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Friday 13 November 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.

Has our luck finally run out?

The global economy has been extraordinarily lucky for 75 years. Food and energy have been cheap and abundant. 

In our complacency and hubris, we attribute this to our wonderful technologies, which we assume, guarantee us permanent surpluses of energy and food. The idea that technology has reached hard limits or that it could fail doesn’t occur to us. 

We’ve taken good luck to be our birthright because it’s all we’ve known. We attribute this good fortune to things within our control — technology, wise investments and policies, etc.

We are woefully unprepared for a long run of bad luck. My sense is the cycles have turned, and the good luck has drained from the hour-glass. Energy and food will no longer be cheap and abundant, our luck in leadership will vanish, and our vaunted technologies will fail to maintain an abundance so vast that we can squander the finite wealth of soil, water, resources and energy on mindless consumption.


Lots of Overnight Tragedies, No Overnight Miracles

The most important things come from compounding. But compounding takes a while, so it’s easy to ignore.

New technologies take years or decades for people to even notice, then years or decades more for people to accept and put to use. Show me a new technology that was immediately recognized for its full potential and instantly adopted by the masses. It doesn’t exist. A lot of pessimism is fueled by the fact that it often looks like we haven’t innovated in a decade because it takes a decade to notice innovations.

Same for economic growth. Real GDP per capita increased eight-fold in the last 100 years. America of the 1920s has the same real per-capita GDP as Turkmenistan does today. 

Same for investments. Netflix stock returned 35,000% between 2002 and 2018. But it was below its previous all-time high on 94% of days, which made the progress easy to ignore, and the number of investors to actually hold Netflix from 2002 to 2018 round to zero.

Growth always fights against competition that slows its rise. New ideas fight for attention, business models fight incumbents, constructing a building fights gravity. There’s always a headwind. But everyone gets out of the way of decline. Insiders might try to stop it, but it doesn’t attract masses of outsiders who rush in to push back in the other direction like progress does.


The need for an antilibrary

Tsundoku is a beautiful Japanese word describing the habit of acquiring books but letting them pile up without reading them. I used to feel guilty about this tendency, and would strive to only buy new books once I had finished the ones I owned. However, the concept of the antilibrary has completely changed my mindset when it comes to unread books. Unread books can be as powerful as the ones we have read, if we choose to consider them in the right light.

The goal of an antilibrary is not to collect books you have read so you can proudly display them on your shelf; instead, it is to curate a highly personal collection of resources around themes you are curious about. Instead of a celebration of everything you know, an antilibrary is an ode to everything you want to explore.

Remember that knowledge is a process, not a possession. In addition, building an antilibrary is an investment in yourself which should stay within your means. Even if you only have 3-5 books you haven’t read on your shelf, this is already a great step in expanding your intellectual horizon.


The story of Suguna Foods

B. Soundararajan, chairperson of Suguna Chicken, talks about building a billion-dollar company. Suguna Foods Pvt. Ltd is the largest company in commercial poultry farming in India, with an annual revenue of nearly a billion dollars.


Are vitamins a marketing a scam?

Today, there’s an explosion of vitamin startups that operate on the idea that vitamins can work their wonders for most anyone. Vitamins are vital, but most of us get the ones we need in our own diets. 

Eliseo Guallar, a professor at Johns Hopkins, sees vitamins as offering most people a “false sense of protection” and marvels at Americans’ commitment to taking them despite a lack of evidence that they should. 

Most are probably neither helpful nor harmful (he says, though, that some can be iffy in high doses, like vitamin E, which might increase the risk of prostate cancer).There are also many instances of supplements containing unapproved and potentially harmful ingredients.



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