Tech: Links for 8th October, 2019

  1. “What we are doing is creating selfies, documenting moments with family, and snapping photos of food and latte art. We aren’t even trying to build a scrapbook of those images. It is all a stream — less for remembrance than for real-time sharing. In other words, we have changed our relationship with photography and photographs. It used to be that, photos served as a portal to our past. Now, we are moving so fast as we try to keep up in the age of infinitesimal attention spans. A minute, might as well be a month ago.”
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    The excellent Om Malik on cameras, art, servers and obsolescence.
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  2. “Around the world, governments are setting timeframes by which all cars are to be electric. Norway is requiring all cars to be zero emission by 2025—and more than 50 percent of its cars today are electric. However, China is winning the race in terms of units, with more than 1 million EVs sold in 2018. The U.S was the second largest market, with 361,000; Norway had 73,000. China and the U.S. are at 4.44 percent and 2.09 percent market penetration, respectively, so there is lots of room for growth. China is stimulating growth with public policy: It aims to have 2 million in annual EV sales by 2020 and to outlaw the internal combustion engine sometime before 2040. France has also committed to a ban by 2040 and the UK by 2050. Governments are seeking to accelerate uptake through a potpourri of incentives, ranging from tax breaks to free parking to fees on conventional cars in low emission zones.”
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    A useful (to me, at any rate) overview of the EV market in the years (decades) to come.
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  3. “In a new book, Mr. Smith makes the case for a new relationship between the tech sector and government — closer cooperation and challenges for each side.“When your technology changes the world,” he writes, “you bear a responsibility to help address the world that you have helped create.” And governments, he writes, “need to move faster and start to catch up with the pace of technology.””
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    On Microsoft’s middle path. I come from a generation that simply could not have predicted this.
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  4. “A new priest named Mindar is holding forth at Kodaiji, a 400-year-old Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Like other clergy members, this priest can deliver sermons and move around to interface with worshippers. But Mindar comes with some … unusual traits. A body made of aluminum and silicone, for starters.Mindar is a robot.”
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    In a sense, unsurprising. But still: religion, rituals and… robots?
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  5. “Christine Figgener, a marine biology grad student aboard the boat, filmed with her phone as a colleague tried to yank some sort of tube from the turtle’s nose. At first, Figgener thought it might be a worm. Then she saw it was a piece of plastic. “Is that a freaking straw?” she exclaimed, outrage blooming in her voice. Indeed, it was. In time, the straw was plucked from the turtle’s nose and the sad, green fellow liberated. But Figgener—who’d been researching turtle behavior in pursuit of her Ph.D. and had seen marine life tormented by plastic junk countless times before—could not stop fuming as the boat returned to shore. It was, if you will, the last straw.”
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    On technology and… straws.

Etc: Links for 20th September, 2019

  1. Nepali chai.
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  2. Who owns the smiley face?
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  3. “The feeling that overwork can induce is much more than tiredness; it induces an anxiety that places the sufferer in a rather hellish place between shutting down and waking up. Full wakefulness isn’t possible because the nervous system and body are so overburdened. But neither is a state of rest because there is a feeling that the sufferer’s always behind herself. Always chasing the next task. Always feeling that they haven’t done enough, which in turn induces the tendency to cynicism and indifference often associated with the condition.”
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    On burnout.
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  4. Inside Samsung’s secretive lab.
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  5. Japanese folks aren’t too excited (yet) about the Olympics.

EC101: Links for 19th September, 2019

  1. Are we all Japan now?
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  2. A review of the Jalan comittee report.
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  3. Eric Maskin writes an appreciation of Kenneth Arrow’s ouevre.
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  4. A New Yorker profile of Stephanie Kelton.
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  5. Bookmarked as want to read.

Etc: Links for 6th September, 2019

  1. Livemint with a rather fascinating list of companies that were operating in India before 1947.
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  2. “I obeyed. I opened one door and then another, and a pure white light emerged from the tiny bathroom. I entered, and looked up. The ceiling was an improbable 25 feet above me with a glass ceiling. Sunlight flooded the room. The sink was black marble. And in the middle of the otherwise whitewashed space was a simple, beige toilet. It was the most ridiculously and gloriously presented toilet I had ever seen. Imperial. It was an imperial toilet.”
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    If reading that doesn’t make you want to click on this, I admire your self-control.
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  3. A useful list.
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  4. Savor this one, at leisure. And keep YouTube handy.
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  5. “As you grow older, observing your surroundings, you realise that real people argue, debate and discuss. There are certain homes where the dining table conversations may be intellectual or mundane or even mockery of an emotional crisis another family member is going through but the point is that everyone does have a sound and cultivated thinking, a mind with opinions which are freely expressed. Their education, the books they’ve read and the places they’ve been to defines them, forms their ideologies, firms their faith and gives them a standpoint on a particular topic. I grew up in one such household. There was a room for disagreement amongst its members, yet each person was valued, irrespective. Relations didn’t break in a jiffy. There was no melodrama.”
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    Juhi Chaturvedi pays tribute to Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Lovely read!

RoW: Links for 14th August, 2019

Five links about gun control from the United States of America:

  1. First, from Chriss Blattman, who knows a thing or two about violence.
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  2. Slatestarcodex, on trying to make sense of the data
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  3. and what the comments section from that blog has to say.
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  4. Gun control, the Japanese way.
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  5. To circle back to the beginning, a contemplative article from Vox.

ROW: Links for 12th June, 2019

  1. “Readers will by now be familiar with the list of industries impacted by the US China trade war. These include soyabeans, cars, steel, and semiconductors.But one commodity is increasingly important to how the tensions play out: students. The Chinese state media is now saying the government will issue a warning on the risk of studying in the US”
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    The FT reports on how Chinese students will now be discouraged from going to American Universities – in a sense, an expected move, but you would be surprised at just how dependent universities in America today are on foreign students. Interesting times.
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  2. “To summarize, based on the above I doubt that actual Chinese growth is more than 1% below the reported figures, at least up through 2018. Of course it’s possible that things have changed in 2019; if so I expect that to show up in upcoming airline travel data for China.”
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    Scott Sumner patiently reminds us that we should look at the data before making a claim, and having looked at the airline data, he rejects the notion that there is a dramatic slowdown in China. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle.
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  3. “Vietnam, like China really doesn’t import very many manufactures from the United States. That’s partially a function of the fact that the value added in Vietnam is often low, and thus Vietnam cannot afford a lot of top of the line U.S. capital goods (yet). But it is also a function of the fact that many of the global value chains that generate large (often offshore) profits for U.S. firms don’t give rise to that much U.S. production these days. There just isn’t much sign that the Asian value chains stretch back to include U.S. factories and workers. Fabless semiconductor firms that design chips likely export their designs to a low tax jurisdiction before they license their designs to an Asian contract manufacturer. The rise in Vietnam’s exports hasn’t been associated with a commensurate rise in exports from the United States to Vietnam.”
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    Brad Setser takes a look at whether Vietnam is the new China, and concludes that it kind of is, and kind of isn’t.
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  4. “It is not surprising that the CPC has worked so hard to extirpate the Tiananmen Square massacre from public memory. History – including the horrors of Mao Zedong’s rule – is too volatile a substance for the Chinese dictatorship. China’s leaders hold up their system of government as a model for other countries. But how can a regime be confident in the sustainability of its values and methods if it is afraid of its own past?”
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    Chris Patten (who knows a thing or two about this issue) reviews the Tiananmen square massacre, and ponders on what it means for China and Hong Kong today.
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  5. “Despite a small increase in young and female lawmakers—like Ms Suematsu, who is in her forties—local politics is still dominated by old men. “In these municipalities, candidates are so old they have a hard time putting up election posters,” says Shigeki Uno of the Nippon Institute for Research Advancement, another think-tank. Indeed, three-quarters of town and village assembly members are over 60. The oldest, aged 91, holds a seat on a city assembly in Shizuoka, in central Japan.Young people are loth to stand because local politics is not a financially rewarding profession. The law bans assembly members from holding other jobs concurrently. Their pay averages around ¥300,000 ($2,740) a month, hardly enough to support young families. “It’s basically a job for the retired,” sniffs Mr Uno. And for little pay, the workload is onerous.”
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    The Economist reports on Japan, and it’s ageing population – and what that means for democracy on the ground, at local elections.

Links for 29th April, 2019

  1. “It may seem silly to lament over music selections in an exercise class, but it’s an issue that fitness companies may increasingly face as they transform from traditional health companies into media publishers. Let’s face it: working out can be boring, and people are willing to pay top dollar to have someone yell at us while sweating to the latest Migos track. Combine that with the flexibility to exercise in your own home on your own time and it’s a revenue strategy that has helped brands like Equinox, Pure Barre, SoulCycle, and Physique 57 tap into a demographic that previously found the studios inaccessible. Even companies like ClassPass and Fitbit have also expanded beyond their initial product of a subscription service and fitness trackers, offering their own guided fitness sessions for $8 to $15 a month.”
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    I don’t know if you have heard of any of these services, but the legal angle of copyrights is worth reading about.
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  2. “Respect among Russians for Josef Stalin has surged to the highest level of President Vladimir Putin’s era, with 70 percent saying his rule had been good for the country, according to a poll tracking attitudes toward the Soviet dictator.”
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    With an excerpt like that, why would you not want to read more?
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  3. “Japan has certainly lost the late 1980s bubble-economy swagger that once terrified Western chief executive officers. Yet neither is the world’s third-biggest economy some sort of Mad Max economic dystopia. Japan remains a rich country, home to some of the best infrastructure and fastest bullet trains, leading auto and robotics industries, and one of the highest life expectancy rates. It’s a financial superpower—the largest creditor nation and provider of investment and savings, with net external assets of almost $3 trillion. Japan’s megabanks are the foremost lenders in Asia outside of China.At the moment, Japan looks like an island of stability among developed nations that are riven by polarized debates about unfettered capital flows, free trade, and open borders. Ordinary Japanese aren’t being torn asunder by American-scale income inequality and culture wars, grappling with a slow-motion train wreck like Brexit, or coping with French-style yellow vest worker protests on the streets of Tokyo.”
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    Is Japan growing? No. But so, this article asks, what? Also a good overview of all of what Japan has tried in the last thirty years or so, in terms of economics and society.
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  4. “Documents seen by the Financial Times and extensive interviews with more than a dozen senior figures in the <word removed by me> world show a co-ordinated global effort by the Russian state, through ambassadors and representatives of its banks and biggest companies, to win votes with promises of money and political pressure. 
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    Without cheating, can you guess what this article is about? Once you have made a guess, click through to find out what the article is about.
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  5. “Exxon’s arrangement in Texas reflects, in miniature, our national state of indecision about the best approach to climate change. Depending on whom you ask, climate change doesn’t exist, or is an engineering problem, or requires global mobilization, or could be solved by simply nudging the free market into action. Absent a coherent strategy, opportunists can step in and benefit in wily ways from the shifting landscape. Tax-supported renewables in Texas take coal plants offline, but they also support oil extraction. Technology advances, but not the system underneath. Faced with this volatile and chaotic situation, the system does what it does best: It searches out profits in the short term.”
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    Economics at play in terms of energy, policy, climate change, short term profits, incentives, horizons and so much more.