Book summary: The Fate of Rome

Climate is both an enabler and disruptor of human endeavors. Nature balances the population it supports. Technology enables increased rate of energy extraction from environment to further human purposes.

Conducive climate results in bountiful yield and has allowed Rome to rise. Land is cleared and trade networks flourish during the rise of the empire. Clearance of wild lands unlocked microbes into the human civilization.

Microbes evolve to utilize humans and other mammals as vectors of infection. Dense population and connected trading network serve as a multiplier. The worst pandemic is the white pestilence (Black Death). This wiped out more than half of human population.

Trading network collapse as a result of the decimated population. Military rank diminishes both as a result of population decimation. Problem is further compounded by collapse of financial system which makes it difficult to sustain an army.

Grounds are fertile for spread of monotheistic dooms day religion like Christianity. Emperor Justinian converts to Christianity. Classical Greek school of thoughts gets displaced.

Climate change for the worse force nomads with superior military power to migrate westwards into Roman territory.

Roman Empire with decimated population gets further crippled.

Key observations of Chinese One Belt Road Initiative in Africa

Territories observed

  • Egypt
  • Sudan
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • South Africa

Similarities observed

  • Heavy Chinese enterprise involvement in the building of roads and houses
  • Shops with Chinese labels observed in operation
  • In areas where there are construction operations, Chinese supervision and management observed aided by local manual labor
  • Ubiquity of mobile internet connection
  • Ubiquity of Samsung, Huawei and Tenco Android mobile phones ranging from USD50 among local adult and adolescent population

Macro trends

With the rise of the Chinese middle class, there is now increasing domestic demand for goods and services within China. This has driven the need to increase the overall throughput volume of such commodities. It can be speculated that the level of consumption is expected to surpass the level of production within China at some point.

Economic growth in China has for now hit a road block due to the following factors:

In light of these, China needs to start shifting its policy from an export focused economy to a domestic focused economy. To do so, it needs to feed and drive domestic demand for goods and services.

Regional trends

The Chinese government has been observed to enter into agreement with local African government to fund the build out of infrastructure, primarily roads and buildings. At the date of writing 85% of roads in Ethiopia has been completed within the country while in Zanzibar, Tanzania, all major roads are under construction and a sports stadium named Mao ZeDong stadium has been observed.

In exchange for the funding, local governments are restricted to engaging the service of Chinese companies. This safeguards the effectiveness of funds deployment for the operations aspects of the agreement while serving to three specific purposes. It minimizes the actual volume of liquidity that is tied up in loans to local government, while boosting demand for construction services within China and increasing maximum possible throughput volume of commodity exports from the region.

What is not obvious during the time of observation is how effective local governments are at managing funds during the stage between its receipt from China to its payment to the engaged Chinese companies. Discounting the inherent effectiveness of the various projects in driving local GDP, differing levels of corruption and maturity of national identify within the region will result in variance between actual ROI versus expected ROI for these projects.

On deciphering Chinese end goal within the region

At the moment of writing, it is yet clear how Chinese African relationship will crystalize for the future. Two key observations need to be made before we can get a glimpse of it.

Key observation #1 would be how China would react when the loans come to maturity and the local government have yet made sufficient returns from the infrastructure investments to pay off the debt.

Key observation #2 would be how Chinese companies would handle the post construction phase of projects that require ongoing maintenance in terms of knowledge transfer.

Related readings

Symbiotic relationships between man and other species

Somewhere along in time, Man formed semi-symbiotic relationships with selected species of plants and animals. Thereafter this cohabiting social structure was scaled up the world over. 

As the process ran its course, other species were inevitably marginalized due to habitat loss, some driven almost to the brink of extinction.

It is interesting to note, the larger the physical size of an unincorporated specie and the closer it’s distance to the brink of extinction. 

The long term trend tends towards mono-cultures and minification of species. 

Man does not share the position at the top of the food chain well with others.

Key observations in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, a city under construction

On society

  • 120 million relatively young population
  • 65% of youth graduate from college
  • unemployment rate is 85%
  •  The Youth is hungry for opportunity to advance in life
  • The Youth is highly optimistic and have faith in their prime minister
  • Shifting away from a tribal centric identity to a nation identity is the key challenge for the country. Tribal warfare was observed in Matema region.

On infrastructure

  • One belt one road initiative has thus far rebuilt 85% of all major highways
  • significant levels of Chinese operated construction observed in Addis Ababa where Chinese occupy the management layer while the locals occupy the manual layer.
  • Significant levels of new housing construction in villages by locals. Projects are facilitated by ease of material transport due to improved road conditions.
  • At the moment of writing, Chinese built daily train is in operation from Addis Ababa to Djibouti. Chinese management is in process of doing knowledge transfer to local with the intention of handing eventual management.

On nature and agriculture

  • mixed of highland and grassland terrain
  • lowlands are utilized for the cultivation of wheat, corn and coffee
  • highlands are utilized for the cultivation of potato and barley

On technology

  • Ethiopia’s own version of Uber was launched earlier this year.
  • Country-wide established 3G networks has been observed
  • Majority of people were seen using Android mobile phones like Samsung and Huawei.
  • Tenco is a locally manufactured Android phone ran by Chinese management. Typical phone sells for USD50.

On foreign relations with China

  • China is the largest trading partner where food is the main export.
  • China’s one belt one road initiative in Ethiopia aims to increase supplies of raw materials available to the middle class rich in China by building up critical infrastructure like roads and manufacturing facilities to increase overall throughput volume from this agriculturally fertile region.
  • The approach is to utilize Chinese capital, Chinese management expertise and operations technique gained from the rebuilding of their economy, local raw materials and local human labor.
  • Where maintenance is required knowledge transfer occurs. This serves to help conserve Chinese human capital as they further their initiative across the region.
  • The observed build up of educated youth will likely help facilitate the necessary knowledge to ensure infrastructure gets maintained beyond the time period of the initiative.

Related readings

  • Why the west rules for now, Morris Ian

Reflections on self mastery

The ability to fully master yourself is predicated upon the ability to cut through the narratives thrown off by your limbic brain in situations of stress to tap directly into your sensations and be at peace with them.

The ability to master the environment is predicated upon the ability to physically execute upon a series of actions which in the process yields a corresponding set of sensations and results.

The ability to master other sapiens and mammals is predicated upon the ability to bend them to your will, namely the disciplined application of the carrot and the stick. In Sapiens, it is necessary to utilize narratives to  manage their limbic brain.

Any property in nature brought to its extreme form counter-intuitively appears on the surface to be its exact opposite. High levels of Self-mastery on occasions gets perceived as Sociopathy by the casual observer.

Forecoming social experiment: To practice exploiting the unsuspecting street tout without yielding a single dollar.

References

  • Steve Jobs, by Walter Isacson
  • The Elon Musk blog series, by Urban Tim
  • Titan: the life of a John D Rockefeller, by Chernow Ron
  • Anabasis, Xenophon
  • Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
  • The everything store: Jeff Bezos and the age of Amazon by Stone Brad
  • The Facebook effect: The inside story of the company by Kirkpatrick David
  • Machina by Sebastian Marshal
  • Be slightly evil, by Vankatesh G Rao
  • Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harrari
  • Why the west rules for now by Morris Ian
  • Analysis of Arabic Street tout aggressive sales technique by Gary Teh
  • Observations in Sudan by Gary Teh
  • Summary of learnings into the subject of Mundfulness by Gary Teh

Observations in Sudan

Orange purchased from road side vendor in the middle of the Sudan desert

Society

  • Sharia law is used as the foundational legal framework within the country.
  • Public venues for prayer are prevalent
  • Majority of males observed to engage in worship 5 times a day
  • Touting is non-existent except at tourist venues as well as bus stations. Prices are fixed.
  • Hospitality of locals is commendable. On multiple occasions they would pay for tea and food if they happen to engage in any form of conversation out of curiosity.
  • Minimal signs of homelessness observed. Streets in Khartoum appear empty past 8pm in the evening.
  • Despite general lack of infrastructure, a strong sense of community was observed amongst the population. Daily affairs were was observed to be conducted in an orderly and peaceful manner.

Technology level

  • Level of technology level in government agency observed is low.
  • Mobile phones are prevalent. Android owns majority of market share. Samsung and Huawei mobile phone users were observed to be prevalent.
  • Facebook and WatsApp are the dominant internet communications medium. YouTube is in prevalent use
  • Internet connectivity is low and generally unstable hovering around 300++kpbs in hotels.
  • The following US based technology solution is not accessible. Use of proxy is necessary.
    • AWS
    • Gmail
    • Stripe
    • Bugsnag

Perception of foreign relations

  • US and western nations perceived still to be harboring colonial masters mentality attempting to meddle in affairs of nation with aim of gaining unfair advantage.
  • The Chinese government is perceived as friendly and fair, genuinely interested in helping the country develop.

Nature and history

  • Water melon was observed to grow wild in the sub-Saharan dessert. Much agricultural potential could be expected if nile is successfully harvested for irrigation purposes.
  • Donkeys, camels and cows observed to roam wild in the sun-Saharan dessert.

Key take aways from Mien Kampf, Adolf Hitler

Mein Kampt, Adolf Hitler

On governance

Majority of the population is not equipped with the necessary faculty to make decision about the running of the country. Let the superior man assume this responsibility be imbued with the power to pass laws and regulations. The market is to be subordinated to the nation.

The study of history

History should read with the use of critical lens. The student of history should approach it with the desire to understand cause and effects. He needs to apply a clear frame and extract from it relevant pieces that fits the frame to further his understanding of how the world works.

The management of the crowd

Majority of the population will not bother themselves with the use of their critical faculties when analyzing arguments made by policy makers ( Logos). Rather, they choose instead to simply really on them emotions which only takes into account very limited set of signals (Pathos).

Therefore, the primary objective of propaganda is not to be factually correct but to drive the population to action.

The structure of the message needs to be simple. The larger the audience catered for the simpler the message need to be. The use of icons and dramatic colors is extremely beneficial.

When refining your message, start with a small set of audience and work from there to gradually larger ones. This keeps running cost low and allows a more controlled cabilbration process.

On democracy

This is a long drawn out intensive dubious process which is subjected to high levels of resource wastage. A centrally controlled organization will be more effective at addressing deep rooted issues. Elected leaders tends towards the dumbest common denominator.

On the economy

It should not drive national policies but should be driven by it. In the former, private interest will prevail over public needs. Private interest tends to be dominated by a class that focus purely on making money with money via interest instead of the common person that exchanges actual physical hard work with money.

The goal of schools is to socialize the next generation to the nations core values and principles. This training requires a strong physique. Physical training should take majority of the education.

Related readings

  • The wealth of nations, Adam Smith
  • Les Capital, Karl Marx

thoughts on digital nomadism

A makeshift work space atop the rooftop terrace of Bob Marley Hostel in Luxor, Egypt, with a serene view of the Nile where peace is occasionally interpunctuated by the calls to prayer from the mosque nearby

There is a big difference between just going nomad and going digital nomad. The emphasis in the latter is on the word digital.

The digital nomad moves from one hub to another. He is restricted to hubs that have good internet connectivity.

He has the freedom to operate out of a lower cost base of his own choosing.

There are two distinct time zones he has to deal with. The work time zone and the time zone of his physical location. They do not necessarily need to coincide.

The following sets of technologies have really flattened the world making it really easy to operate from most places in the world.

  • Google Maps
  • Google FI
  • Uber for Ride sharing
  • Travel Tech like Booking.com and Hopper
  • Facebook

Value provided by Lonely Planet is starting to seem really seem most especially the food and accommodation section . The main value add remains border crossings which are inherently complicated. This is where their online community shines. However liquidity of other communities like Facebook groups and trip advisor forums are really competitive too.

Observed part of the world during this trip is mainly on Facebook, WatsApp and Asian manufactured Android Phones.

Equipment replacement is the most critical consideration while quality of connectivity is an ongoing concern.

 

Analysis of Saudi Arabia’s revenue model disruption and technology trends within Jordan

While speaking with a Saudi traveler in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan, its been observed that disruption of Saudi Arabia’s revenue model has forced much domestic changes within the country.

The prince has brought about drastic reforms in response to the disruption much to the chagrin of traditionalist hardliners. Women are now given the rights to drive vehicles and also work. For the first time ever Saudi’s were able to see Circ Du Soleil within their country. It can be speculated that these reforms are intended to double the total number of potential workforce in the country and get the thought process of the workforce more in sync with the rest of the world as Saudi Arabia gears its economy for a world that is no longer dependent on oil for energy.

Disruption examined using Micheal Porter’s 5 forces framework

Substitutes

The shale oil innovation has put a max cap on oil prices around the world at USD80 per barrel. Traditionally oil dependent countries within the OPEC could artificially restrict oil supply to drive up oil prices. However, post the era of innovation when such strategy employed, shale oil producers will immediately start pumping supplies into the market when price becomes viable.

New entrants

The Paris Climate agreement has catalyst a movement to shift away from oil to renewable sources of energy. Already China and India have became large players of solar energy. With innovation within this sector continuously driving down costs, it is likely the world will see an inflection point whereby solar energy becomes cheaper to produce than fossil fuel based energy.

Implications

A paradigm shift will occur amongst Saudi’s in relation to their attitude towards women as independent individuals with economic autonomy as opposed to individuals whose sole function is to be on the receiving side of male attention and care.

It remains unclear the impact of social media on the the upcoming shift within population.

Its also been observed via various sources within the Bay Area that Saudi Arabia is increasingly turning to investments in technology to drive the next stage of their economic growth.

Saudi Arabia is seen as the economic trend leader within region. It is likely their eventual model will get mimicked by other oil-dependent middle eastern countries.

Other notable observations within Jordan

Asian companies like Hyundai, Toyota, Kia, Nissan have been observed to dominate the region in terms of manufactured cars. The only other notable brands that are not Asian are Mercedes and Ford.

Android and Asian companies like Samsung, Huawei and Sony have been observed to dominate the region in terms of mobile computing.

Facebook is the only social network that has been observed to deeply penetrate the region. Majority of folks utilize WatsApp. Facebook is less commonly seen on phones of users.

User huddled over Android device in Wadi Rum. To understand their needs, technologist need to become more keenly familiar with the Android OS.

Related references

  • Only the paranoid survives, Andy Grove

Reflections on King Herod’s architectural feats

In a short span of 30 years, this individual was able to build up three significant fortress within his domain

  • Herodium
  • Masada
  • Temple of Jerusalem

Sources describe him as ambitious, demanding and meticulous in planning down to the last details. These are very familiar character traits shared by the following individuals

  • Steve Jobs
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Elon Musk

Temple Mount, formerly site of Temple 2

Model of the Herodium fortress

Model of the Masada fortress