Tag Archives: Capital

The virtuous circle of what’s needed to trigger Europe’s digital sovereignty

By Stefano da Empoli – Like a prism that changes according to the perspective through which it is observed, there are many possible interpretations of the concept of digital sovereignty. In the past few days, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has provided some inspiration for the right way to look at it. During a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, and held after the signing of the Quirinale Treaty, Draghi referred to European sovereignty as the “ability to direct the future as we wish.”

In the digital domain, the power to be the author of one’s own destiny can be won with two tools: sound rules and technological investment. Only a balanced combination of them, however, can produce digital sovereignty to the benefit of European citizens. Much has been said in recent years about the so-called ‘Brussels effect’, the title of a successful book by Anu Bradford, the Finnish-born legal scholar based at Columbia University in New York.

Through the definition of a robust and ambitious regulatory framework, the European Union has managed to establish itself as the main global rule-maker, influencing the legislation of other countries and inducing non-European companies to take it into account not only for products and services sold in the old continent but also elsewhere.

A meaningful case study is the GDPR, the European privacy regulation, which was approved in 2016 and came into force in 2018. One of the basic principles, that of privacy by design, i.e. already built into a product or service at the time of its conception, has become the mantra of many American companies in just a few years. While it is true that the US does not yet have a federal privacy law, California, which is home to most of the large American technology companies, passed a very similar one. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Unequal America: Ten insights on the state of economic opportunity
By André Dua, Kweilin Ellingrud, Michael Lazar, Ryan Luby, Matthew Petric, Alex Ulyett, and Tucker Van Aken – As parts of the United States begin the long path to recovery from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we set out to understand what Americans think about their current economic standing, their views on economic opportunity, and the barriers they see standing between themselves and a more inclusive and prosperous future.

So we asked them directly.

Together with the market-research and opinion-polling firm Ipsos, we surveyed 25,000 Americans in the spring of 2021 in an effort to understand their perceptions of the current and future state of the US economy, to discern firsthand their hopes for the future, and to learn about the challenges they face. We also wanted to establish a baseline of data to better understand how outcomes and perceptions are affected by people’s access to resources, as well as by factors such as their identity, education, and level of caregiving responsibility. The breadth and depth of our sample allowed us to draw timely insights across demographic categories and geographic cuts (see sidebar “About the survey”). While the results of our inaugural survey reflect just one moment in time—a period during which the course of the COVID-19 virus and economic conditions were rapidly evolving—they serve as a useful baseline view into the economic experiences of a broad swath of Americans.

What we learned was sobering. Among the findings: Americans report that their financial situations have deteriorated over the past year, and at the time of our survey only half of all respondents reported being able to cover their living expenses for more than two months in the event of job loss. Our survey results also indicated that the pandemic has harmed the economic well-being of many groups, exacerbating inequalities that existed before the crisis. Americans reported facing numerous barriers to economic opportunity and inclusion—among them, inadequate access to health insurance and physical and mental healthcare, as well as to affordable childcare. Moreover, many respondents said that they feel their very identity limits their access to jobs and to fair recognition and reward for their work. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Underwater Gardens Boost Coral Diversity to Stave Off ‘Biodiversity Meltdown’
By Renay San Miguel – Corals are the foundation species of tropical reefs worldwide, but stresses ranging from overfishing to pollution to warming oceans are killing corals and degrading the critical ecosystem services they provide. Because corals build structures that make living space for many other species, scientists have known that losses of corals result in losses of other reef species. But the importance of coral species diversity for corals themselves was less understood.

A new study from two researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology provides both hope and a potentially grim future for damaged coral reefs. In their research paper, “Biodiversity has a positive but saturating effect on imperiled coral reefs,” published October 13 in Science AdvancesCody Clements and Mark Hay found that increasing coral richness by ‘outplanting’ a diverse group of coral species together improves coral growth and survivorship. This finding may be especially important in the early stages of reef recovery following large-scale coral loss — and in supporting healthy reefs that in turn support fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection from storm surges. more>


Updates from Chicago Booth

What Is the Line Between Self-Interest and Selfishness?
The debate has raged for 300 years and counting.
By John Paul Rollert – The pursuit of self-interest. Sounds like a harmless phrase, right? And yet no matter of modern political economy is more subject to controversy than the moral status of this motive force. What should we make of it?

In my business ethics classes, I tell A Tale of the Two Shirts, an allegory of sorts for the ethics of self-interest and its evolution over the past few hundred years. To set the stage, I take my students back to the 18th century, to the dispute that most inflamed the earliest days of capitalism: whether to embrace commercial self-interest at all.

An infamous fable

Long before paeans to self-interest were a mainstay of microeconomics classes, the instinct was strictly frowned upon. To declare that a zeal for one’s personal affairs should be the spur to a thriving society was to effectively announce that one was wicked and insane. Wicked, because the notion that an individual should be guided by what is best for himself rather than the people around him smacked of the devil’s business. Insane, because the idea that a community propelled by such an instinct wouldn’t soon collapse into chaos was so entirely counterintuitive as to be ridiculous on its face. If, as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes maintained, a world ungoverned by the iron fist of some central authority soon gave way to a war of all against all, private pursuits were a luxury no society could afford. more>


What Makes Life Meaningful? Views From 17 Advanced Economies

Family is preeminent for most publics but work, material well-being and health also play a key role
By Laura Silver, Patrick Van Kessel, Christine Huang, Laura Clancy and Sneha Gubbala – What do people value in life? How much of what gives people satisfaction in their lives is fundamental and shared across cultures, and how much is unique to a given society? To understand these and other issues, Pew Research Center posed an open-ended question about the meaning of life to nearly 19,000 adults across 17 advanced economies.

From analyzing people’s answers, it is clear that one source of meaning is predominant: family. In 14 of the 17 advanced economies surveyed, more mention their family as a source of meaning in their lives than any other factor. Highlighting their relationships with parents, siblings, children and grandchildren, people frequently mention quality time spent with their kinfolk, the pride they get from the accomplishments of their relatives and even the desire to live a life that leaves an improved world for their offspring. In Australia, New Zealand, Greece and the United States, around half or more say their family is something that makes their lives fulfilling. more>


Fixing climate finance

Finance was at the heart of the COP26 rupture between developed and developing countries—it’s time for a new approach.
By Jeffrey D Sachs – The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) fell far short of what is needed for a safe planet, owing mainly to the lack of trust which has burdened global climate negotiations for almost three decades. Developing countries regard climate change as a crisis caused largely by the rich countries, which they also view as shirking their historical and ongoing responsibility for the crisis. Worried that they will be left paying the bills, many key developing countries, such as India, don’t much care to negotiate or strategise.

They have a point—indeed, several points. The shoddy behaviour of the United States over three decades is not lost on them. Despite the worthy pleas for action by the US president, Joe Biden, and the climate envoy, John Kerry, Biden has been unable to push Congress to adopt a clean-energy standard. Biden can complain all he wants about China but after 29 years of congressional inaction, since the Senate ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the rest of the world sees the truth: America’s broken and corrupt Congress remains in the pocket of Big Oil and Big Coal.

Finance is at the heart of the geopolitical rupture on climate change. Developing countries are already reeling under countless pressures: the Covid-19 pandemic, weak domestic economies, increasingly frequent and severe climate-related disasters, the multiple disruptions of the digital age, US-China tensions and high borrowing costs on international loans. They watch the rich countries borrow trillions of dollars on capital markets at near-zero interest rates, while they must pay 5-10 per cent if they can borrow at all. In short, they see their societies falling even further behind a few high-income countries. more>

Updates from McKinsey

The rise and rise of the global balance sheet: How productively are we using our wealth?
Net worth has tripled since 2000, but the increase mainly reflects valuation gains in real assets, especially real estate, rather than investment in productive assets that drive our economies.
By Jonathan Woetzel, Jan Mischke, Anu Madgavkar, Eckart Windhagen, Sven Smit, Michael Birshan, Szabolcs Kemeny, and Rebecca J. Anderson – We have borrowed a page from the corporate world—namely, the balance sheet—to take stock of the underlying health and resilience of the global economy as it begins to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. This view from the balance sheet complements more typical approaches based on GDP, capital investment levels, and other measures of economic flows that reflect changes in economic value. Our report, The rise of the global balance sheet: How productively are we using our wealth?, provides an in-depth look at the global economy after two decades of financial turbulence and more than ten years of heavy central bank intervention, punctuated by the pandemic.

Across ten countries that account for about 60 percent of global GDP—Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the historic link between the growth of net worth and the growth of GDP no longer holds. While economic growth has been tepid over the past two decades in advanced economies, balance sheets and net worth that have long tracked it have tripled in size. This divergence emerged as asset prices rose—but not as a result of 21st-century trends like the growing digitization of the economy.

Rather, in an economy increasingly propelled by intangible assets like software and other intellectual property, a glut of savings has struggled to find investments offering sufficient economic returns and lasting value to investors. These savings have found their way instead into real estate, which in 2020 accounted for two-thirds of net worth. Other fixed assets that can drive economic growth made up only about 20 percent the total. Moreover, asset values are now nearly 50 percent higher than the long-run average relative to income. And for every $1 in net new investment over the past 20 years, overall liabilities have grown by almost $4, of which about $2 is debt. more>

Highly Integrated Led Driver Design for Automotive Displays

By Szukang Hsien – Displays are ubiquitous in modern cars, from instrument clusters to center stack touchscreens, head-up displays, rear-seat entertainment, and more. It is estimated that there are up to 12 displays per vehicle in today’s automobiles. The vast automotive display market is dominated by TFT-LCD technologies while OLEDs may play a significant role in the future. For TFT-LCD panels, a majority is still white LED edge-lit displays, which need precise, constant current sink to drive these LEDs.

The display receives power through multiple rails while the video signal receives power through the gigabit multimedia serial link (GMSL). It converts serial LVDS data to a parallel interface in RGB format. A high-voltage buck converter provides the main 5V or 3.3V rail, which feeds the rest of the low-voltage circuits while the high-voltage LDO provides the always-on power to the MCU. The LED driver is usually directly connected to a car battery, which is needed to support lower battery voltage for start-stop systems as well as cold-crank conditions. more>

‘Buy Now, Pay Later’: Banking on Global Financial Innovation

The new credit payment is the latest Fintech disruptor. Can established legacy banks adapt to keep up with the increased e-commerce demand and the red-hot tech services?
morganstanley.com – The latest Fintech sounds simple enough: Buy a product, take it home, set up payments after. However, the changes this innovation may bring to the financial sector are anything but. In fact, “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) platforms—adopted, so far, mainly by app-loving Millennials and Gen Z—are changing how people shop and spurring financial institutions to keep up.

BNPL is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce segments in Europe and Australia, and it is expanding across the U.S.

“We do expect BNPL to grow faster than traditional credit cards in Europe,” says Giulia Aurora Miotto, a Morgan Stanley European Equity Analyst. “And we think this adds up to the trend of Fintechs slowly ‘skimming the cream’ off different banks’ businesses in Europe.”

That means potential disruption for legacy financial services companies, which must compete to offer similar services to existing customers, while adapting to (and adopting) this type of retail-financing Fintech to grow their customer base. more>

Should humans try to modify the amount of sunlight the Earth receives?

By Daniel Ross – Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the saying goes. As scientists, policymakers and politicians keep one increasingly startled eye on climate change’s ticking clock and the other on the ongoing, upwardly mobile trend in greenhouse gas emissions, it’s no wonder possible solutions that have been long dismissed as fringe slices of science fiction are making their way into the mainstream.

Enter center stage geoengineering, a hitherto black sheep of the fight against global warming.

Geoengineering is a broadly encompassing term with a few close etymological cousins—namely climate engineering and climate change mitigation—along with a sizable stable of associated technologies. Some of them, like afforestation and ocean iron fertilization, fall under the umbrella of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) in that they seek to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But these are techniques that would in all likelihood shift the climate change needle relatively slowly.

In comparison, technologies under the rubric of solar radiation management (SRM) are expected to work on a much faster timescale, and as a consequence, generate arguably the greater buzz. Solar engineering is the idea that humankind artificially limits how much sunlight and heat are permitted in the atmosphere, and includes the thinning of high-level cirrus clouds to help infrared rays more easily escape upward, along with the brightening of low-level marine clouds to help reflect sunlight back into space. more>