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Thursday 18 November 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.

1. A fascinating story of the world's first org chart

In 1855, the New York and Erie Railroad Company had a problem.


Railroads were now the biggest operations the country had ever seen, both in terms of capital investment and the complexity of the organization. Just as new physical technologies, such as the telegram, were changing the game for businesses, the size and scale of the railroads meant it needed organizational technology too.


Keeping reporting lines organized not only helped keep track of the hundreds of different managers out on the front lines of the tracks, but was quite literally a matter of life and death.


The railroad’s superintendent Daniel McCallum, who was also a leading management thinker at the time, was tasked with coming up with a solution. McCallum drew out an answer — a complex, layered, tree-like org chart. The first the modern world has ever seen.




2. Hydrogen Ready to Ignite as Transport Network and Technology Takes Off

Transport is undergoing a massive transformation so it can meet society’s demands for a low-carbon economy. Introducing electric vehicles (EVs) and declining gasoline and diesel use are helping, but zero-carbon hydrogen can speed up both the transition and long-term de-carbonisation of transport.


Hydrogen is not considered a true replacement for gasoline or diesel as a combustion engine fuel for cars because it is harder to store safely. And while fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) that turn hydrogen into electricity can compete with EV performance — and even out-compete them on range and refill time — extra energy is needed to produce the hydrogen needed for fuel.


Finding investment for storage, pipelines and fuel stations is still a challenge. Until there is excess capacity in renewable energy to make green hydrogen, without using methane from natural gas, hydrogen-powered cars could have a negative climate impact. Happily, prices for producing green hydrogen are expected to be a fraction of their current level by 2030, cheaper than so-called gray hydrogen from natural gas.


Even wastewater and solid waste can create green hydrogen. Researchers are using sunlight to isolate hydrogen from industrial wastewater. Chemical plants and refineries that currently face high costs for cleaning wastewater could transform it into clean hydrogen supplies.




3. Your behavioural biases are causing more financial harm than you realize

Some of your behavioural tendencies might be causing harm to your financial wellbeing, research suggests. Regardless of factors such as age, income and education, there’s a connection between certain biases and financial health.


The research focuses on four common biases:

  • Present bias: Tendency to overvalue immediate smaller rewards at the expense of long-term goals.
  • Base rate neglect: Tendency to ignore the probability of something happening and instead judge its likelihood by new, readily available information.
  • Overconfidence: Tendency to overweigh one’s own abilities or information when making an investment decision.
  • Loss aversion: Tendency to be excessively fearful of experiencing losses relative to gains.

While you may not be able to eliminate your own biases, there are things you can do to minimize their potential to negatively impact your financial life, Wendel said. For instance, you can set up what he calls “decision-making speed bumps.”


“It’s doing something to slow the decisions down,” he said.




4. Humans are driving one million species to extinction

Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.


Agricultural activities are also some of the largest contributors to human emissions of greenhouse gases. They account for roughly 25% of total emissions due to the use of fertilizers and the conversion of areas such as tropical forests to grow crops or raise livestock such as cattle. Agricultural threats to ecosystems will only increase as the world’s population continues to grow.


The next biggest threats to nature are the exploitation of plants and animals through harvesting, logging, hunting and fishing; climate change; pollution and the spread of invasive species.


An estimated 5% of all species would be threatened with extinction by 2 °C of warming above pre-industrial levels — a threshold that the world could breach in the next few decades, unless greenhouse-gas emissions are drastically reduced. Earth could lose 16% of its species if the average global temperature rise exceeds 4.3 °C.



5. Focus on reducing errors, not seeking brilliance

In expert tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are won; in amateur tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are lost. In other words, professional tennis is a Winner’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the winner – and amateur tennis is a Loser’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the loser. The two games are, in their fundamental characteristic, not at all the same. They are opposites.


… if you choose to win at tennis – as opposed to having a good time – the strategy for winning is to avoid mistakes. The way to avoid mistakes is to be conservative and keep the ball in play, letting the other fellow have plenty of room in which to blunder his way to defeat, because he, being an amateur will play a losing game and not know it.


If you’re an amateur your focus should be on avoiding stupidity, not seeking brilliance.


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