Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
Everything is Becoming a “Restaurant”
Back in 2020, many people noticed that most digital businesses were becoming fintechs. This observation was so common it became a meme:
And for good reason!
Commerce is a central part of all of our lives whether directly or indirectly. And at the heart of commerce is payments and financial services, especially banking and credit. The observation that every digital business is becoming fintech is really an observation that the heart of every business is Commerce.
In the offline world, the financial infrastructure that enables commerce like banks and card networks are kept separate from the businesses that run on top of it like Apple and Walmart. But as our world becomes more digital, the boundaries that keep this commerce-enablement infrastructure separated from the commerce itself is starting to fall away.
In fact, if we take it to its logical end, everything that is necessary for enabling commerce (not just financial services but also distribution, marketing, etc) can become a part of the commercial businesses running on top of it.
This was my primary argument in “Everything is Everything“: Not only will digital businesses vertically integrate and become fintechs, digital businesses may consider becoming everything, everywhere all at once (fintech, identity, communications, entertainment / world-builders, and, of course, commerce). If all of these things are necessary to create a digital world where you aspire to exist and purchase things that most closely align with your perceived identity, why leave any of the important functions up to someone else? At a minimum, all digital businesses, even when it relies on third parties for things like payments or identity, should consider integrating everything down to the API level so that the experience presented to the customer remains controlled and seamless.
I’d like to think that argument remains more true today than ever.
But the “Everything is Everything” future probably requires living in an Era of Abundance.
And we most definitely are not living in an Era of Abundance…instead we live in a Chaotic Era, an Era of Change.
One of the manifestations of this era is unpredictability and volatility.
Which is why I’d like to propose a new view of the future of business: All businesses are becoming “restaurants”.
Restaurants are notoriously bad businesses. Most people are aware that restaurants / food service is very competitive (you probably do not go to the same restaurant more than once or twice a week and likely frequent multiple vendors) with very challenging economics.
One of the key reasons why the economics are challenging is because of the volatility of the demand. Not only is customer demand hard to predict from day-to-day and week-to-week, demand is extremely volatile on any given day. What makes restaurant businesses terrible is that you have extreme peaks of demand within very narrow hours of the day (usually lunch and dinner) and almost no business outside of those hours. If you happen to have service issues during the peak hours, you permanently lose that business and cannot make it back. If you cannot serve a customer at 12pm, good luck trying to get that customer back at 3pm.
And this volatility in demand means that the space dedicated to restaurants is not very productive compared to other potential uses of that space. A restaurant needs to pay rents competitive with other uses of that space (perhaps a gift shop or a more stable food-service-type business like Starbucks that have innovated menus that encourage consumption at all hours of the day) but is usually unable to generate consistent demand unlike other businesses. You must pay rents competitive with other businesses but cannot generate demand competitive with other businesses. A gift shop can sell things at 4pm…a restaurant probably cannot.
Much of modern business and commerce is really about the smoothing of supply and demand. This includes global shipping and global supply chains. In fact, the industrial and energy revolution over the last few centuries is nothing more than a story of smoothing supply and demand! Electricity and lights meant human workers can work more consistently throughout a day, even when the sun is down. This allows society to go from highly concentrated productivity during day hours and then no production in the evening, to more consistent production throughout the day (like how many people are now expected to answer work emails in the evenings). The same can be said of machines that can work more consistently than human hands can.
The modern era has been a consistent story of ever smoother production and demand.
But this is all falling apart.
I remain amazed at how many people assume there is a “normal” world we can return to post-Covid and disruption of supply chains (especially when we throw in the loss of trust between US and China). We can will our minds into returning to “normal”, but every business is now contending with immense unpredictability and volatility that is threatening to turn all of them into permanent “restaurants”. And many businesses will not survive that kind of pressure.
What does this mean?
It means people need to be prepared and alert to a rapidly changing world where the things that people took for granted pre-pandemic may never exist again (article #12 below is a good example).
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite the challenges of the food-service industry, some of the world’s best businesses with fantastic economics come from that space. For example, Starbucks and McDonald’s have unit economics that rival many tech businesses (and trounce the loss-making ones). And these unit economics are achieved through business model innovations and creative ways of smoothing supply and demand.
In a volatile and unpredictable world, the businesses that are able to make the world just a little more predictable and less volatile will undoubtedly have a bright future ahead. In a world full of “restaurants”, the businesses that can become Starbucks or non-“restaurants” will eventually rule the world.
🗺 World Affairs + Geopolitics
#1 – China Heightens Warning To U.S. Over Possible House Speaker Pelosi Visit To Taiwan
China has issued stark private warnings to the Biden administration about a possible trip to Taiwan in August by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.
The report cited six people familiar with the Chinese warnings as saying they were significantly stronger than the threats that Beijing has made in the past when it was unhappy with U.S. actions or policy on Taiwan, which is claimed by China.
The private rhetoric suggested a possible military response, the Financial Times cited several people familiar with the situation as saying.Source: Reuters
Pelosi is planning on making a trip to Taiwan in August. Seems like China is potentially threatening military action over the trip. Biden has already publicly suggested it might not be a good idea, but the way the US system works prevents the President from directly controlling the affairs of Congress.
And it’s obvious that direct military confrontation between US and China does not lead anywhere good…
#2 – China Just Put Foreign Banks On Notice: Creating An Internal Communist Party Committee Could Be The Cost Of Doing Business
London-headquartered HSBC has become the first international bank to establish a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) committee, according to a new Financial Times report. China’s companies law requires firms to set up CCP committees, but this rule has been loosely enforced among global financial institutions—until now.
HSBC’s move could pave the path for other global lenders to follow suit, and underscores the delicate line that China-based foreign banks are now toeing between Beijing and the West.
In China, company employees can initiate CCP committees, which are typically made up of three or more staff. The committees have two functions: to act as a workers’ union, and to facilitate installing a party representative to a company’s top ranks.
HSBC is on the “right side” in setting up the CCP committee, a person with knowledge of its decision told the FT. “You don’t second-guess the authorities in China. Any American bank who isn’t doing the same is playing a dangerous game.”Source: Fortune
#3 – John Bolton Says He’s Been Involved In Planning Coups: ‘It Takes A Lot Of Work’
Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton said during an appearance on CNN that he has helped plan coups in other countries while arguing that former President Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack did not amount to a coup attempt.
Tapper later pressed Bolton to clarify what he was referencing in his comment about having planned coups. Bolton cited a failed 2019 Venezuelan coup attempt against President Nicolás Maduro, though he added that the U.S. government did not have “much to do with” it.Source: The Hill
Although the comments about planning foreign coups were offered in defense of Trump’s actions to incite the Jan. 6 insurrection two years ago, still seems very strange to hear it coming out of an official’s mouth.
I’m also very curious to know how other countries react to these comments. Some countries are already concerned about the US inciting coups, and these words actively confirm those fears.
🛡 Defense and Cybersecurity
#4 – Alibaba Executives Called In by China Authorities as It Investigates Historic Data Heist
Executives from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’sBABA -1.27%▼ cloud division have been called in for talks by Shanghai authorities in connection with the theft of a vast police database, according to people familiar with the matter, adding urgency to an internal investigation by the Chinese tech giant into how one of history’s largest data heists was allowed to happen.
The breach has highlighted the volumes of data Chinese authorities are collecting through the country’s nationwide digital surveillance system, as well as the difficulty the government faces in keeping that data secure.
LeakIX and SecurityDiscovery both said they found 13 other Alibaba-hosted databases that used the same outdated version of the database and dashboard products, and that had been set up identically with the database on a private server and the dashboard on the public internet. All 13 also shared the same certificate that then expired, which bucks best practices for security, Mr. Boddin said.
Nearly all had been left open upward of a year, according to LeakIX’s records. Two contained even more data than the 23 terabytes stolen from the Shanghai police: One had over 60 terabytes, while the other had over 92 terabytes.Source: WSJ
Over the past year, China’s internet industry has already faced elevated cybersecurity scrutiny. This episode could lengthen the scrutiny.
I’m curious what these other 13 unprotected databases hold and whether they were also hacked…especially since two of them hold even more data than the Shanghai police database. Must be either very high frequency, recurring data or an even longer dataset of some sort.
On a slightly different topic, this new book on the history of WeChat looks really interesting. Lots of fascinating details into how much data WeChat has and how that data (and power) has brought Tencent dangerously close to the sun:
WeChat appears to be a source of alternating comfort and concern for Xi. Its ubiquity makes it a powerful tool of surveillance and control. It has also been misused by a member of his own political party to spy on colleagues, people familiar with the incident say, and has offered a venue for citizens to express collective outrage, as they did this spring when the country’s Covid-19 response faltered. Ma faced a choice: remodel his business, and himself, in the image of Xi’s new China or risk losing everything.Source: Influence Empire / Bloomberg
#5 – FBI Investigation Determined Chinese-Made Huawei Equipment Could Disrupt US Nuclear Arsenal Communications
On paper, it looked like a fantastic deal. In 2017, the Chinese government was offering to spend $100 million to build an ornate Chinese garden at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. Complete with temples, pavilions and a 70-foot white pagoda, the project thrilled local officials, who hoped it would attract thousands of tourists every year.
But when US counterintelligence officials began digging into the details, they found numerous red flags. The pagoda, they noted, would have been strategically placed on one of the highest points in Washington DC, just two miles from the US Capitol, a perfect spot for signals intelligence collection, multiple sources familiar with the episode told CNN.
Also alarming was that Chinese officials wanted to build the pagoda with materials shipped to the US in diplomatic pouches, which US Customs officials are barred from examining, the sources said.
Among the most alarming things the FBI uncovered pertains to Chinese-made Huawei equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.Source: CNN
The most valuable commodity in the world is not gold…it is trust. And there is a shortage of this key commodity around the world, particularly between US and China.
Modern digital infrastructure puts everything at risk. Without trust (and the ability to verify), a digital world probably means a clean break is coming between two countries the longer this goes on.
#6 – Data-Hosting In China Hampers U.S. Law Enforcement
U.S. companies are hosting customer data more often on servers in China, complicating U.S. authorities’ ability to get information for criminal investigations, a senior federal prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Pokorny said the problem stems from Beijing’s efforts to get companies to store Chinese customers’ data in China, rather than the United States and Europe.
That could result in U.S. residents ending up with data stored in China, she said.
Beijing can also use its control over electronic data to target dissidents living abroad, Pokorny said.
U.S. prosecutors have accused several individuals of intimidating U.S.-based critics of China on behalf of the government in Beijing.Source: Reuters
Data is one manifestation of the coming digital break. The Internet is a parallel world that spans borders.
This specific article raises another interesting question: If you are Chinese by nationality but a resident of the US, should your data belong in the US (where the US may need the data for enforcement purposes, especially since the person is residing in the US) or does the data belong in China because China thinks data of all Chinese around the world belong in China?
#7 – Biden Administration Pushes To Close The Growing Cybersecurity Workforce Gap
The Biden administration is pushing to fill hundreds of thousands of cybersecurity jobs in the United States as part of a bid to close a talent shortage US officials describe as both a national security challenge and an economic opportunity.
On Tuesday, the administration announced a multi-agency plan to create hundreds of registered apprenticeship programs with the private sector to flesh out the nation’s cybersecurity workforce — and defend against a rising tide of data breaches, ransomware attacks and other hacking incidents.
The US government commitment highlights what officials describe as a critical lack of cybersecurity professionals in both government and the private sector who can help protect the nation from foreign adversaries and cybercriminals. Months ago, there were an estimated 500,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions in the United States, Raimondo said, but today that figure has exploded to more than 700,000, a 40% increase.Source: CNN
It is becoming increasingly clear that cyberspace is an emerging battlefield. Countries have standing armies, navies, and air forces. But there is no single country that has enough cybersecurity personnel to deal with where the future is taking us.
🤑 Economics + Markets
#8 – US Inflation Quickens to 9.1%, Amping Up Fed Pressure to Go Big
The consumer price index rose 9.1% from a year earlier in a broad-based advance, the largest gain since the end of 1981, Labor Department data showed Wednesday. The widely followed inflation gauge increased 1.3% from a month earlier, the most since 2005, reflecting higher gasoline, shelter and food costs.
The so-called core CPI, which strips out the more volatile food and energy components, advanced 0.7% from the prior month and 5.9% from a year ago, above forecasts.
Fed policy makers have already signaled a second 75 basis-point hike in interest rates later this month amid persistent inflation as well as still-robust job and wage growth. Even before the data were released, traders had already fully priced in such a move. Now, they also see around a one-in-three chance that it could be a full percentage point.Source: Yahoo / Bloomberg
The situation would be easier to deal with if we are able to resolve our supply problems. The supply of goods has started to improve, but severe shortages in the supply of services (including labor), housing, and energy remains. And all the Fed can do is continue to raise the cost of money until we are discouraged from spending.
#9 – Is China Stumbling Into Its Own Mortgage Crisis?
It is spreading like wildfire. Homebuyers in China are refusing to pay the mortgage on properties they’ve bought but that their financially strapped developers can’t finish. Some say that they will only resume payments when construction restarts.
Granted, developers’ debt woes were met with protests in the past, from suppliers, employees, all the way to hapless retail investors who had bought their wealth-management offerings. But this new development is something entirely different. It opens a Pandora’s box and poses direct threat to the stability of Chinese banks. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development met with financial regulators and major banks this week to discuss the mortgage boycotts, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.Source: Bloomberg
#10 – Japan’s Banks Suddenly Hold Huge Leverage Over China’s Economy
Here the vital but little understood function of Japan’s megabanks in financing Asia’s economy will be a critical factor in ensuring that dollars continue to flow freely in the region.
Despite the growth of China’s banking system, much of it remains domestically focused. China’s banks also lack the creditworthiness and international connections that Japan’s financial institutions enjoy.
With the financing of much of Asia’s trade and the flows in and out of its various financial centers still heavily dependent on Japan, Japan’s bankers, squeezed between an overheating U.S. and an increasingly troubled China, have a difficult balancing act to perform.Source: Nikkei Asia
Interesting article about how Japan’s financial system connects into the rest of Asia, including China…and how Japan’s currency weakness could become an issue for the rest of the region as well.
#11 – RBI Allows Settlement In Rupee To Settle Trade With Russia, Sri Lanka
“In order to promote the growth of global trade with emphasis on exports from India and to support the increasing interest of the global trading community in INR, it has been decided to put in place an additional arrangement for invoicing, payment, and settlement of exports/imports in INR,” the RBI said in a notification on Monday.
Ananth Narayan, associate professor at the S P Jain Institute of Management and Research, told Business Standard: “On first reading, this circular seems geared towards enabling rouble-rupee trades settled in rupees. The language also seems to envisage alternative financial messaging to SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications), if so needed.”Source: Business Standard
US sanctions on Russia is pushing many countries to explore alternative payment channels. Skirting US sanctions is a bit dangerous, but not being able to source necessary energy and food is existential.
#12 – My Restaurant Couldn’t Survive Customers’ ‘Normal’ Dining Expectations
A few months after the first COVID-19 shutdown, restaurants furloughed and laid off cooks, servers, bartenders, and managers nationwide. While idle, many industry veterans left foodservice and hospitality altogether; others like ourselves entertained simpler interim concepts in order to ride out the irregularities of the pandemic. We hoped to grow into whatever awaited the shattered industry on the other side.
But several months into owning our own establishment, Joon Market, our optimism proved naive as we found ourselves in constant survival mode amid staffing shortages, increased labor and food costs, and supply chain issues that left cooking equipment and furniture stuck at the ports. Meanwhile, the vaccination rollout sparked a frenzied desire for the return of steady hours and stellar full-service experiences that mimicked pre-pandemic “normalcy.”
Variability is inevitable in restaurants, but generally trends create accurate projections. Chefs look at the number of diners per service and how many of each dish sold every night and week to estimate how many guests are expected, which dishes need a boost in preparation, and what supplies need to be ordered to make it through the service week. COVID-19 completely upended our ability to make sound judgment calls. One week it seemed sales and customers were steadily increasing, and the next week our numbers would nosedive.Source: Eater
Good article discussing how the restaurant business has changed, and why it is not possible to go back “to normal”. Although it’s only focused narrowly on restaurants, there are likely many parallels in other industries as well.
Also this chart is interesting:
Source: Ziprecruiter via Twitter
There are many industries that depend on flexible work forces. And it is this flexible work force that no longer exists that is the problem. This flexible work force is the lifeblood of many service industries. Meanwhile, full-time employees are increasingly demanding flexible work arrangements, even while the nature of their employment is not flexible in the traditional sense.
#13 Private Billions Pour Into Fusion as Climate Clock Ticks Down
#14 ‘Russia Is Blackmailing Us’: EU Asks Member States To Ration Energy As Putin Tightens Grip On Gas Supplies
European countries are being asked to curb their consumption of natural gas by at least 15% until next spring, as part of a wider plan to deal with reduced supplies from Russia.
The plan comes as Russia’s energy giant, Gazprom, claims it cannot fulfill gas contracts with the bloc — a major headache for European nations given they have been so dependent on Russian energy before the invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore in any event, whether a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or a total cutoff of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a news conference Wednesday.
So far, 12 member states have been hit by reduced gas flows and a couple more have been totally shut off from Russian supplies.Source: CNBC
Energy is like oxygen for society. The EU is in a windowless room that is running out of oxygen. And the EU now needs its member states to breath slower until the US can figure out how to punch a new window into this sealed coffin with LNG shipments.
In the meantime, some member states are rejecting the EU’s demands. They do not understand why they should suffer when it is really larger states like Germany that made themselves overly dependent on Russian gas.
Recently, Nordstream 1 went down for scheduled maintenance. It was unclear if it would come back online…Luckily it did come back online but only at 40% capacity (same as immediately before the maintenance, but down from normal levels months ago).
💬 Media + Games
#15 Google Exec Suggests Instagram And TikTok Are Eating Into Google’s Core Products, Search And Maps
In a discussion about the evolution of search, he [Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information organization] somewhat offhandedly noted that younger users were now often turning to apps like Instagram and TikTok instead of Google Search or Maps for discovery purposes.
“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”
While older internet users may not be able to wrap their minds around turning to a social video app to find a restaurant, this trend could cut into Google’s core business of search and discovery over time — not to mention the ads sold against those sorts of queries. While younger users may eventually launch some sort of maps app for navigation purposes, this data indicates they don’t necessarily start their journey on Google anymore. That means all the work Google did over the years to organize, curate and recommend various businesses — such as local restaurants — or its creation of discovery tools inside Google Maps — could be lost on these younger internet users.Source: TechCrunch
Buzzfeed also has an interesting observation in their take on this topic: This behavior is not new…it’s the same behavior as when people started using YouTube to search for information instead of Google Search. And we know that YouTube is growing a lot faster than Search these days.
My take is that Google Search revolutionized the indexing and retrieval of websites, but it has done a poor job indexing comments and reviews. Most of what people want outside of core knowledge areas are reviews on food, places, things.
There are two problems with the existing paradigms. The existing paradigms are not actually search-based. You may search for a restaurant or a place on Google Maps or Yelp, but the reviews come back as an endless list of comments of varying relevancy. It is very hard to search through those comments for specific information like what people are saying about a specific dish or some specific sub-aspect of whatever you searched for. What you have is a search paradigm for finding the place, but you have a Yahoo directory model for every piece of review / comment associated with it. And history has already demonstrated to us that a Yahoo directory model is not scalable.
The second problem is that an endless stream of reviews is very boring. I think there’s a high chance you default to looking at photos on Yelp and the star rating rather than reading anything beyond the first 3-5 comments. TikTok (and Youtube) videos do a much better job at making the information palatable. But what makes TikTok even more powerful than Youtube is that their algorithms actually understand the content in each video. It is indexing the content in the video and making it available under a search paradigm, whereas this is still not possible under Youtube. Youtube relies on the title of the video to answer your search request. TikTok relies on knowing the content of the video to respond to your search request.
#16 Netflix to Partner With Microsoft on New Ad Supported Subscription Plan
In April we announced that we will introduce a new lower priced ad-supported subscription plan for consumers, in addition to our existing ads-free basic, standard and premium plans. Today we are pleased to announce that we have selected Microsoft as our global advertising technology and sales partner.
It’s very early days and we have much to work through. But our long term goal is clear. More choice for consumers and a premium, better-than-linear TV brand experience for advertisers. We’re excited to work with Microsoft as we bring this new service to life.Source: Netflix
Has subscriptions peaked? I personally now spend over $1000 a year on video and blog subscriptions (excluding internet connection).
#17 Unity Announces Merger Agreement with ironSource
“We believe the world is a better place with more successful creators in it. The combination of Unity and ironSource better supports creators of all sizes by giving them all the tools they need to create and grow successful apps in gaming and other consumer-facing verticals like e-commerce,” said John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity. “This is a step further toward realizing our vision of a fully integrated platform that helps creators in every step of their RT3D journey. We look forward to welcoming Tomer Bar-Zeev, the CEO of ironSource, and the rest of ironSource’s talented team into the Unity family.”
The end-to-end platform synergy from the combination of the companies will enhance Unity’s offerings for creators of all sizes. Together with ironSource, Unity will transform and streamline how live games, RT3D apps and services are made by turning today’s linear creation and growth process into a deeply connected and interactive one. By integrating creation and growth more tightly, creators will be able to leverage data on audience feedback to improve content from the earliest stage in the creation process, and throughout the content lifecycle. This will unlock a flywheel where data from growth feeds improvements in content which in turn drives more business success for the content or app.Source: Unity
#18 Hit record: Shopify Partners With YouTube To Scale The Creator Economy
Now, Shopify and YouTube are partnering to give merchants and creators a powerful new way to connect to consumers, build their businesses, and share their stories. With the launch of the YouTube Shopping on Shopify, merchants can easily integrate their online store with one of the world’s biggest entertainment platforms—reaching over 2 billion monthly logged-in users—to meet their consumers, and viewers, where they are.
Shopify merchants can sell their full range of products on YouTube in three ways:
Live streams: Merchants can tag and pin products at key points during a livestream, and picture-in-picture playback means consumers can watch while they check out
Videos: Merchants can show a curated list of products in a product shelf below on-demand videos
Store tab: A new tab will be added to a merchant’s YouTube channel, featuring their entire selection of productsSource: Shopify
#19 Nike Debuts New Store Concept With Nike Style
As with many of Nike’s store concepts lately, Nike Style has tech baked into it. QR codes throughout the store allow shoppers to open augmented reality experiences tied to art installations and product innovation, a feature that was also recently on display at the Nike Live store in Los Angeles. A more unique feature, Nike’s new format includes a content studio with customizable backdrops where anyone from local creatives to shoppers can create content for their social media channels.
The Nike Style storefront will also host events around local sneaker culture and Nike By You workshops — a program aimed at allowing customers to personalize Nike products.
Stores that double as event spaces have become increasingly popular with brands aiming to build up a loyal community, and they’ve been a feature of Nike’s other store concepts as well. Nike Rise in Seoul, for example, includes a dedicated space for workouts and wellness discussions with experts, among other events.Source: Retail Dive
The internet continues to transform the real world.
🍪 Semiconductors + Chips
#20 China’s Top Chipmaker Achieves Breakthrough Despite US Curbs
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. has likely advanced its production technology by two generations, defying US sanctions intended to halt the rise of China’s largest chipmaker.
The Shanghai-based manufacturer is shipping Bitcoin-mining semiconductors built using 7-nanometer technology, industry watcher TechInsights wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. That’s well ahead of SMIC’s established 14nm technology, a measure of fabrication complexity in which narrower transistor widths help produce faster and more efficient chips. Since late 2020, the US has barred the unlicensed sale to the Chinese firm of equipment that can be used to fabricate semiconductors of 10nm and beyond, infuriating Beijing.
SMIC’s surprising progress raises questions about how effective export controls have been and whether Washington can indeed thwart China’s ambition to foster a world-class chip industry at home and reduce reliance on foreign technologies.Source: Bloomberg
The real question is what kind of yields they are getting. It is likely very difficult to make 7nm chips in commercially viable volumes without ASML’s EUV machines but not impossible to make in small quantities.
🚘🌽 “Nuts and Bolts” Tech
#21 Inside Apple’s Eight-Year Struggle to Build a Self-Driving Car
The Bozeman demo and its aftermath also underscores a mistake Apple and much of the rest of the self-driving-vehicle industry has repeatedly made: Engineers waste precious time choreographing demonstrations along specific routes using technology that works there but almost nowhere else, a phenomenon known as demoware. Some people who have worked on Titan say Apple fell harder into the demoware trap than some rivals, despite the fact that an automated car with no steering wheel needs to drive almost perfectly everywhere or few people would feel safe buying one.
There is also uneven support among Apple’s executive team for the project, which goes by the internal code name T172. Notably, Craig Federighi, an influential Apple executive who oversees software development but isn’t directly involved in Titan, has been particularly skeptical of the program over the years, according to two people who have heard him speak privately about it. (It’s unclear if his critiques have influenced Cook.) And within other parts of Apple, Titan has become the subject of ridicule because of its chronic leadership turnover and changes in strategy that have previously prompted layoffs. Some managers have proactively warned employees to stay away from the project, according to multiple former Apple employees.Source: The Information
Pretty damning article about the lack of progress.
Meanwhile, Baidu is pushing ahead with its robotaxi fleet complete with a detachable steering wheel (ahead of all US peers including Tesla and Waymo).
💉🔬 Health + Science
#22 Endemic Pathogens Are Making You Crazy And Then Killing You: Toxoplasmosis Spotlight
Communicable infectious disease exposure may be causing noncommunicable chronic conditions much more than we think. There is plenty of research that demonstrates the link between infectious diseases and later health issues. For one example, new research solidifies the link between Epstein-Barr Virus (the virus that causes Mono) and the chronic, debilitating neurological condition known as Multiple Sclerosis. Yet, the average person, while often being a carrier, is not aware of these risks.
The link between Alzheimer’s disease and infectious disease is arguably the most well-known connection between communicable and noncommunicable disease. Contagion seems likely; after all, neurosurgeons and the spouses of neurodegenerative disease sufferers are ~2x more likely to also develop the same disease. Alzheimer’s disease is associated with the bacteria gingivalis, which is the keystone pathogen in chronic periodontitis, as well as chlamydia pneumoniae (the kind that causes respiratory infections, not the sexually transmitted variant). Treating helicobater pylori positive Alzheimer’s patients with a triple eradication regimen (omeprazole, clarithromycin and amoxicillin), showed increased cognitive and functional status in Alzheimer’s patients after two years. Aggressive antiviral treatment reduced the relative risk by 10x (!). Toxoplasmosis, the later focus of this essay, is also linked to Alzheimer’s.Source: Hard to Write
One of the most fascinating articles I’ve read in a while. Most diseases are diagnosed by connecting an acute symptom / issue you are experiencing with a recent infection or abnormality in your system. But if the lag time between infection and symptom is very, very long, it becomes nearly impossible to make that connection.
Increasingly there is growing evidence that many unexplainable diseases are caused by infections that remain latent in our bodies until many, many years later.
#23 Brain-Computer Interface Startup Implants First Device in US Patient
On July 6 a doctor at the Mount Sinai West medical center in New York threaded a 1.5-inch-long implant made up of wires and electrodes into a blood vessel in the brain of a patient with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The hope is that the patient, who’s lost the ability to move and speak, will be able to surf the web and communicate via email and text simply by thinking—the device will translate his thoughts into commands sent to a computer.
Synchron, the startup behind the technology, has already implanted its devices in four patients in Australia, who haven’t experienced side effects and have been able to carry out such tasks as sending WhatsApp messages and making online purchases.
Founded in 2016, Synchron has caught the attention of the brain-computer interface (BCI) field because its device, known as the stentrode, can be inserted into the brain without cutting through a person’s skull or damaging their tissue.
Tucked into the motor cortex, the stentrode uses 16 electrodes to monitor brain activity and record the firing of neurons when a person thinks. The signal strength improves over time, as the device fuses deeper into the blood vessel and gets closer to the neurons. Software is used to analyze the patterns of brain data and match them with the goal a person is trying to accomplish.Source: Bloomberg
#24 Amazon and One Medical Sign an Agreement for Amazon to Acquire One Medical
Today Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and One Medical (NASDAQ:ONEM) announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire One Medical. One Medical is a human-centered, technology-powered national primary care organization on a mission to make quality care more affordable, accessible, and enjoyable through a seamless combination of in-person, digital, and virtual care services that are convenient to where people work, shop, and live.
“We think health care is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention. Booking an appointment, waiting weeks or even months to be seen, taking time off work, driving to a clinic, finding a parking spot, waiting in the waiting room then the exam room for what is too often a rushed few minutes with a doctor, then making another trip to a pharmacy – we see lots of opportunity to both improve the quality of the experience and give people back valuable time in their days,” said Neil Lindsay, SVP of Amazon Health Services. “We love inventing to make what should be easy easier and we want to be one of the companies that helps dramatically improve the healthcare experience over the next several years. Together with One Medical’s human-centered and technology-powered approach to health care, we believe we can and will help more people get better care, when and how they need it. We look forward to delivering on that long-term mission.”Source: Amazon