Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our
investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this
week. If you like this collection, consider forwarding
it to someone who you think will appreciate it.
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Black sheep have
been both loved and loathed in equal measure over the centuries. In terms of
wool production, black sheep among a white flock were problematic. Black wool
is difficult to dye, and so a black sheep in a white flock destined for cloth
would have represented a financial loss. The coat color of wild sheep is
usually a dark body with a pale tummy, but over the centuries shepherds
strongly selected for a uniform white coat, which was easy to dye. The gene for
dark fleece didn’t disappear, however; it is simply recessive—in other words, a
white sheep can carry the black fleece gene within a flock, but you wouldn’t be
able to tell which animal it was until it produces a black lamb.
The arrival of a
black sheep from a white flock must have left ancient shepherds scratching
their heads, bewildered by nature’s alchemy. And so perhaps it’s no surprise
that black sheep became the target for superstitions and peculiar folk
A ad-free search engine from
one of the builders of google search
During his 15-year
career at the search startup that became an Internet giant, Ramaswamy built,
scaled and ultimately ran Google’s $115 billion advertising division. However,
he finally left in 2018 after becoming disillusioned that Google’s obsession with
growth was affecting everything from search quality to consumer privacy. Then
the 54-year-old did the completely unexpected: Launching a startup to build an
entirely new search engine from scratch — but this time without data tracking
and without ads. In other words, without the things that make money.
Neeva users will pay
between $5 and $10 a month to get the search results they want rather than what
advertisers want them to see. The challenge, obviously, is getting folks to pay
for something they are used to getting for free.
The secret of Nanda Devi
Elite climbers were
trained by the CIA and paid huge sums of money to carry an atomic-powered spy
gadget to the top of an undisclosed peak. The stage for the 007-esque drama was
the Himalayas. Somehow this plutonium-powered device was lost or stolen, now
either providing the fissile juice to a secret Pakistani nuke or threatening
every man, woman and child in India with deadly radiation in the form of
contaminated run-off into the Ganges River.
The peak ultimately
chosen was Nanda Devi. The peak, India’s highest, rose from a pristine bowl of
alpine meadow bordered by a jagged rim of summits. In 1965, at the start of the
CIA field operation only six climbers from various expeditions had stood on
Nanda Devi’s summit at a cost of three lives. Indeed, only as late as the 1930s
did humans even penetrate the Sanctuary.
The CIA planned to
intercept radio telemetry signals between the Chinese missiles and ground
control. A transceiver, powered by a plutonium battery pack, would beam
information to a CIA listening station, where data analysis would reveal the
range, speed and payload of the Chinese missile.
“We will be watching
Sharp Eyes is one of
a number of overlapping and intersecting technological surveillance projects
built by the Chinese government over the last two decades. Projects like the
Golden Shield Project, Safe Cities, SkyNet, Smart Cities, and now Sharp Eyes mean
that there are more than 200 million public and private security cameras
installed across China. China’s 2016 five-year plan set a goal for Sharp Eyes
to achieve 100% coverage of China’s public spaces in 2020. What gets reported
to police by the Sharp Eyes program isn’t just limited to crime. One Pingyi
resident in the state media article spoke of reporting a collapsed manhole
cover, while another mentioned that they had suspected a multilevel marketing
scheme happening in a nearby building. The MLM organization was reported to the
police, who allegedly broke it up with warnings and fines.
Though the system
primarily relies on facial recognition and locally broadcast CCTV, the city of
Harbin, for instance, published a notice that it was looking for predictive
policing technology to sweep a person’s bank transaction data, location
history, and social connections, as well as make a determination as to whether
they were a terrorist or violent.
The devil is in the zipper!
A ‘pro tip’ for
evaluating the quality of a piece of gear is to look at the small details, such
as zippers and stitching. Cheap-minded manufacturers will skimp on those
details because most people just don’t notice, and even a cheap component will
often last past a basic warranty period, so it’s an easy way to increase
profits without losing sales or returns.
If a designer does
bother to invest in quality components, that’s a tried-and-true sign that the
overall product is better than the competition.
Zippers are a
classic example when looking at backpacks, clothing, and similar gear. And
although there are a few other fine zipper brands out there, the king is YKK
Group — to the point that the first thing some gear reviewers look for is the
“YKK” branding on the zipper pull tab.
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