Drugs, Drones, and Hats

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:19+00:00 May 17th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Can drones be used to smuggle drugs? Photo DB. Source: Wikipedia It sure looks like it. In 2015 guards rushed to break up a mob in an Ohio prison yard. When they reviewed a security tape, they saw that a drone had flown in and dropped a package containing tobacco, pot, and heroin, which the inmates were fighting over. Increasingly, drones are smuggling drugs, mobile phones, and even weapons into prisons at an alarming rate. Authorities are trying to respond, but this takes time. [...]

As Time Goes By – Technology and Emerging Markets

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:22+00:00 April 14th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Technology advances are swift in the emerging markets. Photo: David Wilson. Source: Wikipedia The Templeton Emerging Markets Group recently noted the evolving make-up of the emerging market technology sector. In theory, an emerging market is an economy in transition from state controlled to one with increasing economic freedom. Along comes integration in the global marketplace and greater standards of living. A more familiar imagining of the emerging market is one of extraction: both of resources (commodities and labor) and cheap, manufactured goods. Global investment [...]

Technological Feudalism

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:30+00:00 January 26th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Technological Feudalism Are we technology serfs? Reeve and Serfs harvesting wheat. Source: British Library In the Middle Ages, serfs were tied to the land. They weren’t slaves—it was worse. They and their descendants were perpetually bound to their Lord’s estate. They couldn’t just leave. If the Lord wanted different crops, the serfs had to plant them. If the Lord went to war, the serfs had to take shelter. The nobility had a lot of privileges but very few responsibilities. In exchange serfs got security, [...]

Inflation Nation (Part 1)

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:32+00:00 January 4th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Why isn’t inflation coming back? Year-over-year CPI change. Source: Bloomberg In the ‘60s and ‘70s inflation grew out of control. Nixon’s price controls didn’t stop it. But it settled down after Paul Volker’s restrictive monetary policy and Alan Greenspan’s careful management of the Fed. Economist Milton Friedman famously claimed that inflation is “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” But after the financial crisis, inflation dipped below zero and the Fed flooded the economy with money. Many feared that inflation would come roaring back. But [...]

Our Fibers, Our Selves

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:41+00:00 October 3rd, 2016|Uncategorized|

What do our clothes say about us? Illustration from “The Penny Magazine,” 1843, Source: Wikimedia For millenia, clothes have inspired new technology. Cotton has been spun, woven, and dyed since prehistoric times. Marco Polo pioneered the Silk Road and the Age of Exploration. Spinning mills in England and New England were at the center of the Industrial Revolution. Demand for “Basic Black” fashions stimulated the chemical industry in the 20th century. Everyone’s excited by the latest smart watch or FitBit, but clothes are the [...]

Rationally Optimistic

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:43+00:00 September 12th, 2016|Global Market Update|

The case for pessimism seems strong, doesn’t it? Global Real GDP, 2010 dollars (Log scale). Source: Bloomberg, World Bank Secular stagnation in the economy, nationalistic anti-trade political parties growing, and jihadist terrorism rising: it’s easy to have a grim view of the future. But when you look at long-term economic growth, these concerns—although legitimate—seem short-sighted. The large-scale trends that have fueled global growth since World War II haven’t stopped. More people are gaining access to new, productive technologies than ever before. More people are [...]

Fashioning the Future

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:58+00:00 May 6th, 2016|Global Market Update|

What do our clothes tell us about technology? James Gilray, “Following the Fashion.” Source: Library of Congress For centuries, clothes have inspired trade and technology. The silk road gave us Marco Polo and the Age of Exploration; the Industrial Revolution gave us spinning mills in England and New England; Intense, basic black fabrics in the early 20th century stimulated the chemical industry; synthetic fibers like rayon and nylon made wrinkle-free clothes possible and built the DuPont company. Everyone’s excited by smart watches and FitBits, [...]

The Mosquito Coast

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:59+00:00 April 28th, 2016|Global Market Update|

What if we found a way to eliminate malaria? Photo: James Gathany. Source: Center for Disease Control I hate mosquitoes. When I was growing up in Minnesota, we joked that it was the “Minnesota State Bird.” Mosquitoes suck your blood and make you itch. And they carry a lot of diseases, including Malaria. Malaria kills half a million people every year, mostly children in tropical Africa. References to the disease have been found throughout history and around the world, from ancient China, to Greece [...]

Autonomous Autos?

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:23+00:00 October 21st, 2015|Global Market Update|

Are self-driving cars in our future? Photo: Steve Jurvetson. Source: Wikipedia I sure seems like it. Self-driving cars have been in the news. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan all recently announced that they plan to sell cars with automated highway driving functions by the year 2020--the year of the Tokyo Olympics. Traditional automakers are trying to get ahead of tech firms like Google, which has been testing a prototype. There are also reports that Apple is studying the technology. Inventors have been experimenting with autonomous [...]

Falling Up?

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:24+00:00 October 14th, 2015|Global Market Update|

What’s a “Bloomberg”? Source: Wikipedia Most people have never seen one. They may have heard about Bloomberg News, or read about Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York. But there aren’t many computing platforms launched in the early ‘80s that are still around. There’s the Windows PC, which comes from the IBM PC, introduced in 1981. There’s Apple’s Mac—famously announced in 1984. And there’s the Bloomberg Terminal, which came out in late 1982. In 1981 Michael Bloomberg was forced out of equity trading [...]