Following the trend lines

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

A trend line, at its most simple, is a line drawn between (usually at least three) points that show a progression – or at least a consistent – movement.

Trend lines show where numbers have been,where that are now, and to a degree, where they are going.

When it comes to business and investments, trend lines might be positive or negative – at least within defined parameters.

In most cases, trend lines do not go on forever.

But even when they do go (mostly) in one direction, they often falter, almost as if they are re-grouping.

Often for a more aggressive move in the near future.

If you follow almost any financial category, from the price of gold to interest rates or the stock market, you see this happening continually.

Finances are easy to follow because so many organizations track them, but it would be easy to make the argument that everything, from weather to our energy level throughout a typical day has a (relatively) predictable trendline.

In other words, stuff happens on a relatively predictable schedule.

Trend lines, by definition, are a measurable progression from one point to a another and to another to give us some sense of where we are going. In most cases, at least three points are referenced over as long a time as possible – or practical.

It is easy to lie – or even deceive ourselves with trend lines.

Some categories have upper or lower limits.

In other words, there are boundaries.

In the stock market for example, a company can only lose money for so long.

Eventually even the deepest pockets run out.

And companies that once dominated the market evaporate, often without a trace.

Their trendline went solidly up, until, to quote a phrase, it didn’t.

Kmart, Kodak, MySpace, Netscape and Sears are only a few of the companies that seemed to have an infinite upward trajectory.

Anyone remember Radio Shack, Friendster, Circuit City or Borders Books?

But, to paraphrase another quote, stuff happens.

It might be the death or departure of a charismatic founder, or an unexpected turn in the market or perhaps an inflexible attachment to a business model that worked great for a while, but, for whatever reason, no longer works.

Or a business model that worked great in one context, but utterly failed in another.

A common marketing principle is to give people what they want. But sometimes you need to convince them that they want something.

The ever present smart phone is a good example. Back when the iPhone was introduced in January 2007, virtually everyone had a phone at home or at work. And it was cheap. Most of us paid under $20 a month for essentially unlimited use.

Why would we pay hundreds of dollars for something almost everyone of us already had?

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer called the iPhone “the most expensive phone in the world”. And he was right. Except that cost, for many millions of us around the world, suddenly didn’t matter. Or at least it didn’t matter as much in comparison to what it offered.

At first, the trendline for smart phones did not look good. Except for one thing – convenience was worth more, far more, to many of us, than the dollars invested.

Microsoft attempted to enter the smart phone market. By the first three months of 2007, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile had an 18% share of the US smartphone market.

By the end of December 2008 Microsoft decided to kill off Windows Mobile because it couldn’t compete with the iPhone and Android, and developed the Windows Phone – a completely new mobile operating system.

The Windows Phone was great – as an individual device. It might have even been ahead of its time.

But it sank from public view because it did not merge well with the larger, and ever-growing, Apple “ecosystem”.

And, as far as money and innovation was concerned, the technological “ecosystem” was all that mattered.

And that “ecosystem” was changing how we all lived and worked.

For example, for the first time way back in January of 2011, smart phones out-sold personal computers. And they have ever since.

Up until that point, the idea that phones would outsell – and cost more – than a computer was ludicrous.

But as the visionaries among us might admit, imagining a future where using hand-held phones in place of a desk top computer might have been ludicrous – but it wasn’t ludicrous enough.

There are natural limits to trend lines – but they aren’t always what we think they are.

Financial peaks or troughs (such as in the stock market or in real estate) might seem to be static – even immovable – but they aren’t.

It might seem impossible, but housing prices (for example), can drop and climb to extremes few of us could imagine.

I know a couple people, back in about 2009, who walked away from houses in prime neighborhoods (did not even bother with selling them) because they were “worth so little”. In 2022, those homes appraised at approaching $800,000.

What is the “real” value”?

It all depends on when. And who is willing to buy it at what price.

As frightening as it might seem, there is nothing stable, or objective, or even predictable about prices – even for basic things like shelter.


When it comes to trend lines – and their limitations, human beings are, as you might guess, interesting.

There have been all kinds of rumors and news bite about what human population will look like in the next few decades.

But another line of thought is about what we will look like – and how long we will live.

More of us are getting taller – but there is a limit. Few of us will be much more than six feet tall, but, thanks to better nutrition, more of us will be taller than our grandparents, maybe even our parents.

As a footnote, a reliable projection is that we reach half our adult height by age two. I measured my grandson at that age – he was 37 inches tall – which means 6 feet, 2 inches as an adult.

In other words, we all grow dramatically from birth to about 18 or 20 and then stop. Our trend line is steep – then static. At least when it comes to height.

Besides getting taller, more and more of us are getting, ahem, wider. Public seating in all kinds of settings, from buses to ferries (but not most airlines) is adapting to our ever-expanding girth.

Three score and ten

Like size, other numbers are expanding. More of us are living longer – but again, there is a limit.

The term “three score and ten” is used multiple times in the Bible to describe the typical human life span. A “score” is a word meaning

“twenty” which means that the average life span of about 70 from a millennia or two ago has barely nudged.

In a few thousand years, in fact, not much has changed. More of us are reaching that age, but statistically, not many of us reach too far beyond that number. And, living longer, as you might guess, leads to more complicated health situations.

Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes are among the leading causes of death among those over 65 – and relatively rare, or at least not as threatening, for younger people. Any miscellaneous aches and pains, squeaks and pops are just part of the package.

The bottom line is that more and more of us will encounter health issues most of our ancestors never lived long enough to experience.

To see more details on how people have physically changed over the last hundred years, take a look at this article.