Addicted

© Niki Natarajan 2018

The American Nightmare

“The success of a civilization is measured not just in its aesthetic achievements but also, and surely more importantly, in the duration and quality of life of its citizens” ― Niall Ferguson

There is irony in Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics for American Dream “There’s treasure for the taking, for any hard-working man”, especially if you consider the rising rates of mortality and obesity among America’s blue-collar workers. The cohort that helped to build modern America is in the throes of a ‘deaths of despair’ epidemic. Has the veil of the ‘American Dream’ dropped?

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Democracy

Fair or flawed?

“It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting” ― Tom Stoppard

The UK’s vote to exit the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory were not just signs of the demise of globalisation and the rise in populism; they were signals of a worsening ‘democratic recession’. In 2016, the US government got a democracy downgrade from ‘full democracy’ to ‘flawed democracy’. Today, only 4.5% of the world’s citizens live in fully functioning democracies, down from 8.9% in 2015. What are democracy’s flaws?

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Monopoly

To trust or to antitrust?

“To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always in the interest of the dealers” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Imagine a world without Google, Facebook and Amazon. Not easy. The world wide web turns 30 next year and more than half of the world’s population is now online. What started as an egalitarian and decentralised non-proprietary protocol is now monopolised by a handful of technology platforms. Is it time for the regulators to do their thing?

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Cities

Street Smart

“By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities” ― Socrates

Whether it is New York’s Greenwich Village or London’s Shoreditch, these neighbourhoods once home to artists and musicians are now gentrified for the Whole Foods-shopping neo-yuppie urbanite. Housing no longer affordable. But is the town planner with a dystopian Blade Runner vision a better solution? Is the future of cities a city of the future?

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Biotechnology

Saviour or Threat?

“Everything depends on the people in the labs. New discoveries in fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology could create entire new industries” ― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

What do bread, beer, acetone, penicillin, yoghurt and Dolly the sheep all have in common? Answer: they are all derivatives of living organisms; the output of an industry that dates back to 7000 BCE: biotechnology.

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Flying United

One Continent. One dream.

“Over the millennia, small, simple cultures gradually coalesce into bigger and more complex civilisations, so that the world contains fewer and fewer mega-cultures, each of which is bigger and more complex” – Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

As the new year begins, some reflect on the past and others proffer predictions for the future. We prefer to look at long-term themes but if we were to make a prediction we foresee a Latino president in the Oval Office in the near future.

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Cryptocurrencies

The Subversion of Money?

“Banking is necessary, banks are not” Bill Gates (1994)

What price will Bitcoin be by the time you read this? $50,000? $5? Its value today is around $17,000. This represents an increase of 1,600% since 1 January 2017 and around 5,666,666% since 1 January 2011. The total market capitalisation of all Bitcoins mined so far is close to $280 billion. If Bitcoin were a corporation, it would be among the largest dozen or so in the US. So why cryptocurrencies? And why now?

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Saudi Arabia

Ready for the big leap?

“Nothing endures but change” ― Heraclitus

It is hard to ignore Saudi Arabia these days; headlines painting an ever-bleaker picture for a country already associated with conflict and extremism. When looking at this oil giant with an investment lens, it is very easy to get distracted by the noise of politics. In a similar fashion to Brazil, however, ignore the noise and the technical and fundamental aspects of the Kingdom bode well.

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Blade Runner

What does it mean to be human?

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain” ― Roy Batty, Blade Runner

It’s almost 2019. Flying police cars have not happened (yet); the acid rain debate seems to have been shelved; and globalisation as reflected by the name Shimago-Domínguez Corporation has already been. And gone, by frenzied ‘popular’ decree. Ridley Scott’s future may have hit the screens 35 years ago, but some of this cult film noir’s themes are very prescient indeed.

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Water: Dying of Thirst

Will water become more valuable than diamonds?

“Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink” ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Does a river have rights? A Denver lawyer recently asked a judge to recognise the Colorado River as a person. If this happens, not only could rivers, forests and mountains start to sue companies, governments and individuals, but it could become part of a solution to one of the greatest risks the world currently faces: water scarcity.

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