Posts tagged 'Technology'

The new Hanseatica, now with robot dogs

So, Apple has taken advantage of the drop in Swiss funding costs to issue SFr1.25bn of bonds.

A no-brainer funding opportunity for Apple? Or…, alternatively, a sign of things to come: corporates replacing petrodollar and sweatdollar sovereigns as the key accumulators of trade surpluses in the global economy, and issuing debt in a bid to sterilise the effects of too much liquidity on capex they can’t control?

If it’s the latter, we should beware of Andrew Keen’s concerns about the perils of a winner-takes-all tech economy, where a handful of geeks inadvertently become the new masters of the universe, thanks to their cunning monetisation of things Tim-Berners-Lee-types would never have dreamed of rationing to the great tech-ignorant. We’ve dubbed it Silicon Valley’s “god complex” before. Read more

Reining in the tech gods

The FT’s Gillian Tett reports from Davos that the Powers that Be may finally have noticed how — while they were busy regulating the banks — the technology companies quietly moved into what was once their unregulated turf.

Via Wednesday’s Davos dispatch:

Large technology companies will experience the same collapse in reputation as banks have endured in recent years unless they rapidly change their policy approach, business leaders cautioned in Davos. Their warning was directed at the influential heads of technology companies, such as the Silicon Valley giants, who were told they needed to recognise that self-regulation will not be sufficient to stave off mounting public alarm about issues such as privacy.

“Self-regulation, no matter what you do, is just not going to be good enough [for tech companies],” said Paul Achleitner, chairman of the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank. He pointed out that a self-regulatory approach had been previously employed by banks — but notably failed to quell a political backlash against their over-reach.

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Do you have a finance degree from the university of Bitcoin?

As the Bitcoin price crumbles….

… and the capital hole (economic flaw) at the heart of all cryptocurrency schemes is exposed, we thought we’d uncharacteristically look at what was actually good about the phenomenon of Bitcoin. Read more

Tech bubble or no tech bubble?

Last Thursday the below snapshot of techies panhandling for funding on the side of the street hit Valley Wag:

This came a few days after the WSJ reported that Bill Gurley, the Benchmark Capital investor who backed Snapchat and Uber warned that in Silicon Valley these days “no one’s fearful, everyone’s greedy, and it will eventually end.” Read more

Anticipating the quantum computing risk

Last week we attended the SINET conference on cyber-security innovation.

One discussion we didn’t get the chance to follow up on at the time, but which we think is worth coming back to, related to the speed of technological development, and how the invention of quantum computing systems and artificial intelligence could soon pose a serious risk to global cyber defences.

James Mawson, editor-in-chief of Global Government Venturing, wrapped up the key points nicely in an editorial (our emphasis):

The speed of technology change makes the challenge of security an issue. Michael Trevett, senior information risk owner at the UK government’s Cabinet Office, in a networking lunch on risk management in a world of fast-paced technological change, posed a series of questions about how organisations could cope with the speed of change. If technology improves so rapidly, identifying what is important and protecting that rather than everything might be helpful, he said.

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When creative destruction becomes creative devastation

John Komlos of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich proposes in a new paper that ‘creative destruction’ has become devastating, not just destructive:

the destructive power associated with Schumpeterian creative destruction has increased markedly relative to their creative component, in contrast to previous epochs. Creative destruction’s gentle winds have mutated into cyclones of destruction.

Thus, our sense of well-being will probably not keep pace with even the slow economic growth being predicted by Gordon, Summers, and Krugman. While the economy will be growing, albeit slowly, we predict that our sense of well-being will be mysteriously lagging well behind.

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Rise of the Bond villains

- Our economy needs investors like Mr Zorin. California welcomes him with open arms.
- May I quote you on that, Mr Howe?
- Certainly. Is there anything else I can tell the Financial Times?

The dialogue is from A View to a Kill, in which James Bond — a la Roger Moore — poses as an FT reporter “James Stock” to figure out whether tech billionaire Max Zorin is simply a savvy microchip entrepreneur or a megalomaniac eugenicist with a plan to takeover the world.

The Bond cannon provides a few other characters who, as we’ll explain below, no longer seem quite so fantastically fictional. Read more

Robots, jobs and TFL strikes

On a morning which saw London grind to a halt because of a two-day strike by Transport for London workers protesting the closure of ticket offices (that is, due to automation)…

FT Alphaville was invited to participate in a panel debate about the implications of technological progress on jobs and labour, organised and hosted by the think-tank Resolution Foundation.

(Though to be fair, the tube strike didn’t seem to impact attendance and almost all of us arrived on time.)

Chairing the event was Channel 4 News’ Faisal Islam. Joining yours truly among the panelists was economist and author Diane Coyle, of Enlightenment Economics, Alan Manning, Professor of Economics at LSE and Michael Osborne, machine learning expert and associate professor at Oxford University. Read more

Designed in California, taxed in never never land

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Squish puny humans, investment theme du jour

Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist Michael Hartnet favours themes this year.

Theme number one: it doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop.

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Non-monetary effects of research evolution

Ever since Robert Gordon made his assertion that all the low hanging technological fruit has been picked, evidence to the contrary has been piling up.

It’s worth noting, first off, that Gordon’s paper was relatively backward looking. It arrived at its conclusions by taking trends prior to 2007 and projecting them forward, largely ignoring the 2008 crisis that occurred. It also measured innovation in terms of dollar denominated growth. Read more

It’s not finance, it’s Cy-fi

Nanex, the market analysts who like to create visual representations of the markets, have animated half a second of trading activity in Johnson & Johnson stock. The results are quite intoxicating to watch:

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Deep thoughts on civilisation from Jeremy “Hari Seldon” Grantham

If you submit to theoretical physicist Geoffrey West’s urban development theories, then you’ve probably aware of the idea that humanity is set to face a critical crunch point soon enough (if not already). And by crunch point, we mean — either humanity throws everything it’s got at speeding up technology to ensure its resource consumption-to-population footprint becomes manageable, or we wither away.

(The Roman Empire, by the way, is perhaps the best example of a civilisation which failed to make the next great technologically leap to the carbon age and did actually wither.) Read more

Counterintuitive insights that are only now making the mainstream now

We just saw this post from Pragmatic Capitalism’s Cullen Roche on the supply of assets.

It offers a nice chart showing net issuance of “safe” assets, from Citi’s research team:

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“Phish and dips,” or, How to write the AP tweet hacking story when you don’t really care

1.) Steal headline from Lorcan. On Twitter.

2.) Multiple choice test to decide your condescending lede!

Question: When a fake (hacked!) Associated Press tweet about a White House attack moves the stock market down, then it recovers really fast — but maybe not making anyone much money — this is a referendum on the credibility of:

a) Twitter

b) Associated Press

c) The stock market

d) How FT Alphaville makes a living

e) All of the above

f) None of the above, shut up and get off Twitter

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Skidelsky on robots and more leisure

Love him or loathe him, Robert Skidelsky’s prose always makes for a good read.

His latest offering comes by way of Project Syndicate and relates to the issue of robots and the rise of automation. To what degree are we really approaching a leisure society and how best to respond to the changes afoot? Read more

This is not 1994

Dario Perkins at Lombard Street Research has a great little note out on Tuesday arguing why it’s absolutely wrong to assume the current bond sell-off is in any shape or form a repeat of 1994.

As he notes (our emphasis): Read more

Why a “free” market changes everything

Something very significant may be happening to labour and the capital reallocation process.

And arguably it’s down to technology and crowd-sourcing.

But before you shout: “this is what Marx always said, Ricardo and the Luddites were well ahead of you on that one”, we would propose what we’re talking about is a complementary trend not one that necessarily validates or duplicates what the above have said perfectly. Read more

The FT Alphaville podcast, with Dylan Grice

Welcome to FT Alphaville’s extraordinarily infrequent podcast… (click through for the podcast link).

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The robot economy and the new rentier class

It seems more top-tier economists are coming around to the idea that robots and technology could be having a greater influence on the economy (and this crisis in particular) than previously appreciated. Paul Krugman being the latest.

But first a quick backgrounder on the debate so far (as tracked by us). Read more

Culled UBS traders replaced with algos

It’s bad enough finding out that you’ve been made redundant when your pass fails to let you in to the building. But finding out that you’ve been sacked and replaced by a computer (which has more or less made your skills redundant)? That’s even worse.

So spare a thought for David Gallers, former head of CDS index trading at UBS, who was let go last week, to be replaced by snazzy new algo. Read more

The geopolitics of computer trading

You can’t accuse Her Majesty’s Government’s Office of Science computer trading review of failing to think ahead…

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A time of hoarding and inflation fears, 1930s edition

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How technology is killing the Asian growth miracle

George Magnus of UBS has a 29-pager out on Monday questioning if the Asian miracle may finally be over? FT Alphaville is still poring through the details, but couldn’t wait to bring you a substantial chunk of the note which is dedicated to the role of technology and its impact on Asian market dynamics.

We’ve noted on more than one occasion that economists may be missing a trick when it comes to how technology is changing the global economy. More so, that developments like 3D printing, could even pose a black-swan risk for Asia in their own right. Read more


The full Citigroup blast against Nasdaq’s handling of the Facebook IPO is well worth a read. (Big hat-tip to NYT Dealbook, click to enlarge)

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Redefining labour

This is the third installment in FT Alphaville’s “Beyond Scarcity” series, a somewhat radical look at the impact of technological progress and efficiency on the volume of goods and services being produced by the system, asking whether “abundance” could now be a key determinant of deflationary forces in the western world.

On top of this, we have considered the role played by “artificial scarcity”, whether imposed wittingly or unwittingly by industry participants as a counterweight to such deflation, and to what degree such measures could now be running into scalability issues. In short, whether there is a limit to how much artificial scarcity private organisations can impose to counteract deflationary forces of abundance, without experiencing diminishing returns. Read more

The parable of water

Presenting an economic journey in felt, looking at whether the system’s ails have more to do with an abundance of goods than a shortage of credit because of the system’s technological advances and efficiencies. Move ahead to slide 20 for a snapshot of where we *think* we are today.

1) The water source. Read more

Space opera, beyond finance edition

FT Alphaville spent a lot of last week hanging out at Lift12, a Geneva-based technology conference exploring the social implications of new technologies.

We were particularly drawn to the Beyond Finance session last Thursday, which tried to take a peek at how technology might change the world of banking and money in the years to come. Read more

BlackBerry email outage hits half of users

Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry smartphones, was battling to shore up its network on Wednesday as it emerged that an intermittent service outage preventing users accessing email had spread to 30m-40m people, half of all Blackberry subscribers worldwide, the FT reports. RIM confirmed the problems during a news conference and said its engineers were working night and day to resolve the issue. David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer for software, said there was no evidence of hacking, adding that the problems were global because RIM had to restrict service everywhere due to a backlog of undelivered messages after a core network switch in a data centre in Slough outside London failed on Monday. Since then the three-day old technical problems have spread to users in the Americas, Europe, India, the Middle East and Africa – the biggest network failure to hit the Canadian company since it launched the BlackBerry service a decade ago.

Ericsson hit by Europe and India projects

Ericsson’s second-quarter profitability was hurt by contracts in Europe and India, losses at the Swedish telecoms equipment maker’s joint ventures, and higher-than-expected costs for a job reduction plan, the FT reports. Ericsson on Thursday reported revenue of SKr54.8bn ($8.54bn) for the three months to June 30, up 14 per cent compared with the same period last year. Net income rose 59 per cent to SKr3.2bn, fuelled by the sales growth. However, the closely watched gross profit margin was 37.8 per cent in the second quarter, down from 39 per cent one year ago. The deterioration was blamed on lower-margin mobile network contracts in India based on third generation wireless technology and infrastructure modernisation projects in Europe. More such European projects are expected in the second half of 2011, which could put further pressure on profitability.