Saturday 30 November 2019

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

A self-declared space nation called Asgardia is planning a fully functioning space economy
The Space Kingdom of Asgardia is a genuine project to set up a nation entirely in space, with hundreds of thousands of members paying "residency'" fees and a parliament that is in the process of forming the foundations for its society. Asgardia's goal is to transport thousands of people to an enormous space station by 2043, beyond Earth's jurisdictions, to "build a new democratic society." Ambitiously, the space nation is looking to the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to get them there. Both billionaires have also set up commercial space firms.

It's counterfeit we consume
One estimate of India’s total counterfeit market is Rs 1 trillion. The dummies are often mixed up with originals at the delivery point to escape easy detection. Companies are often reluctant to go public with the fact that the bazaar could be awash with fakes of their brands, though it’s ubiquitous and affects all brands. Interviews with dozens of brand surveillance officials of top companies reveal an estimate: some 25 to 40 per cent products of every available brand is allegedly counterfeit.
The span of fake branded goods takes in a wide variety—besides tea, salt, spices, ghee, paneer and the like, and toothpaste, shampoo, hair oil, conditioner, bathing soap, there’s ­mobile phones, computer hardware, apparel—and yes, liquor. And most dangerously, pharmaceuticals. 
E-commerce offers no immunity. Many reports point towards the large-scale presence of counterfeits in onl­ine buying. The authorised attorneys of some top companies admit some 40-50 per cent of products sold online via top e-commerce sites are fake. They declined to be quoted officially. Smuggling, especially from China, is another route for supply of counterfeits in India.

India to get its second Lion sanctuary
Located in north Madhya Pradesh, Kuno was one of the hunting grounds of the royal families of the region and was notified as a sanctuary in 1981. It has been 29 years since Kuno Palpur was identified as the site for the relocation of Asiatic lions, from their last habitat in Gujarat, to protect them from extinction. Currently, there are 523 (as per the last census carried out in 2015) lions in Gir and this relocation project was supposed to have been completed by 2020. Catastrophes such as an epidemic, an unexpected decline in prey, natural calamities or retaliatory killings could result in the extinction of the lion population when they are restricted to single populations. Gir in Gujarat is the last refuge of the Asian lion population.
Expecting approximately a realised growth that has been observed for recovering tiger populations, along with supplementation every four years from Gir; the lion population in Kuno WLS should reach the current carrying capacity of 40 within 15 years.
To reach the required self-sustaining population size of 80 lions, the time required would be close to 30 years.

Online advertising - is it all mumbo jumbo?
A friend asked me to read up on Affle and also on the online advertising space. This article is a fascinating one and exposes how a lot of metrics around online advertising is just hogwash.
For more than a century, advertising was an art, not a science. Hard data didn’t exist. You put your commercials on the air, you put your brand in the paper, and you started praying. Would anyone see the ad? Would anyone act on it? Nobody knew. In the early 1990s, the internet sounded the death knell for that era of advertising.

Data will take over the world
Yuval Noah Harari is one of my favourite authors. He has a crystal clear mind and extraordinary writing ability where he can make complex subjects appear simple. Here he talks about how authority will shift from humans to Big Data and how authority has historically shifted over time.
For thousands of years, humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people.
Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data. This novel creed may be called “Dataism”.

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