🔮 Capitalism under pressure; the high speed M1; RNA platforms; Obama, OnlyFans & self-help++ #297

Hi, I’m Azeem Azhar. I convene Exponential View to help us understand how our societies and political economy will change under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies. 

📅 I hope that you can join me next Friday, November 27 at 3.30pm UK time / 10.30am ET, when I’ll come together with EV member Nina Schick to discuss how technology is shaping our information ecosystems, and what we can do to tackle the global disinformation crisis. Nina is the author of The Deep Fakes: The Coming Infocalypse. RSVP here if you use Linkedin, or follow our YouTube channel or Twitter for updates.

📖 Members can now read the transcript of my conversation with Dr Carissa Véliz, a scholar leading the thinking about the data economy and author of a recent hit book Privacy is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data. Full podcast is available to all to listen here.

The near future

💯 The future of the global economy is capitalist, that’s not in question. But which variant of capitalism will ultimately lead? Branko Milanovic predicts a hybrid of the Chinese state-led, political model combined with the Western liberal, meritocratic form. After all, “experience shows that many people are willing to trade democratic rights for greater income.” Sam Ashworth-Hayes also reminds us that liberalism is under pressure from non-economic factors, including falling demographics in the West and a growing disdain for nationalism. 

🤑 One of the favourite discussions I’ve had this year was with Silicon Valley investor Chamath Palihapitiya. The frank conversation ranged far and wide.

🤔 Personalities are integral to the venture capital ecosystem (see above!). The strength of the individual founder is an indelible but flimsy metric (Theranos and WeWork are cautionary tales). A new study ruffling feathers among academics finds that start-up founders barely matter. A fresh take on the calculus of fundraising is welcome, particularly for European funds still struggling to raise money. 

🍎 Apple’s new M1 chip, the company’s first foray into microchips for Macs, is a change in orientation for the company. It incorporates machine learning, a CPU, GPU, and apparently can even extend the battery life of a Mac that uses it. Om Malik speaks to three figures within Apple – Greg Joswiak, Johny Srouji and Craig Federighi - about what the M1 chip actually means. Malik suggests that this is a big transition for Apple, and that the path of events leading to this re-orientation actually started in 2005, when Apple switched to Intel. See also a blogpost on TensorFlow about the M1 chip and the new ML Compute framework (which powers training for TensorFlow models), right on the Mac itself. 

📜 The field of cliodynamics which uses mathematical models to predict the contours of history has bad news for the future of our society. Peter Turchin, who is widely credited with founding the field, suggests in an Atlantic profile that our history can predict the future, and it doesn’t look good. While Turchin’s work is engaging, several other historians have criticised his work and the concept of ‘megahistories’, and suggest that it’s another example of a STEM mindset applied to the humanities. See also, EV#273.

💉 The data from both Moderna and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine trials suggest that better times may be ahead. In WSJ, Peter Loftus explains why these are a breakthrough in terms of the invention of vaccines themselves. These much-lauded mRNA vaccines use messenger ribonucleic acid molecules, which essentially enable the body’s own capacities to trigger an immune response. This completely new vaccine technology can generate stronger immune responses than previous vaccines (and this bodes well for future pandemics too). See also, a long read on the promise of mRNA vaccines.

🔋 Dept of decarbonisation: 412.19ppm | 3,477 days

Each week, I’m 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 November 18): 412.19 ppm; November 4, 2019: 410.5 ppm; 25 years ago: 360 ppm; 250 years ago, est: 250 ppm. Share this reminder with your community by forwarding this email or tweeting this.

Could 2020 be the year that electric vehicles finally reach mainstream market saturation? From 2010 to 2019 lithium-ion battery prices have fallen from $1,100 per kilowatt hour to $156 per kilowatt hour. Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that 2023 may be the year when lithium ion batteries reach the $100 per kilowatt hour mark. 

Short morsels to appear smart this virtual Thanksgiving dinner

You may have heard about a promising writer called Barack Obama 😀 His presidential memoir has just been published, and the accompanying press tour includes an illuminating interview in The Atlantic, where Obama ruminates on America, Genghis Khan and more.

Wuhan tested nearly 10 million residents for SARS-Cov-2. Health authorities found 300 asymptomatic cases and no symptomatic cases.

🎮 A study finds that video gameplay is “positively correlated with well-being”, which suggests that some games are like digital water-coolers.

Companies’ monopoly power over workers’ wages is damaging to the economy.

A robotaxi update: paying customers.

🇬🇧 Famed VC firm Sequoia has broken with tradition and opened its first non-US office in London, saying that more and more important market leaders are coming out of Europe. (The anecdote at the beginning is a cracker.)

😉 Did you know that the genre of self-help literature originally had roots in anarchism and radical left-wing movements? A review of a new book on the genre’s history lays out how it has shifted over the last decades.

The adult entertainment industry has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to tech. Tim Stokely’s OnlyFans is no exception. What’s next? They’re not looking to raise money at the moment, but to date they’ve paid out over $2 billion to creators. 

End note

I got great feedback after sharing the Soulwax video last week. So I’m going to chance my arm again and recommend a listen to Simeon ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato, available on YouTube here. Even though it was first performed in 1979, the same year that the VisiCalc, the Atari Model 400 and the Motorola 68000 went on sale, I only discovered it a few weeks ago. If you Zoomed with me last week, you might have heard it murmuring away in the background.

Cheers!

Azeem

What you’re up to—notes from EV readers

I’m speaking at the Internet Society event, The Internet After 2020, with Vint Cerf and Andrew Sullivan, amongst others, on December 7. Register here.

Congrats to Abigail Hunter-Syed for being promoted to Partner at LDV Capital!

Sarah Gold is giving a talk about responsible data - what it is and why it matters - in this online event her team at IF is hosting on November 24.

Zheela Qaiser and the Tech Nation team are organising (E)Mission Net Zero on the November 25, which you can sign up for here - it will highlight tech solutions to drive down emissions. 

Rob Blackie has launched a UK Biotech Leadership Index.

James Kuht is seeking world-class digital and technology talent for the No. 10 Innovation Fellowship Programme.

Monique Elwell launches Storyvine NOW, a self-service video production platform.

Lewys Gammond-Phillips reflects on the 2020 US Election.

Email marija@exponentialview.co to share your news and projects with other members.