🔮 The empowered economy; GAFA smackdown; decade predictions review; peak meat, Doom & fusion++ #281

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)

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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.

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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.)

Back in January, Ian Bremmer and I discussed how Europe’s distinctive feature in tech might be its regulators. Worthwhile rundown of this trend in the New York Times.

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. 

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.)

Sources

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. 

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:

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. 

🥵 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.

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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. 

End note

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

Azeem