Thoughts on Fake News

A stroll through the peaceful streets of Rome. In contrast, it felt like the end of the world is here if you read news about Italy recently.

The human brain is a remarkable pattern recognition engine. When given incomplete information it will conjure up the “missing” pieces to generate a coherent whole that could be comprehended. More often than not what gets generated is the worst case imaginable scenario. In a normal time and age this is a wonderful function to have running automatically in the background to keep this primate alive.

However, this automatic function becomes problematic as three trends converge.

Trend 1 – big tech like Google and Facebook consolidated advertising revenue putting news entity under increasingly pressure to sustain themselves as their advertising revenue dwindled

Trend 2 – the proliferation of publication medium means anyone can now claim to be a news entity.

Trend 3 – Proliferation of Growth hacking techniques perfected by tech companies like Facebook that hijacks the human brain’s automatic fight or flight to generate user action that gets converted to revenue.

News entity generate revenue with hyper inflated news that drives readership and vitality by tapping into fear and anger. This drives wide spread panic. Corona  is perfect catalyst.

Book summary: What it takes, Stephen Schwarzman

Profile

  • Partner at BlackStone

Personal effectiveness

  • the bigger the goals the more significant the consequences
  • since you can only do one important thing at a time, always pick the most important one to start with
  • most important lessons are learned at inflection points between when failure turns into success
  • the best executives are made not born, they absorb info, study their own experiences, learn from mistakes and evolve
  • The goal of education (questioning and thinking) as a discipline is to learn how to think, it only ends when you die
  • there are as many realities as individuals, study more individuals
  • find a great mentor
  • Cultivate inner fortitude: Helps preserve morality and ethics in the face of fear and greed
  • The harder the problem the more limited the competition
  • The first job is foundational. Always look for one with a steep learning curve and strong training.
  • when caught in a tight spot, don’t become fixated on your own problem but on someone else’s
  • when seeing a huge transformative opportunity don’t worry that no one else is pursuing it.
  • never get complacent
  • make decisions when you are ready not under pressure
  • objectively assess the risks of every opportunity.

On finance and trading

  • master uncertainty: finance is a dynamic world where you will need to adjust to situations, people and new information quickly
  • build a model to explain a certain phenomena and then test it
  • do not mistake interest in making money versus interest in psychological comfort
  • market tops
    • loose credit conditions and a rising tide
    • buyers generally overconfident
    • number of people you know who become “accidentally” become rich
    • number of IPOs increase at the top, so does the valuations and size
  • market bottoms
    • very hard to bring companies to IPO
    • difficult to detect
    • markets are declining and economy weakens
    • most buy too early or under-estimate the severity of recessions
    • usually takes a year or two for market to get out of recession. even then asset value takes time to recover
    • risk is the least after a crash
    • best time to enter is after position has experienced 5-10% recovery from a crash
  • practice discipline and sound risk assessment
    • wait till the cycle fully plays out
  • Cycles are powered by supply and demand characteristics
    • understand and quantify them
    • e.g. real estate top is when building is valued significantly above replacement cost
  • Sometimes a trend especially negative ones will exhibit symptoms spread across various territories (escalating land prices Spain, India and US prior to 2008)

On building a company

  • fund raising from an LP for a new fund you are starting yourself will be harder than the prior company whom the LP already has a relationship with.
  • make sure there is not sole decision maker for important decisions to avoid getting blind sided
  • Accessing an idea
    • big enough for you to devote your life
    • unique enough as an offering that people will want it
    • timing must be right
  • transition from gut to system during the middle of the life cycle to continue further scaling
  • a business is an integrated system. Understand how one part works by itself as well as in relationship with other parts. Information is the most important asset in business

On management

  • being a strong and accurate accessor of talent is the most critical skills of entrepreneurship.
  • look for cultural fit.
  • Get the candidate into conversation mode
  • its as hard to start and run a small business versus a big one. Choose one with potential to be huge. Why waste time asking for 5-10 million USD when you can ask for 50-100 million USD?
  • find people who sense problems, design solutions and takes the business in new directions
  • be proactive in addressing personal differences over day to day operations

On deal making

  • ultimately comes down to a few key critical points
  • clear away the clutter and focus on these points to be effective
  • learn to slow things down
  • practice intense listening

Related readings

  • Outliers, Malcom Gladwell

Chat with Joe and his dad

On Kaoshiong

  • KaoShiong is where the bulk of industrial manufacturing occurs
  • Taiwan is a Japan trend follower

On strategy

  • When macro economic environment is not conducive for continued operations, stop operations to conserve resources for future opportunities.
    • Decision to close wooden frame manufacturing factory
      • Europe became more environmentally conscious
      • Malaysia reduced the yearly quota of timber to be harvested
      • These two trends reduced demand for wooden frame and increased cost of raw wooden material

On personal growth

  • Adversity in youth provides an opportunity to build character and gain experience.
  • restricting the amount of resources your offspring has access to might be a good thing but it breeds resentment
  • Good things come from seemingly bad experience too

on DDP policy in KaoShiong

  • Too radical in their actions and lacks calibration in their policies. Really good at manipulating the press
  • Stance
    • Anti China
    • Pro resource less young
    • Pro taxing businesses for social welfare
    • Pro reducing pension to retired
  • Equally corrupt as the KMT but too aggressive in their policies leaving nothing for the business to continue operations
  • manufacturing businesses has been negatively affected with over regulation and rising administrative cost
  • Worker protection makes overtime illegal severely restricting the throughput volume businesses are allowed in their operations
  • Workers not making enough from their day job due to such restrictions are forced to take on a second job on top of their main one
  • 30,000 to 40,000 businesses have failed within the KaoShiong area over the past 12 months at the point of writing with more set to fail if policy should persist
  • While GDP growth rate has been reported at 2% in 2019, shipping volume through KaoShiong has continued to drop

On KMT

  • A more mature party with measured policies which lost leadership due to lackluster performance
  • Stance
    • Pro-China
    • Pro-business
    • Pro-protecting pension of the retired

Social security system and the aging population

  • Social security system is in a state of flux. Employers are required to contribute to two systems. The contribution for the old system is 5X the new system and was too much overheads for the employers.
  • Retirees are concerned their pension will get cut while the young are concerned their contribution to the social security system is to heavy a burden

On China

  • China has imposed restrictions on independent Chinese tourist to Taiwan
    • Chinese tourist are easy customers who engage in indiscriminate spending
    • Night markets looked empty
    • Quite a few restaurants have closed down along the main street due to the lack of tourist spending
  • The bulk of Taiwan’s export has been to China it makes economic sense for both territories to become unified
  • noteworthy to observe Joe’s shift to a pro Chinese stance the on Chinese Taiwan relationship as compared to the high school days.
  • Observation of Taiwan style politics in contrast to Chinese style politics leads me to have reservation about how these two systems can be resolved.
    • the Taiwanese have no reservation with injecting outrageous humor into the legal framework afforded to them by their political system with candidates as outlandish as Mr Crazy Friday and Mr Fortune God
    • China’s one country two system need to become more robust for this undertaking
    • Recent HongKong riots has caused concern for Taiwanese and has lead to increased support for the DDP whose leader English Tsai is known to be a strong negotiator

On Korean Japan trade war

  • Huge influx of Korean tourist observed during this period of tension (Sept 2019)
  • Korean tourist are more discriminate in their spending, hence a lower per capita spending as compared to the Chinese tourist.

French youth impression on President Macron

He gave the impression of being the most centered political representative during the elections. Also the most dynamic one that can drive change as well keep the hard core rightist in check.

Three years into office, he has impressed to be right leaning, concerned only with fame and money. In addition, he is perceived as a smooth talker that has delivered nothing to satisfy the left nor the right. His policies are constantly self contradictory designed only to appease to both sides while achieving nothing. He has been considered by the youth, his primary support base, to have deserted them.

The youth of France feels funding for public services are inadequate and getting more so by the day. Is fearful the hardcore rightist are getting stronger by the day. Social mobility concerns loom at the top of their mind.

There is a hard core leftist faction that is small but mainly considered communist and negligible.

Experiments with managing our wealth gap

The ability to implement compounding models with competitive moats and a winner takes all dynamics in our markets inevitably leads to wealth inequality. 

Last century, we experimented with Liberalism (US), Communism (USSR), Facism (Germany) and Militarism (Japan) as solutions to tackle the problem. Liberalism was the model that won. 

Right now, in addition to continued work on Liberalism, we explore technologism, populism, socialism and terrorism. 

In worst case scenario, we should expect a system reset that is not backed by any framework when the percentage of disenfranchised crosses the critical threshold. It will be very messy when that happens. 

Investment Biker, Jim Rogers

Key take aways

  • Central investment thesis:
    • Always bet against the central banks and with the real world
    • truly down trodden people do not rise, but hell hath no fury like suppressed peoples whose expectations have been aroused
    • people don’t change their ways until their are forced to
    • while it is easy to figure out an investment is cheap, the real work is figuring out if a change is about to occur in the near future. It is important to study markets and their history
    • when seeing a big change coming (the opening of the trans Siberian railway), consider the economic, political and social shift
  • modus operandi
    • Why buy a new sofa when it could be put to work in the markets
    • Only invest in what I can sell quickly
    • do nothing until you can see the money to be picked up around the corner
  • key areas of study
    • geography
    • politics
    • economics
    • history
  • Company assessment criteria
    • Price to book value
    • sound balance sheet
    • pay dividend
    • Price to earnings ratios
    • Viable industries
    • start with largest soundest enterprises
      • banks
      • mines
      • news papers
  • On assessing countries
    • Watch out for statism – governments getting in the way of an organic market
      • democracy does not equal prosperity
      • US government piling more and more regulations
      • SnL crisis of the 1980s
      • Artificially suppressed prices
        • 1970s gold in America
        • 2019 prices of pork in China
      • Foreign aids (IMF, UN and Peace Corps) just props up a system that does not work and delays the actual rebuilding process. Have faith in the locals to rebuild themselves in a configuration that works for them as opposed to a system suited to foreigners liking (hubris)
    • On ethnic strife and separatism
      • Some geographical boundaries don’t make sense.
      • no borders remain stable for long
      • economic hardship will bring to surface these fault lines as they get used as a vehicles to get more
      • Wait till wars are fought and border issues sorted out. It might then become a great investment opportunity to enter at the bottom
      • examples
        • Rise of Islam and Christianity in Siberia prior to Soviet collapse
        • Hong Kong riots
        • Barcelona declaration of independence
        • XinJiang, Tibet
    • black markets as signals: difference between black markets rates and official exchange rates provide an indicator of how much the central bank has propped up the exchange rate. Minimal to no differences are signs of a strong economy
    • major red flags:
      • currency controls, import taxes, export restrictions. Makes it hard to pull funds out
      • is country trying to devalue its way out of its internal problems instead of doing a proper fix?
      • frantic purchase of gold in local jewelry store
    • Positive signal:
      • Is the country trying to get foreign hard currency by making things other people want to buy – quality goods
      • Is the country learning to compete and out innovate its competition
      • an educated population
  • On centrally planned economies
    • the market feedback mechanism is missing
    • resources get ruined due to misuse
    • it would have thrive if it was a sound economic theory
  • On China
    • while Russia abused their resources, China having nowhere to go were more deliberate and took better care of their resources
    • success had a lot to do with economic and political organization
    • example
      • took bees to blooming flowers to work them 5-7 times harder than their foreign counterparts
    • Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai being captured by the capitalist spirit generally ignores capital’s policies
  • Note worthy collations
    • China (labor) / Siberia (natural resources)
    • Australia (natural resources) / Japan (capital)
    • US (capital) / Canada (natural resources) / Mexico (labor)
  • On commodities
    • most local markets will eventually get assimilated into the global market
    • diamonds have artificially propped up prices that will be hard to maintain in the long run. DeBeers will eventually run out of cash buying up supplies from the black market and it will lead to sudden price collapse. Opt for gem and rubies instead
    • when gold gets too cheap companies will figure out ways to use it thereby depleting its supply driving up price. Same could be said of oil
    • underlying structural issues within a country can stay hidden for long during times of a commodity boom
  • The key to success
    • out of every 1000 people who wants to be rich only 6 can master the discipline to do so
    • stay focus on a single goal for five, ten, twenty years

Related readings

Lee Kuan Yew, Interviews and selections by Graham Allison and Robert D Black Will with Ali Wyne

Key take aways

  • An political system that yield’s inferior economic performance will ultimately be discarded
    • leadership succession is the most part of any political system
    • contest between great powers in the 21st century will over economy and technology as opposed to military
    • The war for talent is the most critical competition in the 21st century
  • Three attributes vital in competition between nations and companies
    • entrepreneurship
    • people’s innovativeness
    • management
  • Core competencies for workers in the future
    • own control system
    • self supervision
    • responsibility to self upgrade
    • self discipline
  • Globalization cannot be reversed
    • the underlying driver is technology
    • better and cheaper transportation and communication will only accelerate its pace
  • On leadership
    • learn to ignore (quasi) experts and their pet theories
    • ignore how people will judge you, especially news
    • a popular government does not need to be popular all the time. Just make at the end of each term sufficient benefits have been realized from the unpopular decision
    • if no one is afraid of you, you are meaningless
  • On balancing society
    • when a society is too geared towards competition then group solidarity becomes weak
    • when a society has wealth that is too evenly distributed there is no incentive for the individual to make progress
    • no two individuals are equal
  • Elements needed for social progress
    • determined leadership
    • efficient administration
    • social discipline
  • On governing
    • find practical, not doctrinal, solutions to our problems of growth and development
    • get things done and leave others to extract principles from my successful solutions
    • if same solution is observed to work multiple times then it makes sense to spend time extracting the underlying principles (quite similar to George Soro’s practice of invest first and research later)

On China

  • China will reorganize, reeducate and train themselves to become a high tech society within 50-100 years. Main advantage is in economic influence
  • Key challenge for China over the next 30-50 years is the ability to attract talent
  • China’s official language is Chinese is a very arcane one. The world’s knowledge is all encoded in English. This presents a great barrier to China’s ability to attract and assimilate talent

On America

  • Its key advantage is its frontier society mindset.
    • An entrepreneurial culture of continuous self disruption
    • 1980s Japan and Germany eclipsed America in manufacturing before it came roaring back
    • individualistic and nonconformist society which encourages more extreme and random behavior which results in more creativity and inventiveness
  • Ability to attract and assimilate talents from around the world

On India

  • Too much red tapes

On terrorism

  • Is less a concern of Muslim versus the west but more modern Muslims versus radical muslims

Related references

  • The Fatal Conceit: Errors of Socialism, Friedrich Hayek
  • The alchemy of finance, George Soros

General thoughts on Mark Zuckerberg’s warning of the internet’s role in Authoritarianism displacing Democracy

  • The polarization between democratic systems and authoritarian systems is becoming more apparent as China leverages its growing middle class to project it’s influence on the world stage a strategy that US has been utilizing for the past decades.
  • Facebook is a vehicle for projecting American values overseas.
  • The African continent remains a land grab for the two different regime types. Thus far, China has won out on the physical infrastructure and government level while FaceBook has won out on the community grassroots levels.
  • For the C Suite especially CMOs to execute their jobs well they need to be focused on what’s happening out there in the world as opposed to what’s happening within their own functional organization. It’s the VP of marketing’s job to handle what is within their own marketing organization.
  • Its a time when US companies will need to navigate the international markets while managing the challenges to their American values.
  • The Chinese government has done a better execution on that front with their One Belt Road initiative by clearing the path at the government level to facilitate the unhindered expansion at the commercial level by its enterprises.
  • Western media is working at full Rev to control the narrative frames that drives public opinions.
  • Mark Zuckerberg has masterfully leverage recent trends to reframe Libra as a champion of democratic ideals as opposed to a disintermediation force on central banks around the world.

Related references

Zuckerberg Warns China’s Censored Internet Could Still Win Out
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-17/zuckerberg-warns-china-s-censored-internet-could-still-win-out

Apple bows to China by removing Taiwanese emoji

https://qz.com/1723334/apple-removes-taiwan-flag-emoji-in-hong-kong-macau-in-ios-13-1-1/

Christian Dior apologizes for omitting Taiwan from Chinese map

https://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2019/10/17/china-bullies-christian-dior-apologizing-omitting-taiwan-map/

China exerts pressure on NBA to fire key executive for tweet on Hong Kong unrest

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/17/sports/basketball/nba-china-adam-silver.amp.html

Solomon island switches relationship to China from Taiwan

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/16/world/asia/solomon-islands-taiwan-china.amp.html

Kiribati switches relationship to China from Taiwan

https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/20/taiwan-loses-second-ally-in-a-week-as-kiribati-switches-to-china

Southeast Asia balances between Chinese Markets and US defense

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/09/world/asia/china-us-asia-rivalry.html

Facebook Warns Washington That Beijing Wins If Libra Plan Fails
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-17/facebook-warns-washington-that-beijing-wins-if-libra-plan-fails

 

 

Constrains on world GDP levels

Absolute constrains

  • Break throughs in fundamental science
  • Level of human population
  • Size of geographical mass under occupation – currently Earth

Transient constrains

  • monetary and credit supply levels
    • inflation
    • deflation
  • proliferation of scientific techniques
    • full proliferation results in zero or negative ROI when further credit is employed
  • ease of population, trade and credit/money flows around the world

Related references