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Thursday 2 December 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.

Why staring at screens is making your eyeballs elongate

New research from ophthalmologists shows that our constant screen time is radically changing our eyes. Just like the rest of our bodies, the human eye is supposed to stop growing after our teens. Now it keeps growing.


When our eyes spend more time focusing on near objects, like phones, screens or even paperbacks, it makes our eyeballs elongate, which prevents the eye from bending light the way it should. This elongation increases nearsightedness, called myopia, which causes distant objects to appear blurred.


Last spring, Chinese researchers tested over 120,000 Covid-quarantined students aged six to eight and found myopia and other vision issues linked to home confinement increased up to three times compared with the previous five years – that’s with as little as 2.5 more hours of e-learning (not counting video games, social media, etc).


Most important is taking breaks which help eyes rest, blink and lubricate. Then there’s the 20-20-20 model. “Every 20 minutes, look at a distance 20 feet away, for 20 seconds,” Hariharan advises. “Being on the computer for hours on end isn’t good for your health. Don’t break to play video games or pick up another screen. Go outside!”



The lure of nationalised banks

“Banks were nationalised at the whim of a Prime Minister, they will be de-nationalised at the whim of another Prime Minister.” ~ Y.V. Reddy, former Governor, RBI.


It has now been 50 years since Indira Gandhi, then prime minister of India, took a decision to nationalise 14 private banks. The decision, Reddy says, gave the central government powers that were never envisaged in the constitution. “Suddenly you found that the Union Government had access to public deposits, access to huge financial resources, not contemplated in the constitution. Second, they got huge financial resources outside parliamentary control. Third, they got access to huge administrative machinery in different states, which was not contemplated in the constitution,” Reddy explains.


These powers continue to be a big lure for politicians, who may have debated and discussed privatisation of government-owned banks but have stayed far away from giving up control of these lenders.


Even today, public sector banks command 66 percent of credit and 65.7 percent of deposits. This network continues to be used by each successive government to push both political and economic objectives.




Five mistakes people make that keep them from becoming millionaires

There are a few things to learn from people who have achieved a net worth of over $1 million.


While there are many articles, books, podcast episodes and thought-leaders preaching what to do if you want to have over seven figures in assets, I recently found myself curious about something not many people speak about: the biggest mistakes people like me make that can keep us from becoming millionaires. Financial advisors list the following reasons:


1. Relying on one source of income - focusing on just making income from one source makes it very hard to make millions.


2. Not tracking your spending – “Like a leaking pipe can cause massive damage if not found early on, a leaky budget can deprive you from accumulating meaningful savings over your life...”


3. Being scared to invest - investing can be integral to making your money grow.


4. Not utilizing retirement accounts to their full potential - maximize your retirement accounts and investing your funds wisely so you can add to your portfolio and get the tax advantages.


5. Not investing early – make sure to start your investment journey as early as possible.



The Indiana Jones of Egyptology to harness satellites to uncover long-buried treasures

Exploiting subtle and, to the naked eye, often invisible differences in topog-raphy, geology and plant life, Parcak, a 38-year-old University of Alabama at Birmingham professor of anthropology, has used satellite imagery and other remote sensing tools to expose a stunning array of forgotten sites from multiple lost cultures.


In Egypt, her specialty area, she and her team have expanded the civilization’s known scope, spotting more than 3,000 ancient settlements, more than a dozen pyramids and over a thousand lost tombs, and uncovered the city grid of Tanis, of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame. After the Arab Spring, in 2011, she created, via satellite, a first-of-its-kind countrywide looting map, documenting how plundered tombs first appeared as little black pimples on the landscape and then spread like a rash. She has pointed out the ruins of an amphitheater at the Roman harbor of Portus to archaeologists who had spent their whole careers digging above it, mapped the ancient Dacian capital of what is now Romania, and—using hyperspectral camera data—aided in the ongoing search for prehistoric hominid fossils in eroded Kenyan lake beds.


This year alone, her satellite images revealed, in desolate Newfoundland, what many believe to be the second-known Viking site in North America, as well as a mammoth ceremonial platform in Petra that millions of visitors to the famous Jordanian city, not a few of them professional excavators, completely missed. She is now busy satellite-mapping the whole of Peru for a crowd-sourcing project called GlobalXplorer, set to debut in early 2017, that may yield her most audacious set of revelations yet.



What Happens When You’re the Investment

So Masmej did something few 23-year-olds would think to do: He tokenized himself. That is, he created a financial instrument known as a social token, a form of cryptocurrency whose value revolves around a person, to sell shares in himself. Holders of $ALEX would receive 15 percent of Masmej’s income for the next three years, capped at $100,000 overall, and would be able to exchange tokens for special privileges: 10,000 $ALEX bought a retweet from Masmej on Twitter; 20,000 $ALEX, a one-on-one conversation with him; 30,000 $ALEX, an introduction to someone in his network. In five days, Masmej raised $20,092, enough to send him across the Atlantic to San Francisco to launch his start-up.


To be clear, the financialization of everything isn’t an unalloyed benefit. The phenomenon has a dark side. If everyone becomes an investor, the inverse is also true: Everything—and everyone—becomes a potential investment. As part of $ALEX, Alex Masmej designed a “Control My Life” component. Token-holders could vote on his life decisions—whether he should run three miles every day, stop eating red meat, wake up at 6 a.m. Token-holders had a financial stake in his success, so Masmej followed through on their commands. (To be fair, Masmej admits this was just “a fun experiment.”)


We’ll have to answer two key questions. First, at what point does human agency give way to financial obligation? And second, at what point does a relationship become a transaction?




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