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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Graphene: Hope or Hype

Can coal make a comeback?

“Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond” ― Kahlil Gibran

The battle for semiconductor supremacy reads like a script for a duel between DC Comics’ Man of Steel and Marvel’s Iron Man. Is the digital age’s superhero silicon about to come face to face with its nemesis: carbon?

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Truth, Extremes and Robots 

Can you monetise anger?

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible” ― Frank Zappa

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump understood one thing. The power of anger. During his campaign, Trump perfected, what Matt Frei, author of Only In America, calls ‘the art of bottling the anger and spraying it out when needed’. By doing this, Trump unleashed the fury of working class America and won the show to become the most powerful person in the world. 

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Siren Call

Will Britannia hit the rocks?

The British general election campaign was strange and dystopian. Punctuated by Islamist terror attacks and almost devoid of detailed debate on economic policy, the weeks leading to 8 June were dominated by a sense of weary resignation.

But desultory though it was, the election ultimately crystallised a palpable sense in the country that things cannot go on as they have since the financial crisis. How else to explain a hung parliament, following unexpectedly close polling in the weeks before?

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Totalitarianism’s Trojan

Who’s going to stop me?

“Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.” The words that signed off the last issue of Steward Brand’s The Whole Earth Catalog; America’s counterculture bible of the Baby Boomers’ generation.

Freed from the shackles of censorship, the anti-boundaries protagonists of the 1960’s anti-establishment generation evolved into the alternative thinkers that defined the Silicon Valley mindset. From the first Apple Mac, Jobs became the poster child for how computers would free both the consumer and the citizen. Imagine Millennials without Apple accessories.

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Asset Allocation

How to avoid extrapolation bias

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” ― John Maynard Keynes

Past performance may not be indicative of future results, say the regulatory disclaimers. Whichever way you approach asset allocation it relies to some extent on the past. And the past is a long time. One of our key human weaknesses is the tendency to overweight the recent past in any analysis of the future.

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Fake News

Inflation: Fact or Fiction?

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” ― George Orwell

Disseminated at a hyperbolic rate through social media’s ‘telescreens’, the ‘Ministry of Truth’ distributes ‘Newspeak’. It’s not George Orwell’s 1984. It’s now.

Today, this type of truth has no intrinsic value, but it is shaping our world. Audiences no longer trust (or bother to check) the provenance of ‘facts’.

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Peak Welfare

The unpalatable truth?

“When I look at the current picture of expected tax revenues combined with benefits promised to future generations, this is the most unsustainable situation I have ever seen in my career” ~ Stanley Druckenmiller

The welfare state today is not fit for purpose. Its architects had not conceived it for a world of 90-year longevity, mass migration or a low interest rate environment. The mathematics of ‘Baby Boomers’ retiring plus low birth rates just does not add up.

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Back to the future

Latin America: Is democracy looming?

With its history of hyper-inflation, populist governments and more recent headline distractions, Latin America is a region that many investors frequently overlook, despite covering one sixth of the planet. Corruption, a shrinking economy and a deadly virus might sound like a script for a Hollywood movie, but could the new Brazilian government with market friendly policies see democracy returning not only to Brazil but to the region as a whole?

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