🔮 The empowered economy; GAFA smackdown; decade predictions review; peak meat, Doom & fusion++ #281
|Azeem Azhar||Aug 2, 2020|| 39||1|
The Near Future
There is something interesting happening in the creative space, as platforms like Substack (which hosts the wondermissive) create business models for individual entrepreneurs. One example: journalists at Splinter who quit their jobs in protest at a corporate takeover launched a blog on Substack using reader subscriptions. Jomayra Herrera at Grounded calls this the ‘empowered economy’ in an interesting survey.
On a similar note, Facebook is offering TikTok users with millions of followers financial incentives to bring their craft over to Reels, the new Instagram / Facebook competitor to TikTok. TikTok has since announced a “creative fund” of $300 million to be distributed between high-profile creators.
Here’s a mind-boggling stat from entrepreneurial economy: “OnlyFans reported daily six-figure sign-ups on its popular cam site. Etsy logged 115,000 new sellers in the first three months of the year, more than double the past two years’ user growth. Teachable, which lets people make and sell online courses, signed on 14,000 new creators between March and July, and in July reported its first quarterly revenue over $10 million.”
The CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon all testified in Congress this week, to convince judges that their business practices don’t amount to anti-competitive monopolies. A good rundown of all the main points, including links and videos, can be found here. At Recode, Shirin Ghaffary said that many of the questions seemed to focus more on political drama as opposed to the real issues. See also: a Markup investigation found that Google prioritised its own products over those of competitors.
Apple is successfully growing its non-iPhone lines. Services and Wearables have both trebled in top-line revenues in about four years. (via Horace Dediu)
One thing stuck out in Facebook’s numbers. Even as the firm gets better, it’s ability to monetise increases. It manages to milk $190 per US adult per year. Quite incredible.
Zuckerberg has also “ended his performative love of China.” Scathing op-ed by Thomas Kuo. Elsewhere, Microsoft may buy Tiktok’s US business. (An excellent overview by Amir Efrati explains why breaking off TikTok’s China operations may be rather tricky.)
Taiwan started to organise one of the most successful mobilisations against Covid-19. Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister, has found ways to emphasise that democracies can actually be made more accountable with digital tools, starting with open source mask production maps and more.
Reviewing my decade predictions
In January this year, I published 10 predictions for the 2030s. These tackled what I reckoned would be some of the dominant forces of the next ten years. We are six months in to the first year, or five per cent in to that journey. This week I’ll review the final five predictions.
Prediction 6: Cities will become relatively more important
Lots of other people are saying cities will become less important, especially in the face of Covid-19. I think the long-term trends hold.
verdict: Choppy waters but long-term forecasts point to the importance of cities, even if they may look like different places ten years from now.
I expound on the megacity in an essay for EV, pointing out that it’s a nuanced picture and that there are many ways cities could mutate and change.
Density in cities has been blamed for outbreaks of Covid-19, but findings suggest “near-zero associations between the density of 36 world cities (as measured in people per square kilometre) and rates of Covid-19 cases and deaths.”
Covid-19 could remake what we consider a city, at least in certain ways, from larger patios for restaurants to widened sidewalks – but “not all of the shifts will be by intentional design.”
Richard Florida suggests that the city will bounce back from both pandemics and protests.
Will we want to live in crowded cities again? Even the notion of a busy city is a relatively modern idea.
Prediction 7: We’ll eat far less meat.
verdict: This is already underway - and will likely accelerate over the coming years. (See Chart of the Week this week.)
Oatly, the maker of what seems like the world’s most popular oat milk drink, has raised over $200 million in funding.
Companies and manufacturers making plant-based faux meat and more saw a rise in demand for their products in the last few months as consumers “increasingly see concerns over food safety.”
An alternative daily protein manufacturer called Perfect Day raised $300 million in an immense funding round earlier this month, and have launched their own dairy-free ice cream.
Perfume manufacturers are getting in on flavourings for the alternative meat market. Analysts predict meat alternatives could make up 10 % of the global meat market in the next decade.
Paradigms around consuming meat are changing rapidly. The Impossible Burger, a meat burger substitute “made chiefly of soy and potato proteins and coconut and sunflower oils, is now in seventeen thousand restaurants.”
This infographic from Visual Capitalist depicts the future of food and growth in meat free diets over the last decades. Over 21 % of Dublin’s restaurants are vegan friendly.
Prediction 8: The big tech companies, particularly Facebook, Google and Amazon, will work aggressively to increase their footprint over the coming years.
verdict: These companies are pushing the boat out hard, as predicted.
Amazon has introduced more cloud products, including Honeycode – which non coders can use to write apps.
Amazon is the lead investor in Deliveroo’s $575 million funding round, which was being investigated by UK competition regulators – but it’s likely to receive clearance.
Amazon may be adding live TV to its Prime Video service, according to job listings found by The Verge – one said they were looking for someone “who can ‘redefine how customers watch 24/7 linear broadcast TV content’.”
Facebook is investing in Jio Platforms (9.999 % stake) and has been approved to do so by the Competition Commission of India – Facebook’s investment in billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms is its biggest investment in recent years and could help the social media giant expand its reach in India, already its biggest market by user count.
Apple has announced that it will start to transition the Mac to its world-class custom silicon – which will “enable a common architecture across all Apple products”.
Prediction 9: AI will be everywhere
I have to confess that I feel like I cheated you, and myself, on this one. It is so clearly a trend that is well underway. But I can’t understate the extent to which AI—computation and goal-directed systems that can operate in non-deterministic ways—will spread through our lives and economies over the next ten years.
Verdict: AI is rolling out everywhere.
The most exciting thing I’ve seen this year has been GPT-3. Three things to read on it:
James Vincent writes a balanced article on GPT-3 and how people are using it.
Me on GPT-3 as an evolution of knowledge technologies.
Me on text-processing systems as a next frontier for AI.
Prediction 10: During the 2020s there will be a generational shift.
Verdict The arrival of these younger cohorts into positions of power will shape the world deeply – particularly as many of them face the Covid-19 fall out.
I wrote about three splits which are likely to shape our world in the coming years, including the gap between the young and the old – I point out that when the dust settles, young people “might ask the question about how all this will be paid for, and whether the burden of paying it will fall on them.”
At the Washington Post, Greg Sargent points out that young people’s attitudes to Black Lives Matter protests should worry Republicans – a recent poll found that 82 % of them support the protests.
The Covid-19 crisis is supposed to hit workers hard, especially younger workers - according to this report from the Resolution Foundation: “One-third of 18-24-year-old employees (excluding students) have lost jobs or been furloughed, compared to one in six prime-age adults, with these experiences also more common among employees in atypical jobs.”
🥵 Climate breakdown: 413.76ppm | 3,588 days
Each week, we’re going to remind you of the CO2 levels in the atmosphere and the number of days until we reach the 450ppm threshold.
The latest measurement (as of July 30): 413.76ppm; July 20, 2019: 410.4 ppm; 25 years ago: 360ppm; 250 years ago, est: 250ppm. Share this reminder with your community by forwarding this email or tweeting this.
Apple’s climate plan is surprisingly ambitious . EV reader, Akshat Rathi, read their sustainability reports and found that the electricity needs of Apple (as a company) are almost entirely serviced by renewables. So the majority of their carbon emissions come from Scope 3 emissions – essentially, the emissions generated by suppliers and users.
Chart of the week
US coal production has slumped via SoberLook.
Also, peak meat.
Plant-based morsels to tickle your noggin’
A new agreement between AMC Entertainment Holdings and Universal Pictures will mean that movies have to play in theatres for 17 days, as opposed to 75, before they move online. I can’t imagine going to a cinema again.
You can now run Doom inside Minecraft.
The next US bomber, the B21, will cost $55bn a pop. It will fly alongside the B-52, which entered service in the mid-1950s. Some B-52s may well be flying on their 100th birthday.
Mackenzie Scott, who helped create Amazon.com and is the former wife of Jeff Bezos, pledged to give the majority of her wealth back to society. Here is her review of the first $1.7bn she has donated.
Sandwell council, a small city in the UK, is setting up their own contact tracing system because the government’s version isn’t working. Love a bit of bottom up!
Apparently, more and more people are buying labyrinths for their backyards.
ITER, the world’s largest nuclear fusion project, is underway in France, with the first ultra hot plasma expected to be generated in 2025.
It has been a scorching couple of days in London. Pretty certain my study got to about 45 degrees Celsius. (At least that is what the thermometer said.) I have hydrated sufficiently. Thanks for asking 😄
Have a great week