ep.08 - Jason Schenker: Top-Ranked Economist, Bloomberg Contributor, Tech CEO, and Investor
Mr. Schenker is the President of Prestige Economics and a top-ranked financial market forecaster. Bloomberg News has ranked Mr. Schenker one of the most accurate forecasters in the world in 35 different categories since 2011, including #1 in the world in 20 categories. Some of these #1 rankings have been awarded for his forecast accuracy of crude oil prices, natural gas prices, gold prices, industrial metals prices, agricultural commodity prices, the Euro, the Pound, the Swiss Franc, the Brazilian Real, and U.S. non-farm payrolls.
Mr. Schenker has written three #1 Best Sellers: Commodity Prices 101 (2012), Recession-Proof (2016), and Electing Recession (2016). His next book, Jobs For Robots: Between Robocalypse and Robotobia, will be released in late February 2017.
Mr. Schenker has appeared as a guest and guest host on Bloomberg Television, as well as a guest on CNBC. He is frequently quoted in the press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Financial Times. Mr. Schenker is also a columnist for Bloomberg View and Bloomberg Prophets, columns written by professionals offering actionable insights on markets, the economy, and monetary policy.
JASON SCHENKER: TOP-RANKED ECONOMIST, BLOOMBERG CONTRIBUTOR, TECH CEO, AND INVESTOR
Jason Schenker: [00:01:17]
Sure. My name's Jason Schenker. I run a company called Prestige Economics. I'm a financial market futurist. As you've just heard from Kyle, I've been ranked consistently one of the highest forecasters for my forecast accuracy in the world. I also am involved not only in financial market forecasting but also with different FinTech initiatives and published a few books. I also write for Bloomberg News.
Nice. You have a book coming up later this month, right?
Jason Schenker: That's right. Yes. In the month of February 2017, the end of the month, my book "Jobs for Robots" will be released. Very excited about that. The subtitle is "Between Robocalypse and Robotopia". I'm very excited about this. It's something I've been working on for a while.
Kyle Davis: That should be a very uplifting read for people worried about their jobs. That being said, let's just transition. You're consistently awarded and acknowledged as one of the most accurate forecasters. Like I said, Bloomberg has you ranked as number one in 20 different categories. I'm wondering and I'm sure a lot of our listeners are wondering is, how did you get to this point? What was the beginning for young Jason Schenker when you came up? What made you realize you had a passion for this? What's your methodology? That giant question, so to speak.
Jason Schenker: [00:02:43]
I guess I'd like to think of myself as young, but I suppose I would now call myself youngish. But the younger version of myself started with a lot of grad school. I did my first master's degree was in German literature, which had surprisingly less to do with this thank you'd think. My second master's degree was in econometrics, and that's very statistically focused. That training was very helpful. Then I worked in investment banking for a number of years and began forecasting very quickly in that role. Made some very what seemed to be outlandish predictions, like in the beginning of 2004 when I was a new economist I predicted that before the end of that year the price of oil would close above $50. I remember a lot of people were really surprised at that forecast. I had some reporters from large media publications call me up to sort of laugh at that prediction. Then before the end of the year, at the end of September, the price of oil did indeed close above $50 a barrel.
At that point, I had shown my propensity and proclivities towards forecasting and began forecasting more and more things. I did a stint in consulting as a risk specialist with McKinsey after working in investment banking as an economist at Wachovia. Then, after McKinsey, started my own shop, Prestige Economics, in 2009. For every quarter that we've been eligible to be top ranked, we've been top ranked across multiple categories. I think what makes what I do different than what other forecasters do or what other futurists do is that my forecasts are informed by not only a quantitative modeling but also by qualitative information flow. I'm a firm believer that you can get a lot by looking at numbers on a screen and reading reports, but you don't get all of it. You need to show up.
I don't know any other futurists who go to OPEC meetings and meet with the Fed and personally advise the European Central Bank and the Bank of England and corporate clients. I know a lot of economists and I know a lot of futurists. Some of them do one of those things, but not all of those things. I think that that's very helpful. I think being in Texas, which is where I'm based, I'm based in Austin like GDA, is very helpful for my perspective. I think that analysts, forecasters that are in New York or London may be more subject to groupthink. Being quite literally out of the geographic box, my thinking is forced out of the box as well.
Kyle Davis: It helps to be contrarian and to have not just the numbers, so to speak, but then just the ability to almost read the tea leaves. If you're in that OPEC meeting, seeing what the vibe or the mood is in the room to help influence your decision making.
Jason Schenker: I think it's not so much about being a contrarian. I'd say that sometimes my view is with the consensus. But I think it's getting that qualitative information, having those conversations with real decision-makers, whether it's in central banking or oil. Whether it's corporate executives in manufacturing or ministers from different OPEC member countries. Those conversations are extremely valuable to understand what people are really thinking. That's really been very, very helpful for my own predictions. I'd also say, having been an economist now for a little while, something that's really important too is not just being able to read the tea leaves, but being able to distinguish between the signal and the noise, between what data really matters and what is just numbers.
Kyle Davis: I know we're going to talk about your book here in a little bit, the "Jobs for Robots", but it's so interesting because I have a lot of friends of mine who work in IB and just different things like that in New York. They have a lot of these automated computer programs that just pretty much make all of their decisions for them. I think it's kind of refreshing sometimes to hear that in order to make an accurate forecast or prediction you have to almost have that conversation with a person. At the end of the day, a robot, at least right now, a computer algorithm can't do that. That's interesting. That's awesome.
Jason Schenker: [00:07:43]
I've been asked this question. I gave a keynote on FinTech outlook and some different futurist topics in a speech in Houston not too long ago. Someone asked me. They said, "Well, do you do your forecast using artificial intelligence machine learning?" I said, "Well, there are statistical models that I've built that underpin my forecasts, but at the end of the day some of this stuff you just can't get by looking at numbers everyone has." There is this market hypothesis around perfect information. The truth is, everyone knows something, but not everyone knows everything. If you're looking at the same data or you're analyzing the same data as everyone else, if there is an arbitrage, if there is something that you're identifying as different, it's only a matter of time before those other computer programs identify it too. Where the real edge is in knowing what's going on is being in some of the information flow and actually having an idea on what decision makers are thinking and how they're likely to act.
Kyle Davis: [00:08:43]
Got it. The last time you were in the GDA office, you were coming around here and talking about your, I think I believe new book then, but it was "Electing Recession".
Jason Schenker: Yeah.
Kyle Davis: [00:9:17]
2016 has come to an end. I'd like to get what your feedback is on what this last year was from an economics perspective. Then, now we know who the new President Elect is going to be, what does not so much his economic policy, if you want to talk about that you can, but what does some of the challenges and what will at the very least 2017 look like from a market prediction and analyst point of view?
Jason Schenker: [00:9:47]
I think that there's a couple things we see. We did a survey. This is one of the ways, if we want to talk about how do you get data. I'm a firm believer in surveys of executives, of decision makers. Again, this is where you get real information, aggregated information. Not company-specific. We asked our client base. We said, "What do you think of the results of the election? How will this affect what you're going to do?" What we saw was our clients said that they were expecting cuts in personal income tax, corporate income tax, reductions in regulations, and increases in government spending. In other words, our corporate clients are planning 2017 as if a Trump Administration will cut taxes like Reagan and spend money like FDR.
While there's a lot of optimism around that sort of thing, the problem is there's also the wee little tiny issue of that $20 trillion in national debt and the $200 trillion of entitlement obligations that are out there. While there is this optimism with lower tax rates, of course, these kinds of things increase the value of companies, which is why equity markets are up. But of course, equity markets are also up because people are selling bonds. Why are they selling bonds? They're worried that we're going to get this stimulus when the economy's been doing okay but the unemployment rate is relatively low. Then you get all this government spending and then the government has to sell more debt. Maybe there aren't too many buyers, so now those interest rates go up, and so people don't want to own bonds. People sell the bonds and they buy the equities. Maybe it's optimism and maybe it's rotation out of bonds. Maybe it's one thing or it's the other. Whatever.
The point is, it's going to take a little while for any of these tax cuts to have an impact, before they would even become law, and it's going to take a while for the money to show up. If they government's going to spend, when does that money show up? By the way, when does that actually impact the economy? I think there is still some risks to investment and that exports two of the main contributing parts of GDP in the first half of 2017. We've got a very strong dollar. Investment has been in recession for about a year now. Most people don't really realize that. Even housing, residential fixed investment, that's new homes, has been in recession for two quarters. That's something people don't really think about. By the way, higher interest rates aren't going to make that a better situation.
Tax cuts will make it better. Government spending will make it better. There's no free lunch. You're right. That makes the national debt go up, and everything. Whatever. But until those tax cuts happen, until that government spending happens, you might see companies still hold back on investment. Meanwhile, interest rates may still be more elevated. You could still see investment be in recession in the first half of this year in 2017. That's a bit of a challenge. It's been in recession for about a year. I think by the time we're done, six, seven consecutive quarters of negative investment. But this year we see GDP growth between one and one and a half percent. It's a weak year. But next year we see it closer to three percent. That would be the strongest growth rate since before the Great Recession.
I think there are upside risks for next year, because that's when the laws that are passed in the first 100 to 200 days this year, the money has to show. First the laws get passed. We've all seen the Bill on Capitol Hill. There's the whole process. The Schoolhouse Rock thing. You know what I'm talking about.
Kyle Davis: Yeah. I know exactly.
Jason Schenker: [00:13:47]
We've all seen that. That takes a little while. There's the House and the Senate and then it's going to be signed into law. Then the money has to actually show up and where the tax cuts have to have an impact. That doesn't happen towards the end of the year. But for '18 that really tees up, I think, some strong growth, but also higher interest rates. I think you've got a few different things going on. I think that there is optimism. Interestingly, again, rather than talk about my opinion, I'd rather talk about dozens of executives that I've surveyed. One third of our clients are expecting more business activity in 2017 as a direct result of the election. One quarter are planning to spend more on CapEx. But almost none of them are prepared to hire more people.
This is really interesting, because they're expecting more business like manna to fall from heaven and they're expecting to spend more money, but less money than they're expecting more business, and yet they're expecting to do it with no new people. This is very, very interesting. I think, from a CapEx and a spending standpoint, what's really important is, again, I think that the executives, corporate strategy guys, who have been burned in the past, they're going to go, "Look. Show me the money before I actually spend it." They want to see the tax cuts. They want to see the spending. That's why I think end of the year looks better. Next year looks great.
Kyle Davis: Got it. More hiring in a year or so, I guess, if it's looking like that.
Jason Schenker: I think we're going to see some solid, relatively solid, hiring. I think it's going to slow further in the first half of the year, pick up by the end of the year, but be better in 2018. We could see some very strong numbers. At that point, the challenge is what's the Fed going to do as the Fed has to try to pull back, tighten monetary policy, because fiscal stimulus could be there. Then, of course, there's the big question, the really big question, which is, are the fiscally conservative members of the Republican Party going to let this all happen? Are they going to let the national debt go up much, much more, which is what would be required here? Will the party that's been saying it's fiscally conservative hold that fiscally conservative line or not? If they do, then there's going to be some uncertainty in the first half of the year, which could be unpleasant for equity markets.
"We're all expecting these tax cuts. That's priced in. Everything's going to be great. Whoa. What do you mean there's a debate here about fiscal conservatism? Uh oh. Where are the free goodies that we've been talking about? Where's all that spending? Uh oh." There's going to be some back and forth at some point. When that comes up as a discussion, I don't think financial markets will respond positively. Again, the reason things might be dicey in the first half or so of 2017.
Kyle Davis: 2017 #Volatility?
Jason Schenker: Yeah. Something like that. Yeah. #UhOh. Something like that.
Kyle Davis: [00:16:47]
Something like that. Let's transition into something that I know a little bit about, as I equalize myself and realize that I'm popping mics over here. A lot of people know if they've been listening to the podcast that I was in the startup space. Particularly, what I haven't really talked about a whole lot, was I was in the startup FinTech space. I worked for a payment provider, a big one, called Square. You know, the white little dongle. Jack Dorsey sent me some money. Then I worked for another company as well that did automated ACH payments and just different things like that. You, sir, you are in the FinTech space. Tell us what you're doing there.
Jason Schenker: [00:17:47]
I've been involved with a couple of different startups. I was involved with a crowdfunding aggregator called Newchip. I'm now involved with and running a FinTech startup doing foreign exchange disintermediation called Hedgefly. I also run something called the Futurist Institute of America, designed to help economists and analysts become futurists. This is the thing. I know we talked about this and we've hinted at my book, "Jobs for Robots". But the big challenge is that there needs to be a call to action for people to think more long-term. If we look at forecasting, whether we're talking weather or we're talking GDP, it becomes a lot easier to forecast in the more immediate term for macroeconomic work or weather conditions or almost anything. Short term gets easier for computers.
Longer term requires a lot more out-of-the-box thinking. It requires a lot more anticipation of unknown unknowns and an ability to price that in or model that in to what you're expecting from a strategic standpoint. That's really the push towards being a futurist, rather than just being short term focused, because a lot of that short term, big data is really helping people get there. But the medium and long term at some point, just from a fractal standpoint, or if we think about a probability distribution standpoint, the potential outcomes begin to spiral out of control. You need someone to take the helm from that signal/noise perspective and really just tighten it up.
That's one of the areas where I do think that you're still going to see a really critical need for people in the future. I think that managing other people, managing processes, that's not something that computers can do. Thinking about strategic decision making, not just tactical but strategic. Those are things. Those are the different things that I've been focused on. These are a few of the main key areas of FinTech right now, is you're looking at disruption, you're looking at disintermediation, you're looking at crowdfunding, and you're looking at machine learning and also going beyond big data from a professional standpoint and the future of work. These are a lot of the hot topics right now that I've been working on in a very hands-on way but also I write about in the book "Jobs for Robots".
Kyle Davis: [00:20:17]
"Jobs for Robots". Great. What is the big to-do though right now, or this last little bit, within the FinTech space? Particularly maybe with what you've been doing with Hedgefly and everybody else. What do you see how this little FinTech little niche market is going? Because I remember when I was in New York working for my FinTech startup a couple years ago. This was right when Betterment, the financial investing, long-term investing company was coming online. They were the big to-do there. Then you have, like I said, Square. You have all these other cool companies. What is it that your company does and how can you get people involved in that?
Jason Schenker: I think there a few different things. Right now I think FinTech is very hot. It's going to be very hot. Banks have had monopolies over different kinds of activities for some time. Now you have really a big move towards democratization in the financial space. That's one of the main themes of what's going on in FinTech right now. Democratization and disintermediation are two of the big things. Anything that helps reduce costs and eases transaction and transactability are things that are going to be positive. Plus, I think you also have some disillusionment with traditional banks, brick and mortar, and the like.
I think that what you're going to continue to see is this push. I don't expect consolidation, but I think there are, especially on the passive management side where you see a lot of different investment funds. There's been a big move away from active management to passive management. It reduces the asset under management fees, which is great. That's a big positive. But we haven't seen how they respond in a downturn. The only problem about being in a long fund is you are always long. If the markets fall, you lose money. I think there's going to be a real challenge to the passively-managed funds to see how they respond to big downdrafts.
Whenever we see the next downturn, we see the next recession, will these passively-managed funds get out of the way or will they ride it all the way down? If they ride it all the way down or if they ride it down too long, you could see a push back towards active asset management rather than passive. Again, this gets back to it depends on your investment horizon and it depends on what you're thinking about. If you're taking a more futurist perspective on things, are you trying to make a strategic three- to five-year decision like you do with a private equity group or with long-term investments, or are you trying to game the market on a very short-term basis?
I also happen to be a chartered market technician, so I actually have a professional designation in this chart trending and market watching on a very tactical basis. You can see where the robots are in the market. You can very clearly see where they are. If I show you a chart, and I do this usually in presentations, here's a line. You see that line? The minute that line was crossed, huge selloffs. The reason that happens is the robots were watching that line. Everyone knew that line was there for like a year. The problem is, what happens if the market does things that are unanticipated, which happens from time to time? If everything's on autopilot and something goes awry, will the passive asset management side of FinTech, how will that fair? That's its own question.
As for disintermediation, things like what I'm doing with Hedgefly on the foreign exchange side to help reduce cost and increase access for small- and medium-sized enterprises to foreign exchange transactions and the ability to manage risk, that's a big deal. You either need to be a really big guy right now. By the way, the foreign exchange market is between $1.5 and $2 quadrillion per year. Not billion. Not trillion. Quadrillion. It's by far the biggest market in the world. $1.5 to $2 quadrillion a year. If you're a little guy, you pay very big spreads. If you're a big guy, you pay very small spreads. If you're somewhere in between, you might not even have any options or you end up forced to pay the big spread. We're really trying to fill that gap in what options exist for small- and medium-sized enterprises that have foreign exchange risk.
Kyle Davis: Cool. One of the things that just popped into my mind, and this just goes to startups in general, not just FinTech. I remember probably about a year or so ago that VC capital was starting maybe to slow down a little bit, or people were starting to do a lot more later-stage investing. I'm just curious as to what your thoughts are with that, since you are involved in the startup space, and where you see venture capital going in 2017 with the volatility that we talked about earlier.
Jason Schenker: [00:25:17]
I think that people are looking to put their money to work. Even though we're seeing higher interest rates, I think that's also providing an incentive for people to sell things like bonds and look for a little bit more action. I'm also a member of something called CTAN, which is the Central Texas Angel Network. It's actually the largest or most active angel investor network in the country. Angel investing has become quite hot. I think we're going to see that continue. I think things like crowdfunding and crowdfunding private equity are going to be hot. I think you're going to see more of that sort of thing. Venture capital, especially in FinTech, that's been on a huge tear. That's increasing by multiples every year. That's going to be really hot. Of course, the banking space is just such a monster. It's in many ways somewhat of a more traditional business ripe for disruption that I think you're going to see VC funds still plough money into FinTech.
I think it's really in the next slowdown or downturn where I think you're going to see what survives from FinTech. Anything that makes life easier and cheaper is going to be good, but there are some things that have costs and there are different companies in the space that we've seen have challenges, that maybe offered credit and now there's question of whether it's the right thing, or cryptocurrencies that are still quite new. Is this the final product? Those things are still questions to be resolved. It's sort of to be continued. But the disruption is going to continue in the year ahead, that's for sure. Some of these things the jury's still out on.
Kyle Davis: [00:27:17]
I love how you mentioned cryptocurrency. I actually just went car shopping recently. I was reminded that it wasn't so long ago that you could buy a Ferrari with Bitcoin but you could only pay with the Bitcoin on a day that their analyst said they would take it, because then they were going to flip it, project flip it, and make money off it. That's kind of funny. Let's switch over to your new little gig that you'll be starting. You're now a newly-minted contributor for Bloomberg. What are you going to be writing about for them?
Jason Schenker: It's a new column. Part of Bloomberg View called Bloomberg Prophets. It's a group, a cohort, of some of the highest-ranked forecasters and analysts out there. Given my track record, of course I was on the short list. I'm very pleased to be part of this new initiative at Bloomberg and to be a formal contributor. Weekly articles and sometimes biweekly. It's going to be great. Very excited to be partnering with such a very strong brand. I've had a very longstanding relationship with Bloomberg. They've statistically analyzed my forecasts for years, and it's nice to have that validation to be named one of the prophets in the space.
Kyle Davis: That's nice. Maybe if I ask hard enough they'll send me my own terminal. I doubt it. I don't think I'm going to be able to get my terminal. But I do watch Bloomberg and I always love it when they go, "We're going to the terminal." I'm like, "Okay. Gotcha. I need one of those."
Jason Schenker: It is a great platform. It's fantastic.
Kyle Davis: [00:29:17]
Yes. It is. It is good. That's really exciting. You are a prophet for Bloomberg. That's great. Let's talk about what we do a little bit here at GDA. This is the GDA Podcast, like I said. With GDA Speakers, we are a keynote booking agency for keynote speakers and different things like that. We've done a lot of work with Jason. Jason has provided us with basically the go-to guy for economics. "Econonomics." I don't even know what word I just said. Economics. I just want you to just briefly just tell people what it is within your 60 to 90 minutes that it is that you cover and what kind of preparation that you might do for a particular engagement.
Jason Schenker: Sure. What I typically cover are issues with the economy, US economy. I tend to be very US-centric. But I also have done a number of international speaking gigs and cover international economic dynamics as well. I forecast US economic indicators, currencies, energy prices, oil and gas, metals prices, both industrial and precious metals, and agricultural prices. I usually tailor the discussion to the group, but I'm talking about the different things going on in the US economy, Fed policy, interest rates, things we've talked about a little bit in this podcast. Most important for me is that it should be accessible information, so anyone who's there who would hear my speech comes away understanding what I'm thinking, why I'm thinking it, and should have a very reasonable understanding as to why.
I like to think I'm a reasonable guy and usually I have pretty reasonable logic behind my forecast. That's really important to be able to convey that. I know there's a lot of economics, I think all of us had or a number of us have had professors in school, and some were great and some were snooze fests. I think what's really important for me is to keep economics exciting and to try to make it really tangible and interesting and understandable for the folks who are there. I also like to focus on the group that I'm talking to, tailoring it and making sure we have good time for Q&A, because usually folks have a lot of different questions, whether it's about interest rates or oil prices or oil or the dollar or maybe it's the peso. Different things that we can get to within the talk of 45 minutes of talk, 20 minutes of Q&A, or it's an hour, it's an hour and 15, and Q&A mentioned as well. I try to make sure to have a good time. Try to tell a few jokes, as funny as economics can be, and go from there.
Kyle Davis: I can definitely say you are not the college professor economist walking around in your elbow patch jacket with your pipe and everything else. You're definitely a sharp-dressed man, with cuff links and all.
Jason Schenker: Why thank you. Thank you, Kyle. Very kind of you.
Kyle Davis: [00:31:47]
We're doing this podcast via Skype, and he dressed to the nines for this, while I'm sitting here in a very tech startup, no lie, Dolores Park hoodie from San Francisco.
Jason Schenker: Fantastic.
Kyle Davis: [00:32:47]
Yes, yes, yes. Backwards hat and a v-neck, because that's the startup life. Very cool. More towards what Jason does, what's so great about your presentation style, and I think if some people have listened to this podcast I could talk a lot about a lot of different things, but economics is just ... Math is not my strong suit. I will give that to my brother. To me, economics just really isn't. Understanding how it works and everything else can be a little bit of a challenge for me. But when you came into the office a few months ago and you did your brief little presentation for us, it was very accessible. It was very easy to understand. More importantly, the PowerPoint that you showed us made it so much easier to digest, as well. If anybody's wondering what it is Jason can do for you, just hire him. He's awesome. It'll be amazing. You'll love it. Let's just transition to the final thing and talk about "Jobs for Robots", your upcoming book.
Jason Schenker: Sure thing, Kyle. Thanks for the kind words. It's really important to me for my audiences not only to enjoy what they hear but to understand it all. I've always long believed and I've always said that if someone is in one of my presentations and they don't understand what I'm talking about, that's my fault. Because if I'm the one who knows how these markets work and knows how the economy functions, it's my job to translate it in a way that everybody can get it. That's one of the most important things for me. In "Jobs for Robots", and this is a good segue, there are opportunities. That's why it's "Between Robocalypse and Robotopia". There are positive opportunities presented by automation, but there are big challenges. It could be good for corporate profits. It could be good for GDP. It can be good for increasing higher-skilled jobs.
The problem is the absolute number of jobs is likely to go down. The skills gap is likely to widen. Again, this is one of the reasons I've spent and dedicated some time to building out the Futurist Institute of America. I think it's really important. There's a huge missing gap between what people tend to do now and what they need to do in the future. I think people are not prepared for this. Transportation. Retail. You look at automated, the cars that are already out there self-driving, the trucks that are out there self-driving, the Amazon Go Store where you don't even need to check out. How many jobs will those sorts of things replace? Then, of course, there's last-mile technology, in terms of the supply chain changing very drastically.
While the retail side of the economy may be becoming supply chain direct to your door instead of brick and mortar, and you're changing the way things are dispatched, what's happening is also there are transitions to other things, i.e., service-oriented jobs. Those sorts of things are likely to see big opportunities. You might have heard the phrase that restaurants are the new retail. That's very true. I think we're going to see that continue. You're going to see a lot of personal service sorts of things continue to see growth. But job and sectors that have been in existence for a very long time, transportation, retail, those things will continue to experience pain. The kiosk-ification of industries will continue at an accelerated pace.
It will be disruptive to the labor market, especially, again, from a skills perspective. Lower-skilled jobs, those are the most at-risk here. Premium on education becomes more important. The good news is, is if we think about the world in a zero marginal cost society and we think about education being where you bridge that gap, a lot more education is becoming more easily accessible online. There is a democratization and a disruption on the education side that can help us get there. The question is, will we get there fast enough? How quickly will the jobs disappear in some places? How quickly can the skills gap be bridged? I think there's going to be a clunky transition here. We'll end up somewhere between Robocalypse and Robotopia.
Kyle Davis: I agree with that one, actually. You're already starting to see it with the gig economy. Everybody going from being a taxi driver to now an Uber driver, and how it works with that. There is that short-term gig economy. Then, I think in the long term, I talk about this a lot, but I was at last year's NRF, which is the National Retail Federation, their big expo that they had in New York City. It was automated conveyor belts for shopping. It's putting your bread on a conveyor belt and it just scans it. There's no need for the bag check person or anything else. It goes back to that kiosk-ification, if I'm saying that right, of where we're going. The direction seems to be pointing towards highly-educated individuals to help service this. It should be interesting. I don't know. In an ideal world, what does Robotopia, what does that look like? Are we talking about a universal basic income and P100D Tesla for everybody? What are we talking about?
Jason Schenker: [00:38:17]
I think the Robotopia is ... It looks like ... There's two things. Even the ideal Robotopia where everyone has more money and more time and more income and we're all just free to follow the pursuits of our hearts. The problem with that is idle hands do the work of the devil. I'm concerned that if people don't have enough stuff to do that some people, and I'm like this, and I know people with high ambition and people with just some kind of internal drive, they're like German shepherds. You know what happens when you leave a German shepherd at home alone with your furniture for too long. You don't have any more furniture. They just rip up their own furniture. They cause their own problems because they just don't have enough stuff to do. You didn't leave enough Kongs at home filled with peanut butter for them to explore, and whatever, so your furniture's just gone.
I'm concerned that, as a population, people, especially Americans, derive a great deal of their identity and self-worth from what they do. If they're not doing anything, what happens then as a society? Even the greatest Robotopia can have a shadowed side to it. This is the problem with Mount Olympus. You have all these Greek gods sitting around all day, immortal, nothing to do. What do they do? They just cause trouble because they just have too much free time.
Kyle Davis: In all honesty, that is the most fascinating thing when it comes to futurist thought that I've ever ... I don't think anybody has actually conveyed that kind of idea to me. I'm a little spellbound on that one, so thank you. Thank you.
Jason Schenker: You're welcome.
Kyle Davis: [00:39:47]
I can kind of see it. You're right. High-drive individuals. A German shepherd is a great example of a high-drive dog, or a Belgian malinois or a German shorthair pointer or a rottweiler. These are all German dogs. Let's get away from that.
Jason Schenker: All working dogs.
Kyle Davis: All working dogs.
Jason Schenker: All working dogs.
Kyle Davis: All working dogs.
Jason Schenker: The AKC would tell you.
Kyle Davis: The AKC.
Jason Schenker: That's what that is.
Kyle Davis: They're working dogs.
Jason Schenker: They're working dogs.
Kyle Davis: Okay, good. Awesome. Hey, I think this is a great conversation and a good time to wrap up. Any parting words?
Jason Schenker: [00:40:17]
No. It's a pleasure to work with you at GDA. I know we've done a number of great events together. I really appreciate the opportunity to do this podcast and look forward to sharing my thoughts with different groups in the year ahead. I think it's going to be really good. There's a lot of exciting stuff going on. I know we always get really great questions and try to make sure that everyone has a good time, even if the message sometimes is a tough one.
Kyle Davis: The best part really is the Q&A.
Jason Schenker: For sure.
Kyle Davis: The Q&A is where you get people who ask some good questions when you come and speak.
For sure. People have these questions. They watch CNBC. They watch Bloomberg. They read the Journal. They have thoughts. They have questions. They want to talk about it. It provides a venue and a time to talk about some economic things that people might be thinking about, might be wondering about, might be important for them personally, them professionally, their company, their strategy, their investments. It's a chance to talk about these kinds of things. It's usually a very interesting and helpful discussion.
Kyle Davis: I'll end with a comment on that. One of the things that I do every month is I go to this lecture series at SMU University, which is near the office here in Dallas. I always know who the speaker's going to be for this Tate Lecture Series that I go and watch. I prepare. I have a good six or seven questions ready to go on Twitter. I'm just waiting for the hashtag for the night so I can just fire them off. I kind of wonder sometimes if people are just prepared with a good question that they spent all week thinking about for you, and then they bring it to you and you're like, "Okay, let me just solve this in five seconds and explain it really easily."
I think there's some questions people have they might have been thinking about for a while, and they hear in the presentation certain things light a spark. I think there's other folks who they might have been thinking about something longer they have a pressing issue at work or in their industry and they want to talk about it. That's really great. One of the benefits is, of course, I personally meet with Central Banks, executives in oil and gas, OPEC members, folks in the metals and mining space, folks in agriculture. I see consumption across the supply chain. I see the supply there. I see supply, demand, pricing. I'm in all of these markets from a forecasting standpoint.
That's really helpful, because the globalization of finance, something I'm actually talking about at SXSW in March in a keynote is you see this moving more in that direction. With foreign exchange and the economy, these big macro things, they matter so much to different markets and interest rates and currencies and commodities. It all works together. Equities, interest rates. The whole thing just plays off itself. That's really become more critical. The interrelation between those markets has accelerated over time. Some of it's because of different things in FinTech and the acceleration and velocity of trading. It's a natural progression. I think you're going to see that continue and remain necessary going forward.
Kyle Davis: Very good. Hey, thanks, Jason, for joining us. Look forward to future events with you, man.
Jason Schenker: Sounds great. Thank you, Kyle.
Kyle Davis: Cool. Thank you.