Asleep for 225 days!??

Asleep for 225 days!??

I’m following a theme of missed opportunities. Join me.

Looking back is always easier – isn’t it?

I’m reflecting on what it is that made me miss certain trends. Blind spots? Disbelief? Doubts? Subtle fears? Laziness?

I’m working on this. 🙂

I’m discovering what led me not to take a short position on any of the first 5 opportunities. Certainly the third would have been ideal. The down trend was clearly in sight by the third. I missed it! Jeez!!

Of Moonshots and Mushrooms: Let’s Get Beyond Technocratic Thinking

Of Moonshots and Mushrooms: Let's Get Beyond Technocratic Thinking

The following opinion piece on Moonshots and Mushrooms was written by Max Borders, director of Social Evolution and author of The Social Singularity

When John F. Kennedy was president, he planted a stark and powerful, technocratic image in the minds of Americans…I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

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The Moonshot Mentality

Nations don’t make commitments, of course. People do. And Kennedy was essentially making a commitment on behalf of 190 million people with 190 million different plans and projects. Still, most people don’t question the grand designs of soothing orators or national father figures, because, well, democracy. And a man… on the moon!

But this type thinking is not just a holdover from the 1960s. And we should be fair to the spirit in which the term moonshot is used in certain contexts, namely an ambitious project that has a reduced likelihood of success. And we don’t want to dismiss this connotation out of hand.

Still, even the most pro-market, pro-business enthusiasts fall under the spell of the moonshot Mentality (defined more as big projects requiring big plans and big money). Maybe it’s because they like space or because they think Elon Musk is cool.

As software developer Andrew Stover keenly observes:

Proponents of moonshots as a method of innovation such as Peter Diamandis, founder of XPrize, are constantly suggesting that what’s really needed to push humanity forward is “10x” thinking, or imagining a solution or outcome that’s ten times as big as what you might normally imagine. I recently watched a lesson Diamandis gave on “exponential thinking” and he used Elon Musk as an example. [Diamandis] described Musk’s vision and mindset. Diamandis then suggested that young people should follow in Elon’s footsteps, eschewing economic activities that don’t ignite their “passion” and to focus on solving problems that will have a massive impact.

Of Moonshots and Mushrooms: Let's Get Beyond Technocratic Thinking

When the Moonshot Mentality…Overshoots

Young people certainly have gone gaga over Elon Musk, even as they ignore Jeff Bezos. Many were agog at the Musk’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s videocast. And Musk dazzles people with all manner of moonshot projects, most of which require massive taxpayer subsidy to exist at all.

But the moonshot mentality can go too far.

When implemented, moonshots — big, audacious, expensive projects — suck massive resources away from more generative forms of human action that operate within the bounds of iteration, affordability and testability.

System-Level Implications

Musk, like Kennedy, is good at casting a spell over those from whom all the largesse is taken–especially as these projects end up costing 10x more than initially proposed. But he is not very good at evaluating the systems-level implications of his spells. After all, most moonshots are wasteful projects. And they require heaps of resources to paper over all failure and fragility. They tend to focus on “gee whiz” benefits as opposed to far less visible costs.

Here’s Andrew Stover again:

$110 billion dollars (in today’s value) was spent on the Apollo project. This is a massive investment in what was essentially an enormous geopolitical pissing match between the United States and the USSR; however, as soon at the USA no longer needed the marketing campaign of moon travel, the entire lunar project withered and died.

With a nod to Frederic Bastiat’s “That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen” we have to ask: What sorts of things never sprang up from all those resources that were taken out of circulation? What sorts of innovations, even if they might have started out as small and boring solutions, never blossomed in the way that would have given rise to thousands of humanity-improving projects? Much less juggernauts similar to Amazon, Uber, Facebook, and AirBnB?

Still, what sort of alternative is there for solving big problems?

Of Moonshots and Mushrooms: Let's Get Beyond Technocratic Thinking

Mycelial Thinking vs. Moonshots Mentality

I remember attending a conference dedicated to ways to help Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Some in that group were clearly under the spell of the moonshot mentality. (Someone even suggested a hyperloop near the Port of Ponce.)

I turned to the man who had assembled the group, Mr. Hanusa, and said: “This is going to sound weird, but I wonder if thinking on Puerto Rico’s recovery needs a different guiding metaphor than moonshot–something more like mushroom spores.”

“You mean like a mycelial network?” Mr. Hanusa said.

Exactly, Mr. Hanusa.

Here’s the BBC’s Nic Fleming, describing the process:

The Mycelial Network

While mushrooms might be the most familiar part of a fungus, most of their bodies are made up of a mass of thin threads, known as a mycelium. We now know that these threads act as a kind of underground internet, linking the roots of different plants. That tree in your garden is probably hooked up to a bush several metres away, thanks to mycelia.

The more we learn about these underground networks, the more our ideas about plants have to change. They aren’t just sitting there quietly growing. By linking to the fungal network they can help out their neighbors by sharing nutrients and information – or sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals through the network.

Decentralized Fungus Networks

Mycelial (MY-SEE-LEE-AL) networks are not centrally planned, but nature’s peer-to-peer processors. And like all natural phenomena, mycelial networks are products of evolution and emergence.

Mycelial thinking means, rather than asking who’s going to do what, one asks: within what simple rules are the goings-and-doings of agents likely to be the most robust and prosocial? These systems are about organic growth and development from the bottom up, as opposed to engineering from the top down. Such thinking, of course, involves a biological metaphor, whereas moonshot thinking is a holdover from a machine metaphor.

We might contrast these thinking styles as follows:

Moonshot Mentality: Big problems require big projects. Solutions must be at least as bold as the severity of the problems they seek to address. Want to power the masses’ homes and businesses? Build the Hoover Dam. Want to cure all that ails Puerto Rico? Build a hyperloop. Want to show the Soviets who’s boss? Build a rocketship that will carry Americans to the moon. We need brilliant engineers to think in complicated ways until a complete solution can be fully conceived, blueprinted, and built.

Mycelial Thinking: Big problems require a thousand different experiments, most of which will start small but have the potential to scale to the level of the problem. Such experiments will be carried out in self-organizing networks of experimenters with superior means of collective intelligence. These networks attack the problems from various angles. Indeed, problems often aren’t one big monolith, rather a cluster of interrelated problems. We need a cluster of interrelated solutions. We need brilliant people to think about protocol-level rules, so that complex, multivariate solutions can emerge–even if we don’t yet know what they are.

Of Moonshots and Mushrooms: Let's Get Beyond Technocratic Thinking

Sowing the Seeds of Emergence

It’s no wonder that moonshot thinking gets all the attention and budgets from bureaucrats. A single project with a visualizable product is sexier and easier to sell to the laity. Can you imagine trying to get popular support around something so abstract and prosaic as an economically diverse, thriving human ecosystem?

In fairness to Peter Diamandis, he and Steven Kotler do employ a fair amount of mycelial thinking in books like Abundance and Bold. They use the term “exponential technology,” the precise meaning of which doesn’t exactly parse any distinction between moonshots and mushrooms. But our call, of course, is to move away from the former mentality, towards the latter.

Happily, we don’t generally have to sell mycelial thinking to the masses. Instead, we have to be a smart, determined swarm of local innovators willing to make new rules for new systems into which people migrate. In other words, the easiest way to bring down the old order is to sow the seeds of emergence.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

OP-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. does not endorse nor support views, opinions or conclusions drawn in this post. is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the Op-ed article. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the content. is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any information in this Op-ed article.

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Ecuador attempted to give Assange diplomat post in Russia: document

Fri, 2018-09-21 21:39

QUITO: Ecuador in 2017 gave Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a diplomatic post in Russia but rescinded it after Britain refused to give him diplomatic immunity, according to an Ecuadorean government document seen by Reuters.
The aborted effort suggests Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno had engaged Moscow to resolve the situation of Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy for six years to avoid arrest by British authorities on charges of skipping bail.
The incident was revealed in a letter by Ecuador’s foreign ministry to a legislator who had asked for information about Ecuador’s decision last year to grant Assange citizenship.
Ecuador last Dec. 19 approved a “special designation in favor of Mr. Julian Assange so that he can carry out functions at the Ecuadorean Embassy in Russia,” according to the letter written to opposition legislator Paola Vintimilla.
“Special designation” refers to the Ecuadorean president’s right to name political allies to a fixed number of diplomatic posts even if they are not career diplomats.
But Britain’s Foreign Office in a Dec. 21 note said it did not accept Assange as a diplomat and that it did not “consider that Mr. Assange enjoys any type of privileges and immunities under the Vienna Convention,” reads the letter, citing a British diplomatic note.
Ecuador abandoned its decision shortly after, according to the letter.
British authorities have said they will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy, meaning he would have needed to be recognized as a diplomat in order to travel to Moscow.
Lawyers for Assange in the United States and Britain did not respond to requests for comment. WikiLeaks website did not respond to an email seeking comment. The Ecuadorean foreign ministry could not be reached for comment.
The plan to make Assange an Ecuadorean diplomat was made public last year, but the effort to send him to Moscow has not been previously reported.
US intelligence agencies in 2017 said they believed WikiLeaks was an intermediary used by Russia to publish emails hacked from top Democrats to embarrass 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
US President Donald Trump faces an investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to win that election. Assange denies receiving the emails from Russia, but has not ruled out having obtained them from a third party. Trump and Russia deny collusion.
The Guardian newspaper on Friday reported that Russian diplomats held secret talks in London to help Assange flee Britain through an operation tentatively scheduled for Christmas Eve, 2017.
The story, which cited unidentified sources, said “details of the plan were sketchy” and that it was aborted because it was deemed too risky.
“The Embassy has never engaged either with Ecuadorian colleagues, or with anyone else, in discussions on any kind of Russia’s participation in ending Mr.Assange’s stay within the diplomatic mission of Ecuador,” Russia’s embassy in London wrote on its web site in a response to The Guardian story.
It was not immediately evident if Ecuadorean officials had any contact with Russia as part of the Assange appointment.
Reuters was unable to obtain comment from Russia’s foreign ministry on Ecuador’s plan to make him a diplomat there.
The letter from Ecuador’s foreign ministry was a summary of 28 documents that were sent to Vintimilla in response to her request.
Among those documents is a Dec. 4 letter from Assange in which he renounced his request for political asylum from Ecuador in preparation to become an Ecuadorean diplomat. The letter, which was seen by Reuters, said he ultimately planned to travel to Ecuador.
Vintimilla, who discussed some of the documents during a Thursday press conference, said Assange should lose his citizenship as a result of that letter.
Assange sought asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questions about allegations of sex crimes, accusations that were later dropped.
Ecuador’s president Moreno has said Assange’s asylum cannot be eternal, but has also been reluctant to abruptly halt it on concerns that Assange’s human rights could be at risk.

Main category: 

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Three babies stabbed at New York childcare center

Fri, 2018-09-21 15:38

NEW YORK: Three newborn babies and two adults were stabbed during a pre-dawn attack at a suspected illegal childcare center in New York on Friday, allegedly carried out by a female employee, police said.
The injured infants ranged from three days to one-month old, police said. One woman suffered multiple stab wounds to the torso, while a man received a stab wound to the leg.
The motive was not immediately clear.
A 52-year-old female “babysitter/worker” at the in-home center was arrested, police said. The stabbing took place in the borough of Queens shortly before 4:00 am (0800 GMT).
The suspect had a slash wound to her left wrist, police said. Two knives were recovered at the scene and all the injured were taken to hospital in a critical but stable condition, police told reporters.
Police told AFP earlier that the suspect attacked two baby girls and a baby boy, leaving one of the girls in a serious condition. None of the victims’ lives was in danger, police said. The wounded female victim worked at the daycare, while the other was the father of one of the babies. Nine babies and some of their parents had been at the home at the time of the attack, police said. Officers found the suspect in the basement of the center with a self-inflicted cut to her wrist.
A police spokesman earlier told AFP that the childcare center appeared to be an “illegal” facility for members of the city’s Asian community, but officers later clarified that its status was unclear. The in-home center appears to have functioned for several years, as police responded to a noise complaint from neighbors in 2011.

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Bring on the FOMC !


The FOMC meeting next week has a hike fully priced in so the focus will be on the dot plots and the follow-up presser which has dollar bulls questioning their near-term positions.

The meeting will be overly scrutinised to see if there are any changes in the projections, with new Vice-chair Clarida voting for the first time. Also, Chair Powell will likely be quizzed on Fed Governor Lael Brainard view that US interest will probably need to be made more restrictive in the sense that at some point in the future if the unemployment rate remains low, policy rates should move above neutral and into the restrictive territory.

Dovish tail risk

And herein lies the dovish tail risk which has  USD Bulls erring on the side of caution. With 2 US rates hikes priced into  the rest of 2018 and in the absence of inflation, it’s almost impossible for the  Feds to bump up the 2019 curve. So, the markets will end up focusing on shifts in the longball forecast into 2020 which is not the best or brightest of signals for currency traders who tend to view markets in much nearer time horizons. Even if the Feds prod 2020 curve higher, its unclear how much of a USD fillip that shift could deliver given that Chair Jay Powell has contiued to de-emphasise 2020 dots. Unless we get an unexpected shift in the Feds terminal policy range of 2.75-3.00%, not sure the dollar ( X -JPY) goes anywhere but trades within well-worn ranges.

What else in G-10?

AS for the rest of G10, there will be no shift from RBNZ, but in the wake of the surprisingly strong data of late especially the monster GDP beat, we could see a subtle less dovish change in guidance.

It’s not a busy calendar next week per say but dotted by US PCE and EUR sentiment surveys. Canada delivers a GDP report, but NAFTA talks will continue to overshadow data as yet another NAFTA month-end deadline looms.

Brexit Blues 

It’s back to the Brexit drawing board after EU leaders “Chequers mated “and utterly humiliated May at the Salzburg meeting which sent the Pound tumbling below the 1.3100 before finding some composure. Of course, most believe a deal in some form or another will eventually happen. But in the nub of all this Brexit bluster, UK data has been surging with both CPI and Retail Sales beating expectations, but indeed  Brexit uncertainty has overshadowed.  Next week’s UK GDP data could be another strong point, however, with little to no breakthrough on Brexit likely to happen any time soon, The Bank of England will remain unwavering until clarity on Brexit it offered up so the market will likely look past next weeks UK data.

Great insights from our Senior Markets Analyst in London, Craig Erlam  

Sterling Down on May Brexit Warnings

OANDA Market Insights podcast (episode 32)

Craig reviews the week’s business and market news with Jazz FM Business Breakfast presenter Jonny Hart.

This week’s big stories: Sterling wobbles on Brexit fears, US/China tariffs tit for tat, Inflation hike against expectations.


China PMI which will be closely monitored. Also, we should expect more trade headlines to come into play as both US and China tease with the idea of resurrecting trade talks.

USD Price Action 

Gauging this weeks price action in the wake of Trump tariff announcement, the markets overwhelming viewed the 10 % on 200 billion tariff levy and the measured responses from China as a smoke signal for further negotiation shortly. So the unwind of global USD hedges ensued as the market just found themselves far too long USD at not such grand levels. But the robust fundamental storyline in the US economy coupled with weak PMI data in Eurozone this week, I don’t think we’ve heard the last from the dollar bulls just yet.

Currencies in focus next week

EUR: a huge disappointment to the bulls with a close below 1.1750. While Fed forward guidance will drive the bus next week, the negative  EU PMI lean could hang like an anvil around the EURO neck.

CNH: It has to be on everyone’s radar especially after this weeks exodus of long USD hedge position on a combination of Trade war de-escalation, comments that mainland will not weaponise the Yuan as a tool in the trade war and offshore funding squeeze on the back Pboc to sell bills in Hong Kong. Despite the correction lower in USDCNH, given that China’s current account surplus is expected to shrink as a result of US tariffs and if the Feds signal clear dot plot sailing or even shift slight higher, CNH could sell off again.

Oil markets

Traders will pay close attention to Sunday headlines from Algiers as OPEC, and cooperating non-OPEC producers will meet on Sunday in Algeria

Likely seeking to appease President Trump, unnamed members of OPEC suggested they would discuss adding 500 K barrels per day, and while it gave cause to book some profit and reduce risk, its highly unlikely anything dealing with supplies will happen before the December 3 OPEC summit.

Despite wire reports suggestions otherwise, most of the oil traders in my circle, and despite the usual OPEC headline noise, think the meeting will be little more than the steering committee review of production and market data.

Please join me on Live on Monday discussing cross-asset markets 

BFM Radio Kuala Lumpur  7:35 AM SGT  on the Market Watch

938Now 9:00 AM SGT for an extended view  on global markets

France 24 TV at 12:15 SGT for the European Open coverage

Jazz FM London 1:00 PM SGT discussing the Asia markets today





WHO: Alcohol abuse kills 3 million a year, most of them men

Sat, 2018-09-22 00:58

GENEVA: More than 3 million people died in 2016 due to drinking too much alcohol, meaning one in 20 deaths worldwide was linked to harmful drinking, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
More than three quarters of these deaths were among men, the UN health agency said. Despite evidence of the health risks it carries, global consumption of alcohol is predicted to rise in the next 10 years.
“It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.
In its “Global status report on alcohol and health 2018,” the WHO said that globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women are problem drinkers or alcohol abusers. The highest prevalence is in Europe and the Americas, and alcohol-use disorders are more common in wealthier countries.
Of all deaths attributable to alcohol, 28 percent were due to injuries, such as traffic accidents and interpersonal violence. Another 21 percent were due to digestive disorders, and 19 percent due to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
An estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide drink alcohol, with average daily consumption of people at 33 grams of pure alcohol a day. This is roughly equivalent to two 150 ml glasses of wine, a large (750 ml) bottle of beer or two 40 ml shots of spirits.
Europe has the highest per person alcohol consumption in the world, even though it has dropped by around 10 percent since 2010. Current trends point to a global rise in per capita consumption in the next 10 years, the report said, particularly in Southeast Asia, the Western Pacific and the Americas.
“All countries can do much more to reduce the health and social costs of the harmful use of alcohol,” said Vladimir Poznyak, of the WHO’s substance abuse unit. He said proven, cost-effective steps included raising alcohol taxes, restricting advertising and limiting easy access to alcohol.
Worldwide, 45 percent of total alcohol consumed is in the form of spirits. Beer is the second most popular, accounting for 34 percent of consumption, followed by wine at 12 percent.
The report found that almost all countries have alcohol excise taxes, but fewer than half of them use other pricing strategies such as banning below-cost sales or bulk buy discounts.

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