Not only would they be working overtime to hammer together the most influential piece of consumer technology of their generation, but they’d be doing little else. Their personal lives would disappear, and they wouldn’t be able to talk about what they were working on. ... Like many mass-adopted, highly profitable technologies, the iPhone has a number of competing origin stories. There were as many as five different phone or phone-related projects — from tiny research endeavors to full-blown corporate partnerships — bubbling up at Apple by the middle of the 2000s. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my efforts to pull the iPhone apart, literally and figuratively, it’s that there are rarely concrete beginnings to any particular products or technologies — they evolve from varying previous ideas and concepts and inventions and are prodded and iterated into newness by restless minds and profit motives. Even when the company’s executives were under oath in a federal trial, they couldn’t name just one starting place.
Since I’ve written so many cautionary memos, you might conclude that I’m just a born worrier who eventually is made to be right by the operation of the cycle, as is inevitable given enough time. I absolutely cannot disprove that interpretation. But my response would be that it’s essential to take note when sentiment (and thus market behavior) crosses into too-bullish territory, even though we know rising trends may well roll on for some time, and thus that such warnings are often premature. I think it’s better to turn cautious too soon (and thus perhaps underperform for a while) rather than too late, after the downslide has begun, making it hard to trim risk, achieve exits and cut losses. ... Since I’m convinced “they” are at it again – engaging in willing risk-taking, funding risky deals and creating risky market conditions – it’s time for yet another cautionary memo. Too soon? I hope so; we’d rather make money for our clients in the next year or two than see the kind of bust that gives rise to bargains. (We all want there to be bargains, but no one’s eager to endure the price declines that create them.) Since we never know when risky behavior will bring on a market correction, I’m going to issue a warning today rather than wait until one is upon us.
- Also: The New York Times - The Car Was Repossessed, but the Debt Remains < 5min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - For Consumers, Less Debt but Lots of Bills < 5min
- Also: Bloomberg - Bankers Ditch Fat Salaries to Chase Digital Currency Riches < 5min
- Also: Business Insider - US home sales volume to Canadians surges < 5min
- Also: Bloomberg - New U.S. Subprime Boom, Same Old Sins: Auto Defaults Are Soaring
The rate of productivity growth – the major determinant of long run economic growth – has slowed sharply since the start of the century. The so called ‘productivity puzzle’ is one of the most pertinent macroeconomic questions of our time. Are fast rates of economic growth, the hallmark of the 20th century, a thing of the past? Or is it just another ‘bad attack of economic pessimism’ as economist John Maynard Keynes wrote nearly a century ago? ... Our chart below shows two distinct ‘super-cycles’ in UK productivity growth since the First Industrial Revolution. The first cycle brought about an acceleration in productivity growth over an approximate 70-year period that peaked in around 1870 before a 30-year deceleration thereafter. It ended at the turn of the 20th century during the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution. The cycle of the 20th century followed a similar pattern to the 19th, but with much, much bigger gains in productivity and well being. ... Comparing the western world’s current struggle for productivity gains against the ongoing fast rates of discovery in energy, artificial intelligence and robotics, to name but a few, suggests that we may be back at stage one and could be heading for stage two with rapid productivity advances in a while. ... Once we fully exploit the potential of the current wave of new technologies, the risks to the future seem skewed to the upside.
Seven years in, however, Stripe’s mission is less to send more books, vacuums, and grooming kits into the world than to “increase the GDP of the internet,” Patrick says. To do this, the company is beginning to move beyond payments by writing software that helps companies retool the way they incorporate, pay workers, and detect fraud. It’s part of an ambitious bid to revamp how online business has been conducted for 20 years and to give anyone with a bright idea a chance to compete. ... With Stripe, all a startup had to do was add seven lines of code to its site to handle payments: What once took weeks was now a cut-and-paste job. Silicon Valley coders spread word of this elegant new architecture. ... Although startups appreciated what Stripe was doing, most potential investors did not. How was a small group of young engineers going to alter the internet’s financial structure? Hadn’t they heard of PayPal?
The most intriguing part of the antenna, though, is that it gives him an ability the rest of us don’t have. He looked at the lamps on the roof deck and sensed that the infrared lights that activate them were off. He glanced at the planters and could “see” the ultraviolet markings that show where nectar is located at the centers of the flowers. He has not just matched ordinary human skills; he has exceeded them. ... He is, then, a first step toward the goal that visionary futurists have always had, an early example of what Ray Kurzweil in his well-known book The Singularity Is Near calls “the vast expansion of human potential.” ... But are we on the way to redefining how we evolve? Does evolution now mean not just the slow grind of natural selection spreading desirable genes, but also everything that we can do to amplify our powers and the powers of the things we make—a union of genes, culture, and technology? And if so, where is it taking us? ... Conventional evolution is alive and well in our species. Not long ago we knew the makeup of only a handful of the roughly 20,000 protein-encoding genes in our cells; today we know the function of about 12,000. But genes are only a tiny percentage of the DNA in our genome. More discoveries are certain to come—and quickly. From this trove of genetic information, researchers have already identified dozens of examples of relatively recent evolution. ... In our world now, the primary mover for reproductive success—and thus evolutionary change—is culture, and its weaponized cousin, technology. ... One human trait with a strong genetic component continues to increase in value, even more so as technology grows more dominant. The universal ambition of humanity remains greater intelligence.
I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation. ... Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it. ... I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. ... the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy. ... There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.
There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady. A World Bank report, released in May, predicted that, given current trends, there could still be half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa without power by 2040. Even those with electricity can’t rely on it: the report noted that in Tanzania power outages were so common in 2013 that they cost businesses fifteen per cent of their annual sales. Ghanaians call their flickering power dum/sor, or “off/on.” Vivian Tsadzi, a businesswoman who lives not far from the Akosombo Dam, which provides about a third of the nation’s power, said that most of the time “it’s dum dum dum dum.” The dam’s head of hydropower generation, Kwesi Amoako, who retired last year, told me that he is proud of the structure, which created the world’s largest man-made lake. But there isn’t an easy way to increase the country’s hydropower capacity, and drought, caused by climate change, has made the system inconsistent, meaning that Ghana will have to look elsewhere for electricity. “I’ve always had the feeling that one of the main thrusts should be domestic solar,” Amoako said. “And I think we should put the off-grid stuff first, because the consumer wants it so badly.” ... Electrifying Africa is one of the largest development challenges on earth. Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe. ... Solar electricity, on the other hand, has become inexpensive, in part because the price of solar panels has fallen at the same time that the efficiency of light bulbs and appliances has dramatically increased. ... It will be years before it makes financial sense for solar companies to expand to the most remote and challenging regions of the continent.
- Also: Ars Technica - Solar energy has plunged in price—where does it go from here? 5-15min
- Also: Motherboard - We’re a Cheap Battery Away From Phasing Out Fossil Fuels < 5min
- Also: Quartz - IIT: An Indian berry contains a crucial ingredient for creating cheap solar cells < 5min
- Also: Los Angeles Times - China has conquered Kenya': Inside Beijing's new strategy to win African hearts and minds < 5min
- Also: Stanford - Bringing Online Shopping to Rural Africa, One Shopkeeper at a Time < 5min
Of course, the challenges in the region remain very real, among them poverty, war, and the breakdown of political and economic institutions. Israel has a well-established technology sector, but in the Arab Middle East—outside the United Arab Emirates and its leading economic center, Dubai—the legal and regulatory system is at best cumbersome to navigate, and more often unpredictable and inconsistent. Historic political disputes and security concerns are issues as well. Educational infrastructure, despite relatively heavy spending, is not adequate for developing a 21st-century workforce. ... Yet something encouraging is happening. Everywhere in Dubai, young people gather, checking their smart devices. ... The vast majority of the city’s three million residents, including a new generation of young Arab entrepreneurs, were born elsewhere. And they are selling to a wired generation across the Middle East. In nearly every country in the region today, more than half of the population is under 30