Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
🗺 World Affairs + Geopolitics
#1 Russia Faces Global Outrage Over Bodies In Ukraine’s Streets
Moscow faced global revulsion and accusations of war crimes Monday after the Russian pullout from the outskirts of Kyiv revealed streets, buildings and yards strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians, many of them evidently killed at close range.
The grisly images of battered or burned bodies left out in the open or hastily buried led to calls for tougher sanctions against the Kremlin, especially a cutoff of fuel imports from Russia. Germany and France reacted by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats, suggesting they were spies, and U.S. President Joe Biden said Russian leader Vladimir Putin should be tried for war crimes.
Though united in outrage, the European allies appeared split on how to respond. While Poland urged Europe to quickly wean itself off Russian energy, Germany said it would stick with a gradual approach of phasing out coal and oil imports over the next several months.Source: AP News
War is by definition brutal, but some of this brutality still seems unnecessary.
It is not surprising to see US and Europe outraged by what is being uncovered. However, all the actions taken to hurt Russia also have painful side effects. And getting everyone on the same page will get progressively harder as the costs rise with each additional action.
#2 US, EU to Hit Russian Investments With New Round of Sanctions
The U.S., European Union and Group of Seven are coordinating on a fresh round of sanctions on Russia, including a U.S. ban on investment in the country and an EU ban on coal imports, following the discovery of civilian murders and other atrocities in Ukrainian towns abandoned by retreating Russian forces.
The governments plan to increase penalties on Russian financial institutions and state-owned enterprises and will sanction unspecified Russian officials and their family members, said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.Source: Bloomberg
More sanctions coming. And more side effects.
#3 India To Face Significant Cost If Aligned With Russia: US
President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser said the administration has warned India against aligning itself with Russia, and that US officials have been “disappointed” with some of New Delhi’s reaction to the Ukraine invasion.
“There are certainly areas where we have been disappointed by both China and India’s decisions, in the context of the invasion,” the director of the White House National Economic Council, Brian Deese, told reporters at a breakfast Wednesday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
While the US, Europe, Australia and Japan have piled economic sanctions onto Russia in response to its war against Ukraine, India has declined and instead has sought to continue imports of Russian oil.
New Delhi’s reaction to the invasion is complicating its relationship with Washington, where India is regarded as an important partner in countering Chinese influence in Asia.Source: Hindustan Times
Although Western media paints a world united against Russia, it’s debatable. The US and EU are certainly united against Russia, but the rest of the world is a different story. Both China and India have had ambivalent responses towards the conflict in Ukraine. Together these countries represent about a quarter of the world’s population. And there is a long list of smaller countries that probably have too many other things to worry about than to be outraged by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
India is in an interesting position because the US is courting the country to counter China, but India has historically had ties with Russia.
#4 EU-China Summit
Well, most of you will agree that our relations with China are not where we would like them to be. Given China’s increasing assertiveness, both at home and abroad, it is clear that we do not share the same political values. To start with, we have a very different interpretation of human rights – and they recognize it. They told us: “We have our own Constitution and have our own interpretation of human rights”. And with respect to the war against Ukraine, China has an ambiguous position on this war, which requires to put plain facts on the table and to press China to do all within its power to be part of the solution to end the war. That was our primary goal, and the dialogue was everything but a dialogue. In any case, it was a dialogue of the deaf.
China wanted to set aside our difference on Ukraine – they did not want to talk about Ukraine. They did not want to talk about human rights, and other issues, and instead focus on the positive things. The European side made clear that this “compartmentalization” is not feasible, not acceptable. For us, the war in Ukraine is a defining moment for whether we live in a world governed by rules or by force. That is the question. We condemn the Russian aggression against Ukraine and support this country’s sovereignty and democracy – not because we “follow the US blindly”, as sometimes China suggests, but because it is our own position, our genuine position, we believe in that.Source: EU
Didn’t sound like that Summit went very well.
🤑 Economics + Markets
#5 By One Measure, Rates May Still Need to Rise 300 Basis Points, Fed’s Bullard Says
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said he favors raising interest rates sharply to counter the highest inflation in four decades, and suggested he backs a half-point hike in May along with shrinking the Fed’s bloated balance sheet.
“I would like the committee to get to 3-3.25% on the policy rate in the second half of this year,” Bullard told reporters Thursday after a speech at the University of Missouri. “We have to move forthrightly in order to get the policy rate to the right level to deal with the inflation we have got in front of us.”Source: Bloomberg
#6 Fed Bill Dudley: If Stocks Don’t Fall, the Fed Needs to Force Them
It’s hard to know how much the U.S. Federal Reserve will need to do to get inflation under control. But one thing is certain: To be effective, it’ll have to inflict more losses on stock and bond investors than it has so far.
In contrast to many other countries, the U.S. economy doesn’t respond directly to the level of short-term interest rates. Most home borrowers aren’t affected, because they have long-term, fixed-rate mortgages. And, again in contrast to many other countries, many U.S. households do hold a significant amount of their wealth in equities. As a result, they’re sensitive to financial conditions: Equity prices influence how wealthy they feel, and how willing they are to spend rather than save.
Investors should pay closer attention to what Powell has said: Financial conditions need to tighten. If this doesn’t happen on its own (which seems unlikely), the Fed will have to shock markets to achieve the desired response. This would mean hiking the federal funds rate considerably higher than currently anticipated. One way or another, to get inflation under control, the Fed will need to push bond yields higher and stock prices lower.Source: Bloomberg
#7 Containers Pile Up at China Ports as Lockdown Blocks Trucks
Containers full of frozen food and chemicals are piling up at China’s biggest port in Shanghai as a Covid lockdown in the city and compulsory virus testing means truckers can’t get to the docks to pick up boxes.
A shortage of trucks to haul containers from the port is impeding the clearance of imports, Ocean Network Express said in a customer advisory Wednesday. While the port is operating normally, there are a “critically high” number of refrigerated containers and items classified as dangerous goods piled up at two storage yards, meaning some ships carrying those types of cargo may not be able to unload any more boxes at the port, it said.Source: Bloomberg
Supply chains likely to remain stressed for a while.
#8 SoftBank Liquidates Most Of Portfolio At ‘Nasdaq Whale’ Trading Unit
SoftBank has liquidated almost all of the positions in its abortive internal hedge fund SB Northstar after racking up between $6bn and $7bn in losses in the unit behind the notorious “Nasdaq whale” trades.
Regulatory filings show that SB Management — Northstar’s investment manager — held a little over $1bn in US-listed stocks at the end of 2021, down from more than $17bn one year earlier. The bulk of its remaining positions were in special purpose acquisition companies, including vehicles sponsored by its own Vision Fund, SoftBank shareholder Elliott Management and Vision Fund investor Mubadala.Source: FT
It’s clear a number of very large whales took excessive risk that is now being unwound. Without much visibility into the structure and size of these portfolios, it will be hard to know how big the problem is (and how much more it needs to go). It’s also interesting that the last major market meltdown (other than Covid) was partially catalyzed by Softbank’s issues with WeWork a few years ago.
Here’s another excellent discussion at Doomberg highlighting the latent risk that might be hiding in private / start-up portfolios.
#9 Zoltan Pozsar Sees a World Of Problems That Money Can’t Solve
If you think back to the European debt crisis from a decade ago, there was a pretty simple solution to the crunch in the end: Money.
Today Europe finds itself in an almost mirror-image predicament. This time the focus is less on the periphery, and more on Germany’s huge Russian gas bill. And the crucial difference is that no amount of money can easily solve the problem. There’s no way to restructure the country’s energy portfolio overnight. It’s a huge engineering challenge. There’s no monetary solution to a problem that’s fundamentally molecular.Source: Bloomberg
The whole article is worth reading. Interesting framework around how the world’s monetary regime may change post-Ukraine.
👻 Cryptocurrencies + NFTs
#10 Metaverse Majors Struggle as User Base Falls Short of Market Expectations
The metaverse, despite all the interest from venture capital and the world’s major brands, is struggling to attract users, and token prices have begun to reflect this. Tokens for the three major metaverse protocols, Decentraland’s MANA, Axie Infinity’s AXS and The Sandbox’s SAND are all down year to date, and significantly underperforming bitcoin (BTC).
“There is currently no organic engagement that retains players in the game – unlike traditional games like Fortnite, GTA, Candy Crush – where players are willing to pay to keep playing,” Web 3 analyst DeFi Vader wrote in an August note about Axie Infinity. “If one or a few of those games create organic engagement, then DAU growth may stop being mostly dependent on daily earnings.”
In the past 30 days, the number of Axie Infinity‘s average daily users has dropped 30% from the previous period to about 107,240, The Sandbox‘s has fallen 29% to 1,180 and Decentraland has lost 15% to 978 users a day on average, according to DappRadar data.Source: Coindesk
Can’t say I’m too surprised by the decline in engagement around crypto games. These games are crypto first, and fun second. Most of them aren’t that fun to play. The key attraction has been the earning potential. But making money doing something not that fun just sounds like a job (the very thing most people want to escape!).
I think crypto games remain a fascinating area of potential development, but it needs to be fun first and crypto second.
#11 The Hottest NFT Marketplace is Mostly Users Selling to Themselves
A closer look at the LooksRare platform that has quickly become the leading NFT marketplace by trading volume shows that most of the activity is actually users selling tokens to themselves to help earn rewards in the form of more coins.
About $18 billion of the trading volume on the platform, or about 95% of the total activity, can be attributed to what’s often referred to as wash sales, according to data compiled by NFT tracker CryptoSlam. The transactions are seen as one of the many gray areas in crypto when it comes to regulation. In this case, the sales are done to win new tokens rather than to pump up nonfungible token prices to lure unsuspecting buyers. The marketplace benefits from the fees generated by each transaction.Source: Bloomberg
Seems like NFT demand has really cooled off.
#12 A 30-Year-Old Crypto Billionaire Wants to Give His Fortune Away
The Economic Club of New York has hosted kings, prime ministers, and presidents, as well as Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon. Central bankers’ comments at the 115-year-old organization have moved markets. Sam Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire, is probably the first person to play a computer game while giving a talk.
Given the insane speed and riskiness of his climb to the top echelons of the financial world, almost anything else must seem low stakes by comparison. Five years ago, Bankman-Fried was working for a charitable organization that promoted the then-fringe idea of “effective altruism”: using scientific reasoning to figure out how to do the most good for the most people. Then he spotted a seemingly too-good-to-be-true pricing anomaly in Bitcoin and decided that, for him, the right path would be making tons of money to give away. Now, Bankman-Fried is one of the richest people in the world, with a fortune of more than $20 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, after venture capitalists recently invested in FTX and its U.S. arm at a combined $40 billion valuation.Source: Bloomberg
Fascinating profile of one of the more (most?) important people in (possibly?) the future of finance.
#13 The Metaverse Finally Has a Killer App: Poker
As it turns out, though, the place people most frequently visit in Decentraland is the casino. Inside, hundreds of people dressed in streetwear and sunglasses sit around (or hover above) poker tables, all rendered in graphics that would have looked cutting-edge two decades ago on the PlayStation 2. Every few seconds, the cha-ching of a cash register and a burst of hand-clap emojis signal someone has won. To play, guests must buy (or borrow) a piece of virtual swag sold by the casino—a hat, sunglasses, shirt, cigar—that can later be sold for cryptocurrency. The poker chips can be used to upgrade the items and boost their value. The four poker rooms in Decentraland frequently host about half of the people in its metaverse at any given time.Source: Bloomberg
Fascinating. Turns out the killer app for crypto might be a casino.
That actually makes sense in a very ironic way.
#14 The History of Energy Transitions
Source: Visual Capitalist
I love this infographic. The accompanying article in the link above also has a concise history to go along with it.
It’s clear that energy transitions are about reducing the growth of legacy energy sources rather than an outright reduction in legacy energy usage. Even while the world shifted to oil and natural gas, demand for coal and traditional biomass never really declined.
This table shows it more clearly:
While the mix changes, the absolute demand for older energy sources remains. That seems like an important consideration to keep in mind, especially as the world tries to shift away from oil and natural gas. Maybe it is more realistic to shift growth of energy towards renewable sources rather than an outright replacement of existing oil and natural gas usage (?).
#15 Elon Musk Says Tesla May Have To Get Into The Lithium Business Because Costs Are So ‘Insane’
Elon Musk tweeted Tesla may get into the lithium mining and refining business directly and at scale because the cost of the metal, a key component in manufacturing batteries, has gotten so high.
Lithium is valuable in electric vehicle batteries because it is both the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. That means that batteries made with lithium have a high power-to-weight ratio, which is important when dealing with transportation.Source: CNBC
Pretty informative video about global Lithium production, including the history of Lithium production in the US.
Note that Lithium production is currently concentrated in just 3 countries – Chile, China, and Australia. This is even more concentrated than global oil and gas production.
And unless we change the source of electricity generation (e.g. from natural gas to perhaps nuclear), we are still dependent on the oil and gas market. Electrifying cars alone does not improve the situation. It simply shifts the burning of hydrocarbons from the engine in your car to your local power plant. Without changing the source of energy, electrifying cars would make the situation worse because you introduce an even less resilient supply chain in the form of batteries that are necessary to store the electricity for your car.
We need to both electrify as well as change the source of energy used to produce electricity.
#16 Battery Management Getting Competitive For EVs
Battery capacity has been increasing at a rate of about 5% to 6% a year. Denser storage and/or more batteries would allow vehicles to drive longer and accelerate faster, but the availability of materials needed to make these batteries is constrained by geopolitics and environmental concerns, so numerous alternatives are being considered.
The more frequently batteries are charged, the shorter the lifespan of those batteries, too. This generally shows up in a reduction in maximum range over time, similar to what happens in a cell phone when the battery degrades over time. But replacing the batteries in a vehicle — and that needs to happen all at once in order to retain balance across a battery module and between modules — is much more expensive than buying a new phone. This, in turn, is forcing automakers to think much more like chipmakers, where the power budget is fixed and new electronics need to fit within that budget.
Battery management is a lot harder than it sounds. Today, it involves heating, cooling, and determining the optimum percentage of charge to prolong the life of the batteries. But that’s just the beginning. In the future, battery architectures are expected to become much more sophisticated, possibly involving dedicated batteries for different tasks and new materials. There also are expected to be workarounds for bad cells, almost the way ECC memory does with DRAM, maintaining maximum range over longer periods of time.Source: Semiconductor Engineering
Everything is being eaten by software (and AI).
💬 Media + Games
#17 How Epic Games Is Changing Gaming—And Maybe The Metaverse
Now, Epic has released the fifth major iteration of the graphics engine, Unreal Engine 5, which packages up a batch of new and upgraded features that let game developers and other creators design more realistic 3D objects, surfaces and people, and create more natural lighting and spatial audio effects. Experiences built on the tool won’t totally simulate reality, but they may cause you to forget you’re inside a sim for longer than a few seconds.
In other words, The Matrix appeared as a perfect simulation of the real world–except occasionally people would jump 50 feet straight up in the air. Watching The Matrix, you imagine some Machine-controlled supercomputer somewhere constantly creating a perfect simulation in real time. What if a software tool existed that was capable of simulating worlds as convincingly as the system that created The Matrix?
“So, no longer do I have to wait; now I can actually treat my physical space no differently than I treat my virtual space, and a creator doesn’t need to separate themselves from those two halves,” Perkins says.Source: Fast Company
Great interview with the founder of Epic. Goes through the history of the company and touches on where the company may be going next.
#18 ‘Out Of The Innovation Bucket’: Tiktok’s Share Of Dollars Grows The Further It Goes Down The Marketing Funnel
Spending on the app continues to grow at a clip. It now accounts for between 10 to 20% of ad agency Mekanism’s ad spending on social media. Even those marketers who aren’t as confident in TikTok plan on doing more there eventually. The app’s share of Tinuiti’s social ad budgets is still in the single digits, for example, but spending on it grew 160% for the year to March 2022.
And it’s not hard to see why and especially the way TikTok frames it: the app drives nine times more engagement than Facebook, per data the company shares with marketers. Moreover, advertisers on TikTok average 21 times more reach than Facebook or Instagram. Oh, and the engagement rate per follower on TikTok averages 8% per follower versus 0.09% on Facebook and 1.6% on instagram.Source: Digiday
Those engagement differentials are insane.
#19 Facebook Owner Meta Targets Finance With ‘Zuck Bucks’ And Creator Coins
Meta has drawn up plans to introduce virtual coins, tokens and lending services to its apps, as Facebook’s parent company pursues its finance ambitions despite the collapse of a project to launch a cryptocurrency.
This is unlikely to be a cryptocurrency based on the blockchain, some of the people said. Instead, Meta is leaning towards introducing in-app tokens that would be centrally controlled by the company, similar to those used in gaming apps such as the robux currency in popular children’s game Roblox.
According to company memos and people close to the plans, Meta is also looking into the creation of “social tokens” or “reputation tokens”, which could be issued as rewards for meaningful contributions in Facebook groups, for example. Another effort is to make “creator coins” that might be associated with particular influencers on its photo-sharing app Instagram.
Meta has also been exploring more traditional financial services, with a focus on helping to provide small business loans at attractive rates, according to several people familiar with the initiative. While nothing is immediately planned, the company has previously held discussions with potential lending partners, one of the people said.Source: FT
#20 Fast Shuts Doors After Slow Growth, High Burn Precluded Fundraising Options
Fast, a startup that provided online checkout products, announced this afternoon that it will shut down. The company’s future has been in doubt for days now, after reporting indicated that its 2021 revenue growth was modest, its cash burn high and its fundraising options limited.
Fast posted a paltry six-figure revenue total in 2021, despite raising a $102 million Series B led by Stripe. The company’s burn rate was said to be as high as $10 million per month, or a simply massive multiple of its revenue, let alone gross profit.Source: TechCrunch
Did not expect this! There was a lot of hype around Fast (not least because it is backed by Stripe). Pretty surprised to see it collapse so suddenly, especially since it was still signing deals a few days ago.
#21 Banks Weigh Using Zelle to Challenge Visa, Mastercard
Banks are debating a plan to bring Zelle to the checkout at big retailers.
Banks collectively earn billions of dollars each year from fees merchants pay when shoppers use credit and debit cards. A payment option that moves funds directly between shoppers’ and merchants’ bank accounts could chip away at that. But Visa and Mastercard set the fees and take some for themselves, and sidestepping the card networks would allow banks to set rules and fees on their own. Zelle’s newfound popularity has some bank executives asking if the service could be the way to do that.
Some banks are reaching out to merchants to gauge interest in a pilot that would allow them to accept Zelle for online payments as soon as this year, the people said. How it would work, what to charge the merchants for the service and what incentives to offer consumers are all being debated, the people said.Source: WSJ
Visa and Mastercard were created by the banks and spun out. Now Visa and Mastercard are more valuable than any of the banks that created them.
Is it too late for Zelle to compete, or can the banks repeat their success the same way they did with Visa and Mastercard? Only this time I’m sure the banks will make sure they don’t make the mistake of spinning it out.
#22 Shein’s $100 Billion Value Would Top H&M and Zara Combined
Shein, an online-only retailer of inexpensive clothes, beauty and lifestyle products that pumps out over 6,000 new items daily, is in talks with potential investors including General Atlantic for a funding round that could value the company at about $100 billion, Bloomberg News reported Sunday.
Should Shein succeed with the round, it would make the decade-old brand about twice as valuable as Tokyo-based Fast Retailing Co. — the owner of Uniqlo — which last year had more than 2,300 outlets in 25 countries and regions. It would also make Shein the world’s most-valuable startup after ByteDance Ltd. and SpaceX, according to data provider CB Insights.
Since its launch in 2012, Shein has developed an extensive network of low-cost suppliers in southern China. During the pandemic, it worked with celebrities like Lil Nas X and Katy Perry to boost its profile among Gen Z shoppers outside China.Source: Bloomberg
What a meteoric rise for a retail fashion company.
#23 Move Over, Photoshop: OpenAI Just Revolutionized Digital Image Making
OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence company that is closely affiliated with Microsoft, just announced it has created an A.I. system that can take a description of an object or scene and automatically generate a highly realistic image depicting it. The system also allows a person to easily edit the image with simple tools and text modifications, rather than requiring traditional Photoshop or digital art skills.
While these realistic renderings have been possible with computer-rendered images previously, creating them required some serious artistic skill. Here, all a user has to do is type the command, “a shiba inu wearing a beret and a black turtleneck,” and then DALL-E 2 spits out dozens of photorealistic variations on that theme.Source: Fortune
Technology is amazing. Soon we’ll be able to unlock the infinite creativity of the human mind.
Back in Tidbits #64, we highlighted a very similar tool from Nvidia (Nvidia Canvas). OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 seems to be able to tackle more creative asks, but Nvidia Canvas appears much more photorealistic.
Here’s another incredible AI + art demonstration:
#24 ‘Mind-Blowing’: Ai-Da Becomes First Robot To Paint Like An Artist
In a small room at London’s British Library, Ai-Da – assigned the she/her pronoun – has become the first robot to paint as artists have painted for centuries.
Camera eyes fixed on her subject, AI algorithms prompt Ai-Da to interrogate, select, decision-make and, ultimately, create a painting. It’s painstaking work, taking more than five hours a painting, but with no two works exactly the same.
But, can what she creates be truly considered art? “The answer to that question depends on what you mean by art,” she said, adding: “I am an artist if art means communicating something about who we are and whether we like where we are going. To be an artist is to illustrate the world around you.”Source: The Guardian
It paints (physically!) and it talks!
🍪 Semiconductors + Chips
#25 AMD Expands Data Center Solutions Capabilities with Acquisition of Pensando
AMD (NASDAQ: AMD) today announced a definitive agreement to acquire Pensando for approximately $1.9 billion before working capital and other adjustments. Pensando’s distributed services platform includes a high-performance, fully programmable packet processor and comprehensive software stack that accelerate networking, security, storage and other services for cloud, enterprise and edge applications.
Pensando’s high-performance, highly scalable distributed services platform includes a programmable packet processor that can be distributed throughout a network to efficiently accelerate multiple infrastructure services simultaneously, offloading workloads from the CPU and increasing overall system performance. Combined with Pensando’s system software stack, the platform offers unprecedented performance, scale, flexibility and security. In real-world cloud deployments, Pensando’s solution demonstrates between 8x and 13x greater performance compared to competitive solutions.Source: AMD
With this acquisition, AMD completes the portfolio with an offering in the DPU space. Now AMD is able to offer CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, and DPUs. AMD is not the leader in any of these categories, but it’s certainly regained the upper hand in CPUs with the help of TSMC. Nvidia leads in GPUs and DPUs but lacks exposure to CPUs (though will change very soon with the launch of Grace CPUs) and FPGAs.
🚘🌽 “Nuts and Bolts” Tech
#26 Uber Looks To Create Travel ‘Superapp’ By Adding Planes, Trains And Rental Cars
The San Francisco-headquartered firm announced Wednesday that it is adding trains, buses, planes and car rentals to its U.K. app this year. The move is part of a pilot that could be expanded to other countries at a later date if it goes well.
While Uber won’t provide these travel services itself, it will allow users to book them through its app following software integrations with platforms that sell tickets.
The tech giant, which may take a cut on each booking, said it plans to announce various partners in the coming months.Source: CNBC
The CEO of Uber, Dara, used to be the CEO of Expedia. Will be interesting to see how far Uber wants to push on plane tickets and hotels given Dara’s experience in that area.
💉🔬 Health + Science
#27 Will AI Turbocharge The Hunt For New Drugs?
During the pandemic, AI was primarily used as a tool to save scientists’ time, accelerating this notoriously slow discovery process, while often using drugs and vaccines designed for similar viruses such as Mers as a starting point.
But advocates of AI believe its wider use during the crisis is just the start of a revolution in drug discovery that will harness growth in biological and chemical data, computing power and smarter algorithms that could reduce soaring healthcare bills and create treatments for conditions where we have none.
They argue AI proved itself in the crisis. AbCellera sorted through 6mn cells in three days to find an antibody that could be mass produced — in this case by Eli Lilly — as a drug called bamlanivimab that has helped more than 1mn Covid patients. A supercomputer helped in Pfizer’s quest for an antiviral that could be taken orally.Source: FT
An interesting article discussing the opportunities and challenges of using AI for drug discovery and optimization. AI adoption accelerated during Covid, with interesting results.
However, the article also highlights the dangers of discovering unknown compounds at a rapid pace:
Let loose on the world of biology, AI could also be dangerous. Researchers recently showed how their algorithm discovered 40,000 toxic chemical compounds, many of which could be used as biological weapons, in less than six hours.Source: FT
#28 Moderna Covid Shots Turned Down by Buyers on Delivery Woes
The African Union and Covax, the World Health Organization-backed group, decided not to obtain more of the vaccine as developing nations struggle to turn supplies into inoculations. Lower-income countries left behind in the global rollout are now grappling with a lack of funds, hesitancy, supply-chain obstacles and other factors that are hampering distribution.
The groups decided not to secure the doses despite Africa’s low immunization rate. Only 15% of the continent’s population is fully vaccinated, compared with a global average of 57%, the WHO said last month. About 400 million of the more than 700 million doses Africa has received have been administered.Source: Bloomberg
A reminder that despite the incredible technological success of mRNA technology, much of the world will have problems adopting / benefiting from this technology because distribution and infrastructure are absent in many countries.
This is also why Covid is likely to be an endemic disease. There is simply no way to vaccinate the entire world within a short period of time with mRNA vaccines before the virus mutates.
#29 The Last Great Mystery Of The Mind: Meet The People Who Have Unusual – Or Non-Existent – Inner Voices
Claudia*, a sailor from Lichfield in her late 30s, is not Italian. She has never been to Italy. She has no Italian family or friends. And she has no idea why a belligerent Italian couple have taken over her inner voice, duking it out in Claudia’s brain while she sits back and listens.
“I have no idea where this has come from,” says Claudia, apologetically. “It’s probably offensive to Italians.” The couple are like the family in the Dolmio pasta sauce adverts: flamboyant, portly, prone to waving their hands and shouting. If Claudia has a big decision to make in her life, the Italians take over.
Most of us have an inner voice: that constant presence that tells you to “Watch out” or “Buy shampoo” or “Urgh, this guy’s a creep”. For many of us, this voice sounds much like our own, or at least how we think we sound. But for some people, their inner voice isn’t a straightforward monologue that reproaches, counsels and reminds. Their inner voice is a squabbling Italian couple, say, or a calm-faced interviewer with their hands folded on their lap. Or it’s a taste, feeling, sensation or colour. In some cases, there isn’t a voice at all, just silence.Source: The Guardian
No real takeaways here but infinite wonder for nature’s mysteries.