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Weekly selection
26 May 2018

5 insightful op-eds or articles to help make sense of today’s world

  • George Magnus, “Just what the global economy needs—emerging markets hitting a brick wall
”

    (Prospect Magazine - 24 May 2018)

    Emerging markets were the future once, but since February they’ve run into a bit of a brick wall. The proximate cause for concern is their currencies - often a sign of other problems. The Turkish lira and the Argentine peso have been hit the hardest – both countries have balance of payments deficits of around 5% of GDP – an imbalance usually associated with financing problems. More generally, there are two main clouds hanging over emerging markets: China’s growth slowing down and US monetary tightening (reads in 6-8 min).

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  • Ajay Agrawal, “The economics of artificial intelligence”

    (McKinsey Quarterly - 1 May 2018)

    This is a great read to understand in simple terms what the economics of AI is all about, and what it does to business. In a nutshell: AI serves a single, but transformative, economic purpose: it significantly lowers the cost of prediction. As the price of prediction drops, the value of its substitutes will go down and the value of its complements will go up. Hence the value of human prediction (a “substitute” beset by many cognitive biases) will fall, but the value of data and, most importantly, human judgment and action will increase (reads in 7-8 min). 

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  • Francis Wilkinson, “Democracy Will Die, Maybe in Its Sleep”

    (Bloomberg View - 22 May 2018)

    Whether democracy is dying or not is today one of the most hotly debated political issues. Whichever side you take, this interview with the Cambridge professors who is an ardent proponent of the “democracy is dying” thesis is a must read. In his view, we are probably in the later stages of the democratic story, “somewhere over the hill”. But he also says the later stages of people’s lives can be the best years, if they face up to the fact that they are old (reads in 7-9 min).

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  • Sean Illing, “Trump just canceled the North Korea summit. 9 experts explain what happens now”

    (Vox - 24 May 2018)

    In short: it’s not great. None of the nine experts (all Americans) sees any possible upside in the cancellation. With some substantial variations, all agree that North Korea is the big winner of Trump’s decision and South Korea the loser. For the US President, it is a substantial embarrassment. It’s very hard to get a sense of what comes next (reads in 6-7 min).

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  • Michael Graziano, “The Unconscious Rules of Personal Space”

    (The Atlantic - 24 May 2018)

    This is an adaptation from the professor of psychology and neuroscience’s latest book: “The Spaces Between Us: A Story of Neuroscience, Evolution, and Human Nature”. Everyone has a personal space, an instinctive protective zone, and the distance we keep from others is an elaborate, instinctive dance, ruled by social norms and genetics. The most consistent and fundamental result in the literature is that personal space expands with anxiety. An interesting read made highly current and vivid by Trump’s famous handshake! (reads in 6-8 min).

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