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Tech is eating the world #1
How technology is transforming our world
Good morning, it's Thursday and this is TEW #1, a newsletter on the future of work, society, economy, and our planet driven by the exponential growth of technology. Given the interest in the Italian edition of TEW, I thought of proposing this newsletter also in English. Happy reading and, if you liked it, share it with colleagues.
In some sense, Marc Andreessen underestimated his own prediction – it is Technology that is eating the world! - John Ruffolo
The debut of Rivian Automotive
On November 10, Rivian Automotive, a manufacturer of vehicles with an electric motor financed by Amazon and Ford, debuted on the Wall Street stock exchange. The shares of the young startup recorded a strong rise, signaling investor interest in a company that wants to use its batteries to manufacture SUVs, as well as trucks and vans for commercial transport.
The success of the operation comes on the wave of the extraordinary results achieved by Tesla, whose shares in 2009 were worth 17 dollars each while today they are around a thousand dollars, making the company founded by Elon Musk one of the most important in the world, with a stock market value of over one trillion dollars. But it also counted the support of two giants such as Amazon and Ford. The former owns 20 percent of Rivian's capital and has already announced that it will buy one hundred thousand vehicles of the company for its delivery services. The automaker, on the other hand, has a 12 percent stake and through Rivian has paved its way into the new electric car market, beating off competition from General Motors.
As the Wall Street Journal explains, two years ago it was for Ford's historical rival to invest in the prominent startup. "The story of how it managed to overcome General Motors", writes the US newspaper, "perfectly illustrates the level of the ongoing battle between traditional car manufacturers to secure a place in the new market. Ford's mission culminated in a four-hour negotiation aboard a private plane, which ended with senior executives of the group trying to camouflage themselves at an airport near Detroit, for fear of being spotted by those of General Motors.
Rivian's loss, however, did not deter rival, which in October said it would soon become the first company in the electric car market sales. Meanwhile, another fierce competitor, Germany's Volkswagen, has announced that it will open a plant entirely dedicated to electric vehicles at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.
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General Electric (GE) will split into three separate companies
General Electric (GE) plans to split into three separate companies, writes the Financial Times. The three entities will be listed on the stock exchange. In 2023 Ge Healthcare will be born, which will focus on the medical sector. The following year it will be the turn of Ge Energy, which will be active in the energy sector. The remaining part of the GE will deal with aviation.
For decades, one of the most important groups in the U.S. and world economy, GE has always been considered "the flagship of American industrial power," a model of efficiency that consistently guaranteed rich profits to shareholders. But in recent years, especially after the 2008 financial crisis, the group has faced enormous difficulties, unable to control the huge debts produced by its countless activities, ranging from televisions to aircraft engines.
Compared to 2000, when it was the largest company in the world, its stock market value has decreased by 75 percent. Ge has undergone an intense slimming treatment, with the sale of numerous companies, up to the historic decision of these days, which in fact puts an end to the model built by one of its most famous managers, Jack Welch.
The success of the IT industry in Bulgaria
"The computer industry is the greatest success story of the Bulgarian economy," writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. In the IT and telecommunications sector of the Balkan country about one hundred thousand people work, of which forty thousand in software development.
One of the most interesting aspects is that in a sector traditionally dominated by men, in Bulgaria women play a central role. According to a recent survey conducted by Eurostat, women make up 28.2% of employees in the IT and telecommunications sector. "This is the highest figure in Europe. In Switzerland the share is 16.3 percent, in Germany 17.5 percent."
But what is the reason for this primacy, asks the Swiss newspaper. Experts in the field first point out that computer science has a long tradition in Bulgaria. At times of the Iron Curtain, the Pravec computer factory was a reference point for the computer sector of the entire Soviet bloc.
Today, in addition, in the country there are two hundred high schools and fifteen universities that focus teaching on technology. To this must be added the fact that since the time of the communist regime women have been active in professions related to high technology.
As Aleksandra Metkova, director of an institute that seeks talent for the computer industry, explains, "our mothers studied engineering and physics. Women have always played an important role in this world."
The early and middle part of the 20th century saw an explosion of telecommunications technologies and capabilities. With this, engineers and researchers were confronted with numerous issues that had never really been rigorously addressed before such as: What is information? What information do I absolutely always need? In doing so these researchers accidentally built one of the most powerful set of tools applied math has given us for approaching and solving a myriad of other problems.
Information theory 1. Entropy
Information theory 2. Mutual Information: Prediction as Imitation
Information theory 3. Huffman Codes
Now that most of our communications are digital, a problem arises: How to keep our messages private despite all the intermediaries? The foundations of modern end-to-end encryption: from the author of Black Hat Rust
Blockchain 101: The Simplest Guide You Will Ever Read. Blockchain allows digital information to be distributed over multiple nodes in the network. It powers the backbone of bitcoin and cryptocurrency (but now used in other infrastructure).
In Sweden, a wood skyscraper is a new architectural design. When you land at Skellefteå Airport in the far north of Sweden, you are greeted by a wooden control tower that emerges from an endless forest of pine and fir trees. After boarding a biogas bus bound for the city, you pass by wooden apartment buildings and wooden schools, cross a wooden bridge and pass a wooden multi-story car park, before finally reaching the center, where today there is a new wooden building among the tallest in the world. "We are not wood Taliban," assures Bo Wikström, who works for the Skellefteå tourism agency, as he accompanies a group of visitors on a "wood safari" among the town's buildings. Other materials are also allowed." But why use them, when you are surrounded by 480 thousand hectares of forest? In Skellefteå only renewable hydroelectric and wind energy is used, 120 thousand tons of electronic waste are recycled every year and the excess heat produced during the transformation is channeled into the city heating system. And now, with twenty floors towering over the city's low profile, Skellefteå has a monument suited to its reputation as a carbon-reducing center. The Sara kulturhus (Sara cultural center) and its impressive Wood hotel are striking examples of what can be achieved with timber while absorbing about nine thousand tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Via The Guardian.
The fashion sector is in the mood to engage recently. In 2019, some of the largest fashion brands in the world put their names in science-based climate targets, saying they would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030 in order to stay in line with an UN-endorsed pathway to keeping the climate from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Just a couple of years later, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which has over 130 brand members—including Amazon, Gap, H&M, Nike, and Under Armour—upped that target for its members to a 45 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. At the COP26 climate conference last week, 130 companies announced that they would achieve net zero emissions by 2050. But to reduce greenhouse gases, the fashion climate fight relies on another commitment: cleaner factories.
Forget about switching energy-efficient bulbs at retail stores – according to the World Resources Institute, 96 percent of a fashion brand's footprint is in its manufacturing supply chain. In other words, it’s the factories (and to a lesser extent, farmers who grow cotton and raise sheep for wool and cows for leather) who will have to do the work so brands can reach these lofty, well-publicized goals. Via Wired.
Industry 4.0 adoption. Recent data show that the movement toward digital transformation is gaining ground in almost all sectors. In fact, in a survey of more than 400 global manufacturing companies, 94 percent of respondents indicated that Industry 4.0 helped them to keep their operations running during the crisis, and 56 percent said the digital transformation they undertook was essential to their pandemic responses. Conversely, for those companies that hadn’t scaled—or even begun—their digital transformation, the past year has served as a serious wake-up call to review operational strategies and refocus on Industry 4.0 capabilities. Via McKinsey
Is nuclear energy the best chance we have against climate change? For half a century, the debate about nuclear energy produced more heat than light, inspiring passionate discourses from all sides. But given the urgency of a rapid transition of our energy systems from high to low carbon, an impartial and balanced debate on nuclear energy is more important than ever. Major accidents such as those of Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island have made the public and politicians skeptical of nuclear energy, despite the fact that the overall number of deaths due to nuclear power is enormously lower than that of the victims caused by fossil fuels. Via Boston Review.
Why reducing methane emissions is critical to tackling climate change. Invisible gas traps more than 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide—and we emit more than we thought.