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Thursday, 21 October 2021

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

Maldives creates a floating city

The atoll nation of Maldives is creating an innovative floating city that mitigates the effects of climate change and stays on top of rising sea levels.

Such a development is particularly vital for countries such as Maldives – an archipelago of 25 low-lying coral atolls in the Indian Ocean that is also the lowest-lying nation in the world.


More than 80% of the country’s land area lies at less than one metre above sea level – meaning rising sea levels and coastal erosion pose a threat to its very existence.


Maldives thrives on tourism and the same coral reefs that attract holiday makers also provide the inspiration for much of the development. The hexagon-shaped floating segments are, in part, modelled on the distinctive geometry of local coral.



The dream of animal-to-human transplants or xenotransplantation is a few steps closer to reality

Scientists temporarily attached a pig’s kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.


Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.


Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn’t trigger rejection.



When in doubt, copy

From infancy, we learn by copying others. It’s also how we navigate uncertainty throughout our lives. Copying is what people have always done because it’s not only easy, it’s effective. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t still be doing it because we wouldn’t be here.


Copying is so effective that all sorts of animals, even fishes, copy each other’s behavior in order to adapt. When real people rather than computers play games, they don’t doggedly follow tit-for-tat or some other mechanical algorithm. They copy other people’s winning strategies.


 Copying is pretty safe, too, since at least you will be doing something that has succeeded to the point of becoming visible to you. The easiest thing to do, even by accident, is to copy something popular and successful. In the social world, popularity is success, so you’ll be doing fine.



The challenges of the worker in a gig economy

Platform work is precarious by nature. Even though more than half of all gig workers rely on it for most of their income, 40% of them make less than minimum wage. But it’s not just about the money. It’s about fragility and insecurity. Day to day, gig workers worry about their health, their safety, and whether or not they’ll make enough to cover their costs. More than 60% want to quit within a year.


Digitally-mediated gig work has surged over the past decade. The International Labor Organization counted 489 active ride-hailing and delivery platforms worldwide in 2020, ten times the number that existed in 2010. The fluid nature of the workforce means there are few consistent estimates to how many people are now engaged in this kind of labor, but some researchers believe that as much as 10% of the global workforce now engages in some kind of gig work.


Gig work is worse for women, who earn less on the platforms than men. Meanwhile, even though the biggest gig platforms are disrupting the global workforce, few of these companies have shown they can sustainably make a profit, relying instead on investors to fuel their growth.



The forgotten scam

Abdul Karim Telgi, the kingpin of a multi-crore counterfeit stamp paper scam, began as a furniture sales executive with a salary of Rs 3,800 in Mumbai. It is alleged that between 1993 and 2002, he cultivated officers in the government security press in Nashik and purchased machinery at government auctions to print counterfeit stamp papers. He then sold them at a discount to bulk purchasers such as banks, insurance firms and stock brokerage firms.


Investigators estimated Telgi’s personal worth at his prime exceeded a hundred crores and he owned about 36 properties across the country.


Telgi allegedly bribed his way to run his scam. After the racket was uncovered, investigators searched for authorised vendors who had sent bogus papers to the stamp duty officials. Politicians and police were also accused of being complicit in the scam.


“Across 72 towns and 18 States and over a period of 10 years, the counterfeit stamp paper scam has dealt the Indian economy a shattering Rs 32,000-crore blow. The figure is official. Apprehensions are that it could be much higher,” Frontline magazine reported in November 2003. That’s the damage Telgi and people who helped him in the scam had done.



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