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Thursday 3 September 2020

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.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate.

The new virtual chemistry lab

IBM has built a new chemistry lab called RoboRXN in the cloud. It combines AI models, a cloud computing platform, and robots to help scientists design and synthesize new molecules while working from home.

New drugs and materials traditionally require an average of 10 years and $10 million to discover and bring to market. Much of that time is taken up by the laborious repetition of experiments to synthesize new compounds and learn from trial and error. IBM hopes that a platform like RoboRXN could dramatically speed up that process by predicting the recipes for compounds and automating experiments.



The history of taxes in India

In India, the system of direct taxation as it is known today, has been in force in one form or another even from ancient times. There are references both in Manu Smriti and Arthasastra to a variety of tax measures. Manu, the ancient sage and law-giver stated that the king could levy taxes, according to Sastras. The wise sage advised that taxes should be related to the income and expenditure of the subject. He, however, cautioned the king against excessive taxation and stated that both extremes should be avoided namely either complete absence of taxes or exorbitant taxation. According to him, the king should arrange the collection of taxes in such a manner that the subjects did not feel the pinch of paying taxes.

A major portion of Arthasastra is devoted by Kautilya to financial matters including financial administration. According to famous statesman, the Mauryan system, so far as it applied to agriculture, was a sort of state landlordism and the collection of land revenue formed an important source of revenue to the State. The State not only collected a part of the agricultural produce which was normally one sixth but also levied water rates, octroi duties, tolls and customs duties. Taxes were also collected on forest produce as well as from mining of metals etc. Salt tax was an important source of revenue and it was collected at the place of its extraction.



China outplays US in TikTok (for now - story still to play out)

China’s Commerce Ministry added new items to its list of export controls late Friday. Now, artificial intelligence interface technologies such as speech and text recognition, as well as methods to analyze data and make personalized content recommendations, are matters of national security. But with AI and its content recommendation engine among the key ingredients of the company’s success, Beijing becomes the arbiter of TikTok’s fate. Not the U.S. administration. As much as critics — including U.S. senators and the secretary of state —  express concern about the data TikTok collects, it’s really the algorithms that matter most to the company, and anyone who buys it. These are the magic formulae that tell the app which data points will predict future behavior, and keep you staring at the phone longer.

TikTok’s algos are gold. At least, that’s what bidders seem to think. And it looks like Beijing agrees. Effectively, the Chinese government is saying, “You wanna buy TikTok? Go ahead, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get your hands on the secret sauce.”



Use of dark patterns are rampant in online retail

Back in April, Amazon made an extraordinary decision. As the company struggled to fulfil a surge in orders related to the pandemic, it subtly tweaked its website to encourage consumers to buy less, not more. In addition to modifying shipping timelines and inventory, Amazon disabled a recommendation feature that displays items frequently bought together, like batteries to go with the toy already in your cart.

Dark patterns are digital design elements that manipulate users into making decisions they otherwise wouldn’t, often to a corporation’s benefit.



The rise of the industrialised chicken

At the turn of the 20th century, chicken was almost always eaten in the spring. The priority for chicken raisers at the time was egg production, so after the eggs hatched, all the male birds would be fed up and then quickly harvested as “spring chickens” – young, tender birds that were sold whole for roasting or broiling (hence the term “broilers”). Outside the spring rush, you might be buying a bigger, fatter fryer or an old hen for stewing.

During the second world war, however, red meat was rationed, and a national campaign encouraged the consumption of poultry and fish to save “meat” (beef, pork and lamb) for “the army and our allies”. Eating chicken became more common, but the preference for young broilers, and white breast meat, persisted.

The modern chicken is fully industrialised. With more than 500 chicken breeds existing on Earth, it might surprise you to learn that every nugget, breast, and cup of chicken noodle soup you’ve ever eaten likely came from one breed, a specialised cross between a Cornish and a white rock.



Disclaimer: Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation and a pure quant focused newsletter at www.quantamental.in. The blog posts should not be construed as investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.


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