Happy Friday everyone and welcome to The Week That Was from OFF3R,
The moon might have better Wi-Fi than the Tube
With so much snow and Brexit, you may have missed the fact that the moon, courtesy of Vodafone and Nokia, is about to get a better Wi-Fi connection than the Tube (4G). Come next year, a network will be installed to support the first private mission. (NB In fairness, 4G is, if all goes to plan, meant to be installed on the Tube next year, too.)
Half of ICOs have failed, but Porsche is bullish on blockchain
Meanwhile, a new report from crypto news site Bitcoin.com found that, out of the 902 that were launched in 2017, nearly half (46 percent) of initial coin offerings (ICOs) have failed.
While many aspiring entrepreneurs continue looking for applications for the blockchain and digital currencies, Porsche announced this week that it’s now testing blockchain applications in vehicles. It’ll use the technology to support capabilities like locking and unlocking cars via an app, and, it says, a “new business model” which the car firm says is based on encrypted data logging, which could be used later in conjunction with driverless functionality. Expect to see more companies jumping on the bandwagon in a similar fashion.
And here’s another report: Credit Suisse proved that your money’s better off in equities than housing – particularly if you started investing in 1900.
Credit Suisse’s 2018 Yearbook revealed the adage we’re all used to – that housing provides a larger financial reward at lower risk – is wrong. Actually, since 1900, the quality-adjusted real capital gain on worldwide housing has been approximately -2 percent a year.
The financial crisis showed that housing can take a real hit: from their late-2005 peak until the 2012 low, US house prices fell by more than 36 percent in real terms. Despite two savage bear markets, from 1900 to 2017, returns across global equities have averaged 5.2 percent.
Something else that caught my eye is the changing face of equity markets, in terms of relative size. At the end of 1899, the UK accounted for 25 percent of global stock markets, the US 15 percent and Germany 13 percent. At the end of last year, the US accounted for 51.3 percent, Japan 8.6 percent and the UK 6.1 percent.
Writing this has reminded me of Ruchir Sharma’s recent book “The Rise and Fall of Nations”. The banking veteran argues that our way of figuring the world in terms of growth prospects is now moribund, because growth is not a certainty, nor is widening prosperity. I’ve often wondered if the growth paradigm itself is wrong altogether. The Equation of Exchange (which is used to show the relationship between money and growth) means aggregating the prices of goods and services which, particularly in today’s tech-based and intangible world, feel almost incomparable.
CAUGHT OUR EYE
NEW MODEL – The UK’s first local investment fund launches
Locals in the Leeds suburb of Headingley have launched the country’s first (hyper) local investment fund, promising anyone who invests between £200 and £100,000 a 2 percent return on their money. That’s double the rate offered on high street Isas, and will provide the area with patient capital to do things like buy up local houses and rent them out at below-market rates.
Localised funds have been the preserve of Whitehall, and the fickle nature of government funding has made sustainable impact difficult. Community-led initiatives, pulling in external capital, could provide an answer. The Headingley Investment Fund will be run on crowdfunding platform Ethex. I think we should be very optimistic about the role technology we’ve now had for a few years (like crowdfunding platforms) will have in melding globalisation and hyperlocalism.
TECHNOLOGY – Elon Musk had a spat with scientist Steven Pinker over AI
Psycholinguist Steven Pinker said in an interview with Wired that “If Elon Musk was really serious about the AI threat, he’d stop building those self-driving cars”. Musk then tweeted, “Wow, if even Pinker doesn’t understand the difference between functional/narrow AI (eg car) and general AI, when the latter *literally* has a million times more compute power and an open-ended utility function, humanity is in deep trouble.”
Most AI practitioners I’ve spoken to say they don’t expect to see the latter in their lifetimes. Those of us tickling 30 and 40 can expect a good life of driverless cars and investment tools like recently announced Pia but it is unlikely that we will live alongside general AI, with machines as skilful and intelligent – if not more so – than humans.
PS While on Musk’s feed, I noticed a staggering stat (actually from an Independent article!): Chinese railway workers are building entire stations in just nine hours. 1,500 people: job done. Bloomberg said at the end of last year that China’s infrastructure binge was due a “major slowdown” this year; Musk pointed out that the country’s progress in advanced infrastructure is “more than 100 times faster than the US”.