the country – or whether this has any significance – we don’t know.
But we’ll tell you what happened anyway…
At the family reunion, we each brought our old photos and tried to identify the people in them. Many were almost 100 years old.
The grainy, brownish photos showed people in romantic poses – at a windblown, empty beach… a couple in front of Model A Fords in Bonnie-and-Clyde-style outfits.
One showed an uncle out in Wyoming in 1928 in a cowboy outfit. Another showed a family on the lawn – five blond children, along with a father wearing a bowtie and a mother in a long, frilly dress. Nobody smiled. There were work horses. And tractors. Barns.
“That’s Uncle Edward…” said a cousin.
“No, that’s Uncle Hal…” said another.
“I can’t tell… It looks like a woman… Isn’t that Aunt Ellen?”
“Let’s ask Anne.”
Anne is your editor’s mother. At 94, she is the oldest member of the family. We count on her to remember.
“Let’s see,” she said, studying the old photos. “That’s definitely Uncle Hal. But I don’t know who that is on the left.”
If she didn’t know, no one would. The poor man was lost. Gone from family history, erased by time and indifference. We hoped he was not from our family at all and that his family remembered him at its family reunions.
“But look at Frank,” mother continued. “He was such a handsome man.”
They all looked handsome. In the 1950s, these were people we knew only as old people. But here, on film, they had been captured 20 or 30 years before we were born. They were good-looking. Young. Full of life.
“Life is full of so many surprises,” the matriarch went on. “You just never know how things will work out. I’m surprised I’m still alive.
“Some of these people we’re looking at had such wonderful lives. Others – many of those who seemed to have every advantage – lived in ways that were very sad. Aunt Lillian wanted children so badly, and her only child was stillborn.
“You can’t predict it. I mean, I feel so lucky in so many ways. And I don’t understand why I should have so many good things happen to me…
“These people were all my friends and relatives. They were all so much smarter than I was. And so much more at ease in the world. I was always very timid, shy… painfully shy. But they were so nice. They always tried to include me.
“Those were the days!”
The Chesapeake Bay area was a farming area then. You were either a farmer or a waterman. There wasn’t much else to do.
And so the rhythm of life had only two main tempos: farming, which almost always meant tobacco, or the bay, which was mostly oysters.
There were no suburbs. No office workers. No marketers. No baristas. No app developers. And no strangers.
“Everyone knew everyone else,” mother went on. “And if you didn’t know the person personally, you ‘knew of’ the person. You knew what family they were from or what church they went to… and whether they were a tobacco person or an oyster person. There just wasn’t much more to know.
“But it was so much fun. In the summer, we’d drive down to Fairhaven [a little community on the bay]. We’d go swimming. The bay was clean… or at least we thought it was. And there was no one at the beach there.
“Jules [Mother’s brother] drove down in my father’s Packard. It was a convertible. It was such a pleasure to drive down the gravel road to that beautiful beach. We’d spend the whole day there. And then we’d go to Aunt Lillian’s or Aunt Ellen’s or Aunt Sophie’s for dinner.
“There were always tomatoes and corn on the cob directly from the garden. And somehow, they found time to bake a cake – from scratch. It was full of butter that they got from their own cows. Sometimes, I remember the smell so clearly…
“Or if it was the winter, we’d go ice skating on the West River. We’d go down to Ivy Neck and make a fire on the shore. We’d play hockey on the ice until the moon was out. And if the moon was bright enough, we’d just keep playing until we were worn out.
“Now that world is gone. The bay doesn’t freeze the way it used to. You have to remember – this was before the war. We had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world. And we didn’t care. We only cared about our world. Our world was safe. And we were all happy.
“It was very different then. It must be hard for you to imagine it. Today, everybody is so worried about what happens on the other side of the world. And everyone is so worried about money.
“I don’t know why… but we didn’t have much money, and we didn’t worry about it either.
“I was a few years younger than everyone else. And they’re all gone now. I mean, I’m happy to be alive… and to still be with the family. But sometimes, I miss them all so much, and I so much want to see them again; I can barely wait to die.”
Jeff Brown, Editor, Exponential Tech Investor
We have reached a turning point in history…
Most people don’t know it, but our lives are about to radically change. Artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced to the point where computers can start learning from their own experiences.
Now, this might not sound like much, but it is extraordinary. Let me explain…
As humans, we often repeat our mistakes. AI never makes the same mistake twice. It corrects, and then it never happens again.
But it’s even better than that. You see, anytime an AI recognizes a mistake, or learns from experience, every other AI in the network learns from that experience… and they ALL never forget.
The learning process is exponentially fast. Every experience is captured and leveraged by the network of AIs. And this will bring profound changes faster than you can imagine.
Take electric carmaker Tesla (TSLA). It recently launched an early version of a self-driving car. In Tesla’s system, a driver acts as a “trainer” for the AI system, and the AI learns what to do and how to do it… and it learns very quickly.
Already, owners are impressed with the system’s ability to self-improve.
In fact, every 10 hours, Tesla collects more than 1 million miles of self-driving data from its network of cars on the road. To date, it has collected more than 100 million miles of data… and it uses this data to improve the autonomous features every day. No other company in the world has even a hundredth as much information on self-driving technology.
Social network company Facebook (FB) is also working on an AI product called “M.” This is Facebook’s new personal AI assistant. At the moment, it is being beta tested. But very soon, it will be launched widely.
For now, Facebook is using humans to check all of M’s communications with users. If M’s proposed response isn’t correct, the Facebook employee will adjust to a more appropriate response, teaching the system in the same way human drivers train Tesla’s self-driving system.
As a result, M is learning in real time with the assistance of human direction.
There are a number of other big AI assistant initiatives in the works: Apple (AAPL) with Siri, Microsoft (MSFT) with Cortana, and Amazon (AMZN) with Alexa.
We use Alexa in our Delray Beach office…
It’s not just the big tech companies that are focusing on this space. AI-related venture capital investments exceeded $600 million in the last 12 months.
One of the lesser-known companies that I’m tracking is called Viv. It was established by many of the same people who built Apple’s Siri… and they are developing a more versatile AI for a variety of other uses.
Viv’s motto is, “Radically simplifying the world by providing an intelligent interface to everything.” I am sure it was on to something. Samsung recently announced on October 5 that it was acquiring Viv for an untold amount. It is expected that the agreed price was well in excess of $100 million.
The market for AI-enabled digital assistants will approach $10 billion in less than 10 years. Needless to say, fortunes will be made in this space, and this technology will literally transform… and improve how we live our daily lives.
Editor’s Note: According to Jeff, we’re entering a brand-new era of financial technology… and Jeff believes investing in the right companies today will deliver unimaginable gains over the next few years. To learn more about Jeff’s strategy for picking potential 10-baggers, click here.
Bill’s longtime friend and founder of Stansberry Research Porter Stansberry is sharing his Big Trade. It’s his plan for profiting from “the great unwinding of the corporate bond markets” that will begin next year.
If you missed his live webinar last week, you can watch his follow-up here.