Weekly Selection 29 November 2019

Stephen Roach, After the US-China Trade War

(Project Syndicate, November 25, 2019)

This is an interesting take that offers much food for thought on what the world will look like after the trade war - trade truce or not, the current economic struggle between the US and China will be protracted. Roach puts several possible outcomes on his list: (1) de-globalization – he doesn’t believe in it, (2) global decoupling – unlikely in his opinion, and (3) trade diversion – likely: it will shift trade to higher-cost foreign sourcing - the functional equivalent of a tax hike on US consumers (reads in 6-7 min).

Timothy Lenton and al., Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against

(Nature, November 29, 2019)

The feedback from some of our subscribers is that we ‘bombard’ them with articles on climate emergency. Yes: because the risk is there and the investment consequences far-reaching. One more piece in which prominent scientists explain in plain and incontrovertible terms why the growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions. Evidence is mounting that ‘tipping points’ are more likely than was thought, have high impacts and are interconnected across different biophysical systems, potentially leading to long-term irreversible changes. The maths: E = R × U = p × D × τ / T (reads in 8-9 min).

Samanth Subramanian, How our home delivery habit reshaped the world

(The Guardian, November 21, 2019)

This piece makes us realize that the great trick of online retail has been to get us to shop more and think less about how our purchases reach our homes. The explosion of home delivery is stunning – in NYC, for example, home daily deliveries have soared from fewer than 360,000 a day in 2009 to more than 1.5m today. The result: the packaging of home-delivered products now accounts for 30% of the solid rubbish the US generates annually, and the cardboard alone costs 1bn trees. It’s a long read (15 min+) but worth it.

Sebastian Buckup and Peter Vanham, How to turn trust into a competitive advantage

(LSE Business Review, November 21, 2019)

Trust, particularly in business, is vanishing; yet, it is a key component of any fruitful relationship. This short piece explains how business leaders can turn trust into a competitive advantage by identifying four different options / strategies: trust champions, brokers, platforms and architects. It’s packed with insightful examples showing how trust can become a key differentiator… and eventually leads to business success (reads in 7-8 min).

Samanta Cole and Emanuel Maiberg, 'They Can't Stop Us:' People Are Having Sex With 3D Avatars of Their Exes and Celebrities

(Vice, November 19, 2019)

This article goes beyond our usual terrain, but it tells us a lot about tomorrow’s world and our place in it. It tells the story of a community of 3D graphics hobbyists who are making and selling avatars of real people in order to fulfill their sexual fantasies. It seems there is little anyone can do to stop them. The legal, social, ethical and philosophical consequences of what this means are mind-blowing – let alone the questions it poses about our humanness (reads in about 15 min).