Thank you to all those who responded to my shameless birthday pandering and signed up for this edition! I reward you with two posts, including the longest running conspiracy theory I have.
Epsilon Theory: Taiwan is now Arrakis
A short article explaining how Taiwan is now the most important country in the world, due to TSMC, the world’s dominant semiconductor manufacturing company being headquartered there. U.S.-based Intel used to hold the crown, but they recently admitted to being at least 4 years behind TSMC’s technology. Meanwhile, advanced semiconductor manufacturing is one of the last industries China is yet to conquer, and increasingly desperate to do so.
I cheated; I read this a few weeks ago and decided to post it today because gigantic semiconductor M&A is in the news this week. If you would indulge my conspiracy theories on what could cause and prevent world war III, I have a longer post on this.
Foreign Policy Magazine: In the New Cold War, Deindustrialization Means Disarmament
This article makes a compelling case for how the U.S put itself at risk by slowly ceding post-WWII manufacturing prowess to China. This presents a risks in two ways. 1. Loss of critical supply chain robustness, as amply demonstrated during the pandemic, and 2. Loss of know-how critical to “dual-use” technologies that secure both our defenses and industrial capabilities. The article concludes with a roadmap of how the U.S and its allies can achieve re-industrialization.
Not only did deindustrialization lead to loss of know-how, it directly led to job losses in the U.S mid-continent, contributed to the Opioid crisis, the increasing inequalities between wall street and main street, the rise of populist leaders and attacks on “globalist elites”. Now it threatens our national security in insidious ways - both physical and digital. Re-industrialization will drive GDP growth and employment up, but requires us to shift back to to long term mindsets. Will we have the patience?
Quote: “Mr. Biden says he would work more closely than Mr. Trump has to rally allies in a coordinated global campaign to pressure Beijing. He says Mr. Trump’s efforts would be far more effective if he worked with other countries, rather than simultaneously engaging in trade fights with Europe, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Japan.
Mr. Biden says his China policy would include a heavy emphasis on promoting democracy and human rights. He sees this as enabling the U.S. to compete with Beijing globally on values, not just commerce, a traditional American foreign-policy framework that Mr. Trump has played down.”
Of a piece with the first two articles, I wanted to highlight what a potential Biden administration’s China policy will be. A rare bipartisan agreement exists on resolving the China issue, and the Biden admin hopes to employ sticks and carrots in equal measure.
A quick tool for people to calculate and assess their risk of catching Covid-19 when indulging in various activities. The risk is expressed in terms of “microcovids” i.e. a once in a million chance of catching Covid.
This is a type of tool I have been looking for a long time. It allows you to take into account location risk + activity risk + behavioral risk and get an estimate for your chance of catching Covid. It has simplified a lot of conversations around the house.
A 2-minute video showing Hitler and Stalin deepfakes singing Video Killed the Radio star.
Was this the best or worst thing I saw this week? On the one hand, it is deeply silly, bringing some levity to a rough week. On the other hand, the technology to create videos like this is available RIGHT NOW.'Wav2Lip' technology makes it easy to get a person in a synthetic image or video to lip-sync to an audio track. The Colab notebook is hosted here.
We live in a moment in time where the people who create these technologies lack the frameworks to self-regulate, the regulators are clueless and dysfunctional at best/actively malicious at worst, and the populace is increasingly susceptible to misinformation. Fun times.
Honorable mentions -
BBC: Microsoft's underwater data centre resurfaces after two years. Super interesting results that could have really important implications as we move more and more computing to cloud data centers and need increasing amounts of energy to power and cool them. Of course the geopolitics of where this gets deployed matters.
Aeon: No Rest. This explains how for centuries, women have been told to rest and called hysterical for wanting to do more with their brains and bodies, and the pernicious ways this filters into our medical system. I think about this deeply as someone who had to be forced to “rest” during both postpartum periods and found it very difficult to let her mind take a break. I literally started this newsletter because I didn’t know what to do with myself.
u/Andromeda321 on Reddit explaining what a big deal it is that biomarkers were found on Venus. Guys, we found life on Venus this week. No biggie.
Detroit Lions’ Matt Stafford: We can’t just stick to football. I really admire Matt Stafford’s heartfelt essay here. It is in plain-speak and he comes across as a very empathetic leader. I have mixed feelings as the NFL started playing again this week - it seems like a bad idea without an NBA-style bubble, but oh god I need sports so damn much this year.
Bloomberg: Amazon drivers are hanging smartphones in trees to Get more work. Exactly as it sounds, on-demand drivers hang their phones on trees to get any minuscule advantage in getting assigned a task before others in their area. High-frequency trading on the edge? Our society’s absurd dependence and inability to take care of gig workers captured in one story.
Electrek: Nikola’s (NKLA) house of cards crumbles as GM acts like nothing is happening. The Nikola stock pump and dump story is the wildest. Best encapsulation of a stock market running on narrative fumes alone.
Vogue: Bulgari is Supporting Women Scientists Who Are Working To Develop a COVID-19 Vaccine. Today in weird partnerships, activist capitalism and performative feminism.