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Philosophical Net

12/05/2003 12:00 am EST


Bambi Francisco Roizen


In a brilliant, albeit challenging and slightly tongue-in-cheek article, CBS columnist, Bambi Francisco, makes a case for "truth" and Internet stocks, through the eyes of an eclectic mix of commentators, ranging from science fiction writers, theologians, social critics, and some of history's greatest thinkers.

"Aristotle said that the more we know, the more we know we don't know. If the great philosopher was leading a discussion among some of history's greatest thinkers about investing in Internet stocks based on online shopping trends, the discourse would likely evolve into an exploration of truth, reality, folly, and how society evolves in the digital age. Here's how it might go:

Setting: Aristotle, the analyst, sits with Descartes, the skeptical hedge fund manager. Both are logged onto their brokerage accounts as they ponder the meaning of online shopping, much they need to know about online shopping before they buy Internet stocks.

Descartes: Aristotle, how much is online holiday shopping going to rise this year?

Aristotle: Well, Forrester predicts it will be up 42% to $12.2 billion while Jupiter says 21%.

Descartes: So, what does that mean?

Aristotle: Essentially, it means no one really knows. What we do know is that online shopping will be up. So, buy Internet stocks.

Descartes: Hmm. I doubt everything, even buying Internet stocks.

Aristotle: That's why you got killed getting short this year.

Descartes: Well, I don't doubt that I buy online. Hmm. In fact, I'm buying more because of the free shipping. That I don't doubt...therefore it must be that online shopping is going up. I guess I should buy Internet stocks now.

Descartes places a buy order for Yahoo (YHOO NASDAQ), eBay (EBAY NASDAQ), Amazon (AMZN NASDAQ), and InterActive Corp. (IACI NASDAQ)

Enter Os Guinness and Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Guinness: Gentleman, there are good online holiday shopping numbers and there are bad ones.

Rousseau: How do you know what's good and what's bad?

Guinness: We live in a post-modern world, the numbers are nothing until the market says they're either.

Rousseau: What does the market know?

Guinness: It knows that truth is not to be discovered, but to be created (and, in the case of revenue and profits, restated). There are good numbers and there are bad numbers, they don't exist until the market calls them that way. And, right now, the market says they're going to be good. Buy Internet stocks.

Rousseau: Hmm. I see that online shopping has taken root in society. Once established, it's inevitable that e-shopping broaden to the far reaches of civilization, like somewhere in North Dakota. Online shopping can only go up for man to advance to the next stage of existence.

Guinness: And, as you know, once the dynamic gets started, man will suffer conquest (or worse yet miss out on all those online bargains), unless he follows like a lemming because he's driven to live for material wealth.

Rousseau: Yes. I see that already happening in Internet stocks. I must buy Internet stocks now, or get trampled later.

Rousseau places a buy order in for Microsoft (MSFT NASDAQ), RealNetworks (RNWK NASDAQ), CNet (CNET NASDAQ), United Online (UNTD NASDAQ), and Monster Worldwide (MNST NASDAQ).

Descartes: I'm still skeptical about buying Internet stocks.

Enter Douglas Adams, C.S. Lewis, and Erasmus.

Adams: Don't panic. All I can say is 42.

Lewis: What does that mean?

Adams: Forrester is onto something because 42 is the answer.

Lewis: What's the question?

Adams: I think it's whether online shopping will be up this year. But no one knows the question, really. It doesn't matter. No one ever asks the right question. Just buy Internet stocks, especially those Chinese net stocks, like SINA (SINA NASDAQ), Sohu (SOHU NASDAQ), and NetEase (NTES NASDAQ). I've hitchhiked throughout the galaxy, and China is where the big online shopping action will come from.

Erasmus: You're a fool, high on the nectar of the Homeric gods.

Adams: As long as I know I'm a fool, I'm OK. If there are greater fools, even better.

Lewis: I do desire to buy Internet stocks, especially Netflix (NFLX NASDAQ) because I like watching DVDs while smoking my cigar. But if I find in myself a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

Rousseau: You may be onto something there. The digital age will accelerate our destiny.

Guinness And, what does all of this have to do with online shopping today?

Aristotle: Everything.... The more we know, the more we know we don't know what will happen in the future. But we know online shopping will be up. So, buy Internet stocks."

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