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The defense industry and silicon valley have had a long history in tandem – there is even a lot of evidence that defense spawned the technology industry there. Whatever the case, an interesting parallel that popped into my head while reading this article. That thought was about the creation of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) during WWII that preceded the CIA. While traditionally technologies were developed for military use first, could there be a new era of consumer-/industrial-driven advances being applied to warfare? Rather than the target customer for technology companies, the DoD is now more of a(n) sub-sector/afterthought due to companies focusing on problems that affect the mass population – and the military is tough to do business with for many reasons. While DARPA focuses on challenges that are 20-30 years out, the new task is to find challenges that need fixing which are much more immediate.

This is obviously a super-long read but I find it fascinating. We’re living through a truly unique time in the history of finance with all the extraordinary experimentation going on via central banking. There is no good way to sum up the essay but I think that this quote is pretty on-the-money: “History shows us that economic recovery from a depression has never been successfully engineered without a major debt reduction, default, hyperinflation, political revolution, or world war.” Now that is a pretty wide statement of possibilities, but I think that currently the mentality of the market is that – at least for the Fed – central banks have “beaten” the recession. The essay really is about volatility rallying for any of the stated reasons. I think it’s a pretty good bet vol is relatively cheap compared to all the “shadow convexity” that exists with these multi-dimensional risks playing out in real-time.

I’m a huge fan of Charlie Munger and the “mental-model” school of thinking. That’s why when I read this article it was just another confirmation that if you can find certain patterns in nature, they can be applied across a variety of disciplines. Here’s a good quote: “...the same basic species-area curve was found regardless of the species or habitat. To put it mathematically, the curve followed a power law, in which the change in species number increased proportionally to the square root of the square root of the area. ... Power laws are common in science, and are the defining feature of universality in physics.”

CFA Institute - The Middle East and the New World Order 25min

The world is about to experience the greatest geopolitical transformation in at least the past three generations. The United States’ need for oil has greatly diminished, and its goals in the Middle East have changed. The United States now views the world wholly in relation to its other interests. Global and local demographics, new outsiders in the area, and a new contest shaping up between Iran and Saudi Arabia contribute to continuing instability in the Middle East. A global energy crisis could soon draw many countries into the Middle East, and a simultaneous political crisis could erode state authorities there, unleashing a new wave of violence and terrorism. ... The United States is transforming into a country with global reach but no global interests. For the 4 billion people on this planet who are utterly dependent on global trade for their well-being, this transformation is possibly the worst outcome imaginable. ... Even if the United States was convinced that its economic and physical security required international engagement, it is about to step out to lunch, and it is going to be a very, very long lunch. Just as the rest of the world needs the United States, it is leaving the building.

Aeon - How Europe became so rich 7min

It should be emphasised that Europe’s success was not the result of any inherent superiority of European (much less Christian) culture. It was rather what is known as a classical emergent property, a complex and unintended outcome of simpler interactions on the whole. The modern European economic miracle was the result of contingent institutional outcomes. It was neither designed nor planned. But it happened, and once it began, it generated a self-reinforcing dynamic of economic progress that made knowledge-driven growth both possible and sustainable. ... In brief, Europe’s political fragmentation spurred productive competition. It meant that European rulers found themselves competing for the best and most productive intellectuals and artisans. ... A possible objection to this view is that political fragmentation was not enough. The Indian subcontinent and the Middle East were fragmented for much of their history, and Africa even more so, yet they did not experience a Great Enrichment. Clearly, more was needed. ... Political fragmentation existed alongside a remarkable intellectual and cultural unity. ... If Europe’s intellectuals moved with unprecedented frequency and ease, their ideas travelled even faster. Through the printing press and the much-improved postal system, written knowledge circulated rapidly.

Bloomberg - What Happens When Two Bankers and an Engineer Get a Billion Dollars? 8min

They settled on three investment categories: transportation, energy, and water/waste. Global Infrastructure Partners, founded in May 2006, now manages about $40 billion in assets ranging from ports and pipelines to London’s Gatwick Airport, a liquefied petroleum gas storage facility in Visakhapatnam, India, and a vast wind farm in the North Sea. Over 10 years, GIP has expanded its roster of backers to include some of the world’s biggest sovereign funds and a slate of U.S. pensions. The firm operates three funds. GIP I raised $5.7 billion in 2008. GIP II closed in 2012 with $8.3 billion. In January it announced its latest and largest pool, a $15.8 billion fund, the largest-ever dedicated to infrastructure. ... Fixing deteriorating infrastructure, combined with new projects in the U.S. and in emerging and frontier economies across Asia and Africa, has given rise to a market that Bain & Co. estimated is worth $4 trillion. As many governments face budget shortfalls that curb such spending, private money is stepping in. ... The two recovering engineers marveled at how you could theoretically use a lot of the industrial processes they’d learned at GE to retool an airport. “An airport is ultimately about moving planes, passengers, and bags through a series of steps,” Woodburn says. “That’s a familiar process to people with experience in manufacturing.”

Wired - Inside the Macedonian Fake-News Complex 9min

In the final weeks of the US presidential election, Veles attained a weird infamy in the most powerful nation on earth; stories in The Guardian and on BuzzFeed revealed that the Macedonian town of 55,000 was the registered home of at least 100 pro-Trump websites, many of them filled with sensationalist, utterly fake news. ... The sites’ ample traffic was rewarded handsomely by automated advertising engines, like Google’s AdSense. ... Within Veles itself, the young entrepreneurs behind these websites became subjects of tantalizing intrigue. Between August and November, Boris earned nearly $16,000 off his two pro-Trump websites. The average monthly salary in Macedonia is $371. ... It was once a town of modest glory, turning out revolutionaries and intellectuals and alive with industry. One of its largest factories, a ceramic works named Porcelanka, employed 4,000 people. For a time, its residents recall with perverse pride, Veles was the second-most polluted town in the former Yugoslavia.

The New York Times - Deep in Brazil’s Amazon, Exploring the Ruins of Ford’s Fantasyland 5min

Hardly a lost city, Fordlândia is home to about 2,000 people, some who live in the crumbling structures built nearly a century ago. ... Ford, the automobile manufacturer who is considered a founder of American industrial mass-production methods, hatched his plan for Fordlândia in a bid to produce his own source of the rubber needed for making tires and car parts like valves, hoses and gaskets. ... In doing so, he waded into an industry shaped by imperialism and claims of botanical subterfuge. Brazil was home to Hevea brasiliensis, the coveted rubber tree, and the Amazon Basin had boomed from 1879 to 1912 as industries in North America and Europe fed the demand for rubber.

Lucky Peach - The Coffee Shaman 20min

Because: after Howell dropped out of Yale in 1967 (“the whole world was exploding at that point”) and met his future wife, Laurie, and moved to Berkeley and visited the first Peet’s Coffee, changing his conception of coffee shops forever; and after he then tasted a cup of lighter-roasted coffee made by the Bay Area Capricorn Coffees, which changed his conception of coffee further still; but before he moved to Boston and started his café company, the Coffee Connection, where he invented the Frappuccino and pushed light roasts and sourced single-origin beans when the whole world was drinking anonymous dark-roasted muck; and before he sold the whole kit and caboodle to Starbucks for $23 million in SBUX stock in ’94; and before ... He was, at the time, mostly preoccupied with the beauty and power of the psychedelic yarn paintings that the Huichol made as a part of their shamanic religious practices in those remote Mexican mountains. ... mostly they talk about his pragmatically mystical conviction that a higher truth of coffee exists, and that we can figure out how to get to it. ... These are boom times for fancy coffee. You can buy locally roasted bags of expensive Ethiopian varietals in small American towns, and every major city with a recently gentrified neighborhood is now home to at least one coffee bar serving pour-over made with single-origin beans and a small roaster setting up shop in a industrial brown zone near a canal.