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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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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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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