In something of an impromptu Philip K. Dick film festival, I had a chance to revisit the still-inspired 1982 "Blade Runner" and the still-disappointing 1990 "Total Recall."
The first showed a billboard for Pan American Airlines, circa 2019; the other for a Sharper Image store, circa 2084. Of course, Pan Am (its lunar shuttle also figured prominently in "2001: A Space Odyssey") collapsed just 10 years after "Blade Runner"'s release, and Sharper Image closed all stores last year.
Perhaps there is a lesson here: These cinachronisms bear out the folly of assuming too much about the future. Wall Street's crystal ball is no better than Hollywood's.
Going back to 1896 and the 12 companies on the original Dow Jones Industrial Average, nearly all were broken up or absorbed generations ago. Only General Electric remains a part of the DJIA. The pundits of the Roaring '20s no doubt took it for granted that U.S. Leather would stay on top -- surely industrious America would always need miles and miles of leather belts to transfer power to machinery!
Packard Motor Car Co., F.W. Woolworth Co., Trans World Airlines, Arthur Andersen, Enron Corp., Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual Inc., Heller Ehrman ... all gone. To quote Donald Rumsfeld, an expert on unforseen calamities, "Stuff happens" -- and there's more to come.
If you think the markets and indicators have bottomed out, think again. There's more smoke to clear, more mirrors to break. The electronic data discovery industry and, to a lesser extent, the legal services industry are microcosms of the broader wounded economy.
Marc Dreier, the nabob New York lawyer accused of peddling hundreds of millions of dollars of bogus commercial paper, is our industry's Mini-Me to Bernard Madoff's Dr. Evil. Tinfoil titans laid low overnight. So, write this on your hand and don't wash it off: Nothing is sacred. No one is safe. Anyone can disappear ... fast.
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By: Craig Ball