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Lowell Catlett - Embrace the Future

Noted futurist Lowell Catlett believes the future is not nearly as bleak as some would have you believe.
Lowell Catlett - Embrace the Future

Lowell Catlett - Embrace the Future

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Lowell Catlett

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Show 1642: Lowell Catlett - Embrace the Future
Air Date: October 16, 2016



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, for the world of work, the driver of the last 20 years has been digitization. Computer code has changed everything from how we work to what we work on. And while we’ve seen some jobs go away, others have been created. Today, our focus is on what’s next and what that will mean for all our lives. And the person who’ll take us on that journey is noted futurist Lowell Catlett. With some background, here’s our Blane Singletary.

Blane Singletary: There’s an old proverb that says no news is good news. But Lowell Catlett says the good news about our economy is out there.

Catlett: We’re a strong, $18 trillion-plus economy, OK?

Blane: Lowell Catlett is the former Dean of agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences at New Mexico State University. He’s known as a futurist.

Catlett: I can’t forecast the future, but I can help you plan for it.

Blane: But his message about the economy is all about looking at our present situation from a different perspective.

Catlett: We’re still one-fourth of the world’s economy. So can an $87 trillion economy handle a debt load of roughly the same amount as our GDP, $18 trillion? Well, in the business world, that’s a pretty good debt to equity ratio. So overall we’re a growing economy, overall we’ve never had more net worth. Never, never in history.

Blane: Catlett’s message is that, economically, it’s never been a better time to be an American. Over the course of the past few decades, we’ve grown in wealth and now enjoy common access to things that we never knew we wanted back then.

Catlett: You want, maybe, private school for your children where the previous generation went to public school. Maybe you want a bigger house. Maybe you want two houses. It’s driving a whole mechanism of new products.

Blane: And this growing trend in wealth is happening other places, too. He’s traveled the world over, spreading his message with industry leaders and helping companies plan for this growth in output – in his unique, upbeat way.

Catlett: Since 1970, the world’s produces slightly less than $4 trillion. Now the world produces how much? The largest ever recorded in history! $70 trillion bucks! $70 trillion! The world has gotten wealthier, but come on folks, so have we.

Blane: Some would argue a disproportionate amount of that wealth is flowing to the 1 percent, and you’d be right, but Catlett’s got some good news for the other 99.

Catlett: The 1-percenters as we call them control 19 percent. The real question is for us 99 percent: Is that 81 percent left giving us a good life? So, yeah, there’s inequality but they have the best life they’ve ever had in history.

Blane: And part of the reason for that is just how much we can do with our disposable income today.

Catlett: So how much of your disposable income does it take to eat in the United States of America? It’s the lowest it’s ever been in history, lowest in the world, 9.6 percent. Are you with me? Average American household has 70 percent of their disposable income after eating, drinking, eating out, owning a home, paying the utilities, connecting to the Internet -- left to do what? I call it buying crap!

Blane: And looking towards the near future, he says there’s a lot more wealth about to change hands.

Catlett: Two-thirds of that nation’s wealth, of the $87 trillion, is held by my generation, baby boomers. Because 40 percent of it is tied up in properties and real estate values. So you’re gonna see the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in the next 10 years that’s ever appeared in history.

Blane: So with a huge amount of money on the horizon and many aspects of our current situation looking better than they ever have, Catlett’s message is what many economists are saying: These times will pass. As industries get shaken up by technology, however, things might look a little different on the other side.

Catlett: Health care just changed. Manufacturing just changed. And now, education just changed. A great opportunity for you, your business. Ha ha ha [makes upward motion], but it’s gonna be weird as hell.

Rob: Now, when we return, I sit down with Lowell Catlett to talk about the steps we all need to take to be part of the American Dream.