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Learning by Proxy

Subscriptions | Learning by Proxy

For most of human history, the supply of products was always far lower than the demand for them. It is hard to believe, how radically this changed in the last 30 years. Just as unbelievable as the fact that 15 years ago, if you wanted to find your way around a new town, you had no other choice but to stop your car a dozen times and stop strangers and ask them. There was no Google Maps, no smartphone or 3G.

For most of human history, we have been reproducing faster than we have been producing.

I remember standing in a queue in 1989 outside the Delhi Milk Scheme (DMS) store to get milk which was rationed – half a litre per person in the household. In those days Europe was described in India as a place where ‘doodh ki nadiyan behti hain’ (where rivers of milk flow).

There are still places in the world where getting things is hard; but in most of the developed and developing nations, that is not the case. [*except in America where it seems like getting anything involves a 3-week wait]

The abundance that we experience today – we can get what we want, when we want – is a recent phenomenon.

At a time when demand outstripped supply, growth always seemed infinite. You could bring as much supply to the market as you wished and the market would gobble it up. This ramping up of scale was referred to as growth by most businesses and it has kept shareholders happy for the past 100 years.

That growth is under attack!

Source: Federal Reserve of St Louis

The population growth rate of most G7 countries has been propped up by a single word – Immigration. Many of them are working hard to cull it! Instead of focusing on their systemic flaws and costs (cost of education), they are going after those who actually keep their economies propped up!

Japan is one of the G7 nations that does not receive too many immigrants because of their language, their colonialism was limited to a small part of Asia (mostly China) and also their society is not very accepting of outsiders. The graph above has a story to tell.

The richest nations in the world are dying

These countries do not have a fertility rate to even keep their population constant. Their populations, at least their native populations, are in steady decline. The rise in the standard of living implies it is economically impossible to have more than 1 child.

Benjamin Franklin was considered one of the best that American society had to offer in his times. Even he did not bother with ensuring education to his children, although he had only 2 of them.

By the standards of 18th century Americans, it was very low. Their high birth rate, 5 – 7 children per couple made it possible for the white race to eclipse the indigenous tribes and eventually exterminate them. But that is for another time.

This has undergone a radical change in the last 200 years. Across the US and Europe, a middle-class family is expected to provide quality education to their child. The trouble is that raising a child can cost up to USD 1 Million across 20 years. Many couples are unwilling to absorb this cost.

European countries are trying hard to push their youngsters to have children throwing in all kinds of incentives including “sex breaks“.

The G7 represents close to 50% of the world economy. The slowdown in growth in these countries implies a slowdown for businesses everywhere.

Companies that sell cars or TVs could rely on growth because there were more and more people who did not have those conveniences. As their incomes increased they would eventually step into the market. Today, with more than 90% market penetration and slowing population growth, it does not look like there is a lot of growth to be had.

Enter Subscription

The subscription model was originally conceived by the utility companies that needed to keep providing a service over a prolonged period of time to their customers. The original subscription service was milk which had to be delivered fresh every day. Then came the newspaper. After General Electric figured out how to charge a subscription for electricity, Edison exported the same model to telecom.

The model was adopted by software companies over the last decade since it makes it easier to continuously develop and improve their products rather than having to go through the process of building up hype and selling the software over and over every few years. It is painful to sell software once, it is even more painful to sell it all over again every few years.

The subscription model is a brilliant financial innovation because you keep getting pay-offs from customers you sold to a long time ago.

Revenue Model

As can be seen above, there is an accumulation that takes place which makes the model very powerful. Although new sales remain constant. In the real world, there may be some drop-off – customers who discontinue the subscription, but even so, your revenues continue to rise.

In simple, so long as you are not losing all your past customers, you can rest on past laurels.

Even Swiggy, UrbanClap and Uber who are running transactional platforms which are providing real-world services have launched subscriptions programs that offer users the ability to avail themselves discounts every time they use the app. But more importantly, it allows the companies to have a minimum baseline revenue irrespective of the number of transactions processed.

Almost every device you use today runs on software and therefore, every company seems to think that they can sell you a subscription.

The subscription model is making its way into the unlikeliest of places. The Automobile Industry.

Mercedes could soon offer a monthly subscription service via a Mercedes Me app store that adds extra in-car features. Mercedes software developer Markus Ehmann told the publication that the automaker is “working on a robust platform that allows the user, the drivers, to turn features on and off in their car – possibly an extra feature that costs money or something they know they don’t want.”

Source: CarBuzz

The feature that they want to charge for is a standard feature that has been around in most high-end cars for the last decade.

I am just waiting for all of the other gadgets around the house to start charging a subscription. Imagine when your fridge does not open till you pay up!

Software also means flexibility and Samsung is throwing the Android operating system that is used to power their phones, into the fridge, to create an e-commerce ordering model.

Samsung is really, really eager for you to know about its new smart refrigerator with a ridiculously large touchscreen integrated right into the door. It put up posters early, it posted images early, and finally it even put up some PR early. But now it’s officially official, and despite the fact that it looks nothing so much like a huge Android tablet super-glued onto a fridge, it’s actually one of the best implementations of a smart fridge we’ve seen.

The headline feature is a shopping app that’s been created by MasterCard. It lets you buy groceries right from the door, and the intelligent part is that it can combine carts from multiple stores. At launch, you can order from FreshDirect and ShopRite, and MasterCard says that more stores will be added throughout 2016 (you can use any credit card to pay, of course). MasterCard also tells me that if you have kids, no worries, when they load up the cart with Go-Gurt you will still be able to approve the cart before it goes through.

Source: The Verge

Layering more and more business models on devices that used to be sold for a fixed price is going to become standard as the days go by. These will be necessary to keep their businesses growing. In a business where you sell products that have an average life span of 10 years or more, generating additional income flows from the mere usage of the device is becoming more and more important.

This pretty much explains my last week’s edition on App Store. iPhones used to be changed every 2 years, now we upgrade probably once every 5 years. There is a need to keep revenues growing; selling more services through the device is the only way.

Categories
General Thinking

Your image of yourself

We all have an image of ourselves that we have constructed in our minds. 

I had this image of myself as being that person who loves to play the piano and would imagine myself playing fluently on a keyboard or a piano. Because of this image of myself, I not only spent money on buying a keyboard but also wasted space in my house to accommodate the same. The truth is that I did not need a keyboard, I needed discipline, which was lacking. 

We all are prisoners of the image that we have of ourselves. It is liberating when you realise that reality is divorced from that image. You take a lot of pressure off yourself and you are able to focus on the things that you can actually be disciplined with. 

In my case writing. 

Just take a look at the things around your house that are there just to conform with your idea of who you are. You will often find that those are the things you use the least and most certainly amass the most, to compensate for the fact that you suck at it. Here are a list of things and the excuses you offer yourself – 

Musical Instruments – I love playing, just learning it slowly.

Books – I love reading, there are just so many books I have, it is hard to make up my mind which one to start with…

Workout Equipment – I have decided that I will start exercising next year as my new year’s resolution.

Cookware – I could be the greatest chef. I am just watching a lot of videos, for now, will start making it soon.

and the list goes on…

Get rid of it.

Liberate yourself. Make the image in your mind consistent with reality.

Categories
Learning by Proxy

App Store | Learning by Proxy

In January 2007, Steve Jobs announced the iPhone at the MacWorld. The announcement would cause seismic shifts in the entire computing world, but nobody realised it at the time. In an era where Nokia was selling $150 dollar phones; a $500 phone seemed like it was meant for the nerdy enthusiast. Steve Balmer, then CEO of Microsoft laughed during an interview saying nobody would buy the device. It took that kind of confidence to ensure Microsoft had no role to play in the mobile revolution.

The success of Apple has been, in not only making the entire world accept, and buy a device at that price point; but also to refresh that device every 2 – 5 years. Within the first year of the launch, 1 Million devices had been sold.

The next year, with an intention to make the device accessible to developers, Apple launched the App Store. They created the development framework and made it possible for any developer to jump into the fray and develop software for the iPhone and monetise their skills. In the following years, they introduced the concept of In-App Purchases (IAP). Prior to the internet, software developers would develop applications to be sold once. Gaming companies sold the cartridge or CD of their games once and that was the most money they were going to get out of it. They had to also develop mini versions of the game or software called Trial versions with restrictions.

The In-App Purchase model did away with the whole thing. It made it possible for the user to download the app, try it out and then pay immediately to upgrade. For game developers, this made it possible to monetise their product at every step through virtual goods, power-ups, etc. This gave birth to a whole new economy. More importantly, it unbounded the development business.

Prior to the App Store, if you wished to develop software and distribute it, you had to hire developers, you needed to build the product, test, perfect and then figure out the distribution – offline. This was expensive and even the simplest product would require a couple of million in upfront investment to get started. The App Store took away the distribution problem. Further, since Apple had millions of iPhone customers, it was possible for app developers to sell their products to 10s of thousands of customers, if not millions of them. App prices which used to be in the range of $30 – $300 crashed to $1. This ensured more people bought and tried out the apps and many silicon valley successes were born out of this.

Source: Statista

Game Developers have been the biggest beneficiaries of the App Store economy. Developing a game is like making a movie. It could be a hit or a flop. It is a concept, a creative process; people may or may not end up liking it. Taking on that risk was not easy for game developers before the App Store. The number of games in the market has sky-rocketed after the app store. From a few dozen it peaked at about half a million games. Every tom, dick and harry could develop games. Also, Apple developed and provided powerful tools to bring the best out of those games; providing a global platform at the WWDC and the launch events for many of these developers to showcase their games.

But a decade is a long time and a lot can change in that time.

When the App Store launched in 2008, one of the rules that Steve Jobs insisted on, to be a part of their App Store, was that they used the Apple In-App Purchase (IAP) API if you wished to bill anything on the iPhone. The thinking within Apple was that since they were providing the distribution they should be able to benefit from that distribution. The company fixed its commission at 30%. Apple at the time had barely averted a near-death a decade ago and this was needed to bolster revenues and grow. Also, the distribution that Apple was providing was impossible to recreate all by themselves.

The rule while disallowing the use of any other means of paying for the apps, also forbade developers from steering the user out of the App Store. So even today if you open the Kindle app on the iPhone, you will see books which you just cannot buy. It will not tell you why OR where and how you can buy it. This may have been okay in the early days of the App Store but is a veritable dick move – today. Further, e-commerce was okay but anything which involved digital goods had to pay the commission. Take an e-book that costs $10 and has a retailer margin of $4. If they were to give 30% to Apple, Apple gets to make more money than the retailer. And what if the margin on a book is only $2?

The IAP API would store the details of the customer’s credit card on its file. It would bill the customer on behalf of the app developer and manage their subscriptions. It would also be the middle layer to clean up any fraud that takes place. And as the middle man would charge the commission. From a meagre footnote on the apple financials, the services business has grown to become a $50 Billion dollar juggernaut with a growth rate of 20% per annum.

If you take 30% of a 10 dollar transaction, nobody will bother, but if you take 30% of a 1,000,000 dollar transaction it is bound to hurt someone. Apple is taking 30% of a 200 Billion dollar app economy.

Let us start lobbying the government and troubling the courts.

It all began with a lawsuit filed by Epic Games against Apple. They wanted the courts to allow them to run their own app store on the iOS platform. This was never going to be easy to pull off.

Today, developers who list their apps in Apple’s mobile app marketplace must not only use Apple’s own payment system, but are prohibited from redirecting users to sign-up or payment pages bypassing Apple’s transaction fees. Ruling for Fortnite developer Epic Games, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found Apple had violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, issuing a permanent injunction striking down Apple’s prohibition on external sign-up pages. The case has widely been seen as a crucial battle between developers and the mobile operating systems they rely upon. It also comes at a time when antitrust regulators in the US and around the world are looking closely at the largest US tech companies.

Apple won on all other fronts with the judge ruling that Epic breached its contract with Apple when it introduced its own payment system. Yet today’s ruling means Apple will surely lose revenue with developers who find the convenience of Apple’s system not worth its de facto tax. The company will have to change a long-held method that has previously allowed it to collect 15-30% of user payments to developers.

Source: Quartz

While the order does not grant permission to the developer to float their own distribution system on a proprietary platform, it allows what is called the Steering Clause which allows the developer to steer the buyer away from the platform if they choose to. For the developer, this can potentially mean 30% more revenue (although that would perhaps never be true – You will have to offer a discount to the user to make them do something that is harder). For Apple, this would mean a dip in the revenue that they generate through the app store.

Apple is trying to project it as a win because of – share price. Epic is trying to project this as a loss because of – the possibility of appeal. The reverse is actually true. Apple was forced to bend and Epic has won, they put an outside link in their game last year which started this fight.

From across the globe

Apple Inc will loosen App Store rules that have banned companies like Netflix Inc from providing customers a link to create a paid account to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase commissions, the company said late on Wednesday.

It is the second concession to regulators and companies in less than a week as the iPhone maker faces legal, regulatory and legislative challenges to the App Store, which forms the core of its $53.8 billion services segment.

[…]

Apple said it agreed with the JFTC to let developers of those apps share a single link to their websites to help users set up and manage their accounts. Although the change is part of an agreement with the JFTC, Apple said it would be applied globally.

Source: The Hindu

The Japanese regulators have gone after the exact same provision that prohibits steering customers away from the platform.

South Korea has become the first country to impose curbs on Google and Apple’s policies that force developers to only use the tech giants’ proprietary billing systems.

Those policies require developers to pay Google and Apple a commission as high as 30% in every transaction.

Media reports last week said the legislation and judiciary committee of the National Assembly approved revisions of a bill aimed at stopping app store operators from forcing developers to use specific payment systems.

Source: CNBC

South Korea is also doing the same. Here it was not a judgement but a law that has been passed effecting this change in the policy.

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), which was formed earlier this year to protest Google’s move to impose a hefty commission for in-app purchases on its proprietary store, is of the view that there is now a “precedent” that will find resonance within government circles. The 350-member strong grouping, which counts the likes of Paytm, GOQii, Innov8 and BharatMatrimony as founding members will reengage with the new leadership at the ministry of electronics and IT (Meity), executives said.

“(Indian) companies are planning to approach the government to bring in a law like South Korea, Google and Apple are misusing their monopoly and it is hurting the startup ecosystem,” Murugavel Janakiraman, chief executive officer of BharatMatrimony, told ET.

Source: Times of India

The Indian government has a difficult needle to thread here. On the one hand, they want apple to invest in manufacturing in the country, they cannot possibly be holding a dagger behind their back at the same time. The startups are making noise nevertheless.

Why fight it?

On the one hand, there is the money that is there for the grabs. Companies like Epic have grown on the back of the distribution that Apple provides but at their scale parting with 30% of the income seems unfair. If you are turning over $1 Billion and are forced to hand over 30% for little value that is being added (today), you feel like it is scalping.

There is also the consumer protection angle to it. Gaming companies are unscrupulous when it comes to making money and manipulating kids into spending more and more on their games.

I have a 22 year-old disabled son, who has cerebral palsy, complex epilepsy, autism, learning difficulties and the approximate cognitive ability of a seven-year-old child.

He is unable to do any bilateral activities so relies heavily on his iPad and PlayStation for entertainment and educational activities.

He has recently been playing a game on his iPad called Hidden Artifacts which involves finding various items and matching them to the description.

He has been charged £3160.58 between 18 February and 30 May 2019, clearing out his entire savings.

Source: BBC

Jessica Johnson, 41, a stockbroker, did not realize while working at home from the pandemic that the youngest of her children had gone shopping with her iPad. It all happened in the month of July when George bought accessories, starting with red rings for almost two dollars, all the way to gold rings for 100 dollars. These allowed him to access new characters and more speed, so this was gradually accumulating thousands of dollars to his mother’s account.

There was one day, July 9, when George racked up 25 charges totaling $ 2,500. Jessica commented to the half joking that it was “as if my 6 year old son was taking lines of cocaine, and achieving bigger and bigger hits”.

Source: Entrepreneur

My 11-year-old daughter made more than 300 in-app purchases over five days on Roblox, the online games platform, resulting in a £2,400 bill on my wife’s PayPal account.

At the time, my wife was in ICU recovering from a 15-hour operation to remove a brain tumour. Incapacitated, and without access to her phone, she was unable to authorise or monitor this spending.

The first I knew about it was when our bank informed us that we had exceeded our overdraft limit.

Source: The Guardian

In a bizarre incident, a teenage boy from Punjab spent a whopping Rs 16 lakh on popular battle royale game PUBG making in-app purchases. The 17-year-old spent money from his parents’ account to buy in-game cosmetic items, artillery, passes for tournaments, and virtual ammunition. According to the parents, the money was set aside as savings for the Kharar-based boy’s father’s medical expenses.

Source: The Indian Express

I think the parents are idiots to give their kids access to accounts with that kind of money but that is beside the point. Gaming companies are some of the worst offenders when it comes to exploiting children for money. They are known to even have “account managers” assigned to specific users when they find them to be high spenders.

In the case of gaming companies, 90% of their income comes from less than 1% of their users.

Imagine having given your card to one of these companies for a subscription. Best of luck getting it cancelled. I had written more about the kind of techniques they use in the edition Dark Patterns.

This would ultimately result in a lack of consumer confidence and therefore a reduction in spending on these apps. In the meantime, get ready to see a lot of steering within apps, offering a 10% discount if you click on a link and visit an outside page to make a payment.

Content companies are the real winners here. Spotify does not allow you to buy its subscription on the app because it would be forced to part with 30% to Apple, it gives away close to 70% to the music rights holders; what is Spotify to do then? Similarly for Netflix and Kindle and Audible and many others.

Gaming companies will try their best to steer customers, but how many will jump off the platform?

Ultimately, I think this lays the groundwork for many content companies to thrive in the app ecosystem while at the same time sowing the seeds for the demise of a lot of gaming businesses.

Categories
General Thinking

Exponential Growth

The common Silicon Valley refrain goes – Solve a problem and then use technology to scale it. Do not build technology and then look for problems to solve. The underlying assumption is that technology would take the burden of scaling the solution rather than throwing more people at the problem. This can help achieve exponential growth.

Technology is not perfect. If it was, a product once built would require almost no maintenance and would work perfectly without fail. When technology fails, someone is required to step in and field all of the queries and help resolve the problem. Exponential growth often comes with an exponential need to solve problems and here is where technology gives birth to inequity.

Take any SaaS company. Most SaaS solutions are software, but there are several challenges with deploying a SaaS product and integrating it with the website and other tools that any company utilises. Typically,  hundreds if not thousands are hired to provide “support”. They are some of the worst paid employees in the company. But the “Exponential” growth will not be possible without them.

Even worse is the story of companies that have a real-world interface. Take Amazon or Uber. They need the people on the street to make their delivery or ferrying possible. These are some of the worst paid people. The technology in this case is literally being used to rob those who are referred to as partners while making the few at the top rich.

The first thing Uber does is to saddle the driver with a loan for buying the car. Then there is no way to run. Most of them end up working below subsistence to pay off the EMI.

There is no exponential technology. There are companies that use technology and combine it with capitalism to legitimise turning people into slaves under the banner of job creation. 

In the meantime, the pay gap between the CEO and the average employee has widened to 30,000%. The very same CEO would be incapable of providing customer support if he was the last person left in the company.

Categories
Learning by Proxy

Video Games | Learning by Proxy

The first patent for Video Games was filed in Jan 1947. The Cathode Ray Tubes that had been invented to render the radar was to be used as an amusement device! There were a lot of experimental games that were launched in that era. Most remained in the lab for the purposes of demonstration. Either way, they cost so much that using them for “amusement” would have been criminal.

It was not until the 1970s that video games made a splash in the real world, in the form of arcade games. One had to go to specific arcades to play these games. Then companies like Atari, Sega, Nintendo and the likes introduced the world to console gaming. This brought gaming into the homes of people. Suddenly it was possible to sell to a much larger audience and gaming became big business.

The advent of computers in the early 90s and the widespread adoption of computers in the new millennium infused an entirely different energy and life into the gaming business. Game production studios such as Electronic Arts emerged. Games were still pursued for leisure, mostly by youngsters.

As the internet grew and its speed increased, multiplayer gaming took on a life of its own. It was possible for one player to play against another in a whole different part of the world.

There were specific things that found a lot of interest.

Open World Games – Open World is a format where you are allowed to free roam a world and find different missions or goals to pursue and different groups/people to interact with.

FPS – First Person Shooters (called FPS) for short are games where you are playing a soldier or a mercenary on a mission and have to achieve certain goals.

Strategy Games – Typically set in an open world, these games have a complex story and in that context, you need to figure out the strategy you need to pursue to win the game.

A mix of all this is Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) – You are in an open world (arena) where you get to battle in teams with other players. This is all taking place online and a moment’s hesitation can mean death!

As these games grew more sophisticated and drove much greater interest with more and more people, one of the biggest problems was data latency.

Building-out a proprietary network is a bold move for a company like Riot Games. Though fairly large by game company standards—they have over 2,000 employees—it is tiny compared to the few internet giants, such as Google or Amazon. Those companies have become known for building their own infrastructure. Google, for instance, started working with the Unity bandwidth consortium in 2008. It invested $300 million in the FASTER undersea cable network, which took two years to complete and went live this June (2016). Facebook and Microsoft have to partnered to build MAREA across the Atlantic with a 160 terabytes per second capacity, and Amazon made its first investment in a submarine cable project May 2106.

Source: Quartz

Companies have been building out dedicated internet infrastructure to reduce latency. This has spawned an entire category of gaming called e-Sports. The people who used to play video games were treated like idiot nerds once upon a time. Today they are celebrated like Olympic athletes. Thousands converge on stadiums to watch these players compete with each other in strategy games such as the league of legends that Riot Games produces. Here is what it looks like.

This is an event that took place in Paris in 2017. This movement has been slowly growing and for those who are not in the loop, it might seem completely alien.

Two teams of 5 players each, playing on stage while their gameplay is shown on a large screen to the audience. And there is a lot of money to be won.

Source: Verge

This is the prize pool for DOTA, which stands for Defence of the Ancients, a popular MOBA. The winners could potentially walk away with 10s of millions. Just for reference, the Wimbledon awards 2.35 Million pounds to the winner.

Safe to say that gaming has changed completely and is no longer the innocent Mario and Contra that we grew up with.

Gaming has become a big business that nobody has been paying attention to. The CEO of Netflix famously said that his greatest competitor was sleep. But the truth is gaming is taking a lot of the screen time and hence…

One month after its vague announcement of a new gaming-centric strategy, Netflix has explained how it will “publish” video games in the foreseeable future: as downloadable smartphone apps, available exclusively for paying video-streaming subscribers.

The news coincides with the company’s public launch of Netflix Gaming on Thursday as part of the service’s smartphone app… but only in Poland—and only on Android. The company’s American Twitter translated Thursday’s Polish announcement, which explains how the service works.

Source: Ars Technica

The recent lawsuit with Epic Games that Apple was forced to settle was also around gaming. The truth is that most of the in-app purchase (IAP) income that Apple derives comes from gaming. The services segment generates about $20 Billion in revenue for Apple and they just take between 15% and 30% as commission.

Amazon has also been making a splash in gaming. They already bought Twitch, a game streaming platform for $1 Billion a few years ago. They are leveraging that acquisition and now they want a bigger chunk of the pie,

Amazon.com Inc. is diving into the new and hotly contested market for streaming video games, the company said during a press event Thursday that also revealed a refreshed lineup of Echo smart speakers and a flying home video camera.

Luna, a service that lets gamers play without shelling out for expensive game consoles or games, is Amazon’s biggest foray yet into the fast-growing $150 billion video gaming market. A subscription to the Luna+ channel costs $5.99 a month during an introductory period and will include games such as Resident Evil 7, Control and Panzer Dragoon.

Source: Business Standard

In the meantime, fitness company Peloton which makes exercise cycles is looking to enter the gaming market. Games that can merge with their cycles and provide another layer of immersion.

Peloton is about to enter the video game business.

The cycle maker is getting ready to debut an in-app video game called Lanebreak, a spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.

The game, which Peloton cautioned is still subject to a new name, involves riders changing up their cadence and resistance levels to meet various goals and score rewards.

Lanebreak is expected to open up to a members-only beta test later this year, according to a fact sheet, and it will officially launch in early 2022. Players will be able to choose a difficulty level and the type of music they want to hear during the game. There are different ways to win points, be rewarded and challenge other members.

Source: CNBC

In this current context, you have technologies like VR and AR making a break into gaming and trying to create a niche for themselves. Apart from Microsoft, Facebook has made a huge investment in VR. They went and bought Oculus Rift for $1 Billion. The company was still to release its final product.

Facebook has been experimenting with a lot of VR experiences and none of them has succeeded. Their recent announcement to have a VR meeting where you interact with your colleagues’ avatar as a part of their “metaverse” has also not been received well. They hope that they would be able to use the gaming market and make a break!

Facebook is the latest tech giant to get into the world of cloud gaming — but the company’s offering is quite a bit different than the competition. Unlike Amazon or Google, which both offer standalone cloud gaming services for a fee, Facebook is introducing cloud games to its existing app — several of which are playable right now.

“We’re doing free-to-play games, we’re doing games that are latency-tolerant, at least to start,” says Jason Rubin, Facebook’s vice president of play. “We’re not promising 4K, 60fps, so you pay us $6.99 per month. We’re not trying to get you to buy a piece of hardware, like a controller.”

Source: Verge

While they are targeting casual gaming, their ultimate goal would be to meld VR into this somehow.

Just as smartphones introduced us to simpler games that capitalized on unique features of phones like gyroscopes and on-the-go internet connections, many newer games blur the lines between video games and other types of social activities. Pokémon Go, Fortnite and Among Us are video games, but they are also hangouts for friends, pop culture moments, opportunities for political organizing and more.

What’s thrilling about many of the newer game experiments is that they signal a move beyond a phase in which online and smartphone media often mirrored what came before — many podcasts were like talk radio, Netflix was like TV and online news outlets were like newspapers.

I know that games aren’t all stimulating paragons of human social connection, but it feels as if something exciting is happening. There’s more mushing together to arrive at new digital forms that emphasize interaction rather than passive reading, watching or listening.

Source: New York Times

What is gaming? What are video games? The answer to the question was straightforward 50 years ago. Today it does not seem to be as simple. What would it look like in 20 more years? There is a lot of money waiting to be made if you know the right answer to that question.

The Capitalistic Paradigm

Video games such as second life have attempted to make a place in your life in a manner where they imagine you living another life online. Pair that with technologies like VR, you could potentially end up living a life that is completely online. This is the kind of world that Facebook would like to envisage people living in.

And also, one which China does not want in its country.

Under the new regulations unveiled by China’s National Press and Publication Administration Aug. 30, children under 18 will not be allowed to play video games from Monday through Thursday and only between 8pm and 9pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: A maximum of three hours a week. The policy only applies to online games and users will need to register using their real names and government identification.

The government has limited video game use previously, like in 2019, when it banned children from playing after 10pm and for more than 90 minutes a day. At that time, it also limited in-game spending from minors to around $57 a month. Last month, a state-run media outlet called video games “spiritual opium,” causing gaming leader Tencent and its competitors’ stock prices to fall.

Source: Quartz

Capitalists would like to keep you in an online prison from which they can continue to monetise you. Show you ads, sell you virtual goods that cost nothing and keep you slipping further into that rabbit hole. They might even go to the extent of touting this as a possible solution to global warming.

Consume virtual not real goods!

That hope has not borne fruit as yet. But the attempt to make it work continues. I hope it fails.

More importantly, we are at a juncture where games are no longer games and we should stop calling them that. They have ceased to be just a mere form of entertainment. They are thriving businesses and have the capacity to manipulate and force financial decisions. We need a new term to talk about it.

Categories
General Thinking

Scientific Method

The scientific method is a series of steps

 – Observation

 – Research

 – Hypothesis

 – Test with Experiment

 – Analyse Data

 – Report conclusion

This is prescribed by every university in the world as the blueprint to create knowledge. I think this is a huge problem. Here is why…

Take for instance the theory of relativity, Einstein hypothesised about the theory decades before we would be able to observe the effects that the theory predicted. It was a moment of thoughtful genius that led to the theory of relativity. Almost all of the things we know about this world started out as hypotheses more often than observations.

Observation is only possible when you know what to look for. Problems at a universal scale are hard to observe first-hand.

Even today, it is easier to prove that the earth is flat if we were to depend solely on observation. To show that the earth round requires a conceptual leap.

Laura Beloff’s plant seemed to be clicking. She had rigged its roots up to a contact microphone in order to detect faint, high-pitched clicks in the soil. With the help of software she had written for her computer, the frequency of the clicks had been lowered, making them audible to humans.

As she worked at her desk, the plant apparatus next to her happily chattered away. And that’s when it happened. “This was the weirdest thing,” says Beloff, an artist and associate professor at Aalto University in Finland. A visitor came into her room, at which point the plant’s clicking stopped. When the visitor left, the clicking resumed. Later, more people arrived and, again, the clicking ceased. It only recommenced when the people departed. “I still don’t know what to think about it,” says Beloff.

Source: BBC

You have to assume… sorry hypothesise, that the plants would have something to say even before you decide to stick a mic in there.

It was in a much-cited paper published in 2012 that she and her co-authors reported the detection of clicking noises from plant roots. The researchers used a laser vibrometer to detect these sounds right at the root tips. Gagliano says that the laser was trained on the roots when they were submerged in water in a lab setting, to help ensure that the detected sounds were indeed emanating from the roots themselves.

To say that those clicks have any communicative function requires further evidence, however. Gagliano says that she has observed plant roots responding to sounds at similar frequencies by changing their direction of growth.

[…]

She says that this experience is “outside the strictly scientific realm” and that a third-party observer would not be able to measure the sounds she heard with laboratory instruments. But she is quite certain that she has perceived plants speaking to her on multiple occasions.

Source: BBC

The other problem is that ‘Test with experiment’ is only possible if you have the equipment capable of measuring and the framework meant to understand what is going on. Marie Curie lost her life studying Uranium radiation. She did not know either the effects of radiation or how to measure it.

Isaac Newton laid down some of the most important scientific theories we read today. He also was enamoured by alchemy and tried converting many elements into others. Alas! he did not know nuclear physics back then. But he had the right idea. Even today, he is ridiculed for his ideas of alchemy. 

The scientific method only works with known knows or known unknowns. The universe is filled with unknown unknowns; what about that?

Think about all the PhD students toiling away on useless research because this is the method they are mandated to follow. The scientific method is holding science back.

Categories
General Thinking

Time

Almost all of us have gone through those important exams. In India, it is the 10th and the 12th class. Those board exams are supposed to make or break your life. Then there is the college entrance and so on. We remember them because they are unfortunately turned into life milestones. Do you remember any other exams that you took during the many years of education?

10 years hence, was it really worth the tension and stress you put yourself through? Does it really matter?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to deliver a project to a client where you worked all night to ensure that it got delivered? I have done it several times. The real gut punch is when you slog to meet this artificial deadline only to discover the next day that the client is not available and would only see it the week after. 

The problem you worried about never came to be. Half the things you worry about never even come to be.

We often make our lives miserable because of diktats that are imposed from the outside to us. We obsess over things that would not matter the least bit once a moment has passed. We make ourselves miserable and also makes the lives of those around us miserable. 

Have you ever bought something that you never used, but would not throw away just because you bought it and it is still new. We spend so much time and energy accumulating things that serve no purpose. We reduce our living or storage space to retain that, which is not useful. 

Worrying is a little bit like this. 

Time makes the futility of those things obvious. It is unfortunate that we waste so much time before realising it. 

Categories
Learning by Proxy

Space Wars | Learning by Proxy

Space was the ambition of the Nazis. Hitler had some really wild theories but the central amongst them was the Wunderwaffe. A wonder weapon, so powerful that it would put an end to all his enemies. From the Holy Grail to Incan treasures and spells, no theory was left to chance. Of the many real-world manifestations of the entire exercise, the most well known, was a weapon called the Vergeltungswaffe; also known as the V-weapon. The literal translation of the word means Retribution Weapon. Before retribution could be delivered, the world war came to an end.

In the psyche of people, the acronym for Vergeltungwaffe 2 would remain embedded as the V2 rocket.

The man who worked on the V2 rockets, Werner Von Braun was smuggled out of Germany, as a part of Operation Paperclip. He would have otherwise face trial at Nuremberg and would have most likely been hanged.

His first few years in the US were unpleasant. He was locked away with a few other fellow German scientists at a castle and the Americans were too suspicious to give him any real work. It was not until the mid-1950s when news of the Russian program came to America that Von Braun finally got his chance to work on the American rocket program.

His work culminated in the fateful launch in July 1970 that put a man on the moon.

During the second world war, America was only working on bombers and they had created the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). In 1958, this organisation was rebranded as NASA as space became a mandate.

Funding for NASA since 1959

Source: The Planetary Society

After the massive financing of the 1960s when John Kennedy committed to putting a man on the moon, NASA has had a stable budget of about USD 20 billion each year since the mid-1970s. Today NASA spends almost half that money on human spaceflight.

Allocation of NASA funds to various activities

Source: The Planetary Society

Companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and others have built fortunes taking slices of that $10 Billion pie that NASA spends on human spaceflight. While NASA does the science, it depends on outside suppliers to manufacture and deliver the necessary parts. This has been true since the beginning. None of you would have ever heard of the factories that NASA has, because they do not.

The companies mentioned above are part of what is known as the Military-Industrial Complex in the US. Not only NASA but also the Department of Defence and others are customers to these companies and source planes, fighters, helicopters, etc. from them.

SpaceX was a new entrant into the space business in 2010 and Elon Musk had hoped that he would provide some cost-benefit calculations and walk away with the contract. He walked in with his Silicon Valley millionaire swag only to be completely turned down. This is a report from 2014.

In a no-bid process, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, received a bulk contract worth billions of dollars for 36 rocket launches earlier this year, despite plans to introduce more competition and other cost-saving measures.

Musk’s tweets yesterday focused on what happened next: The man who awarded ULA the contract, defense official Roger “Scott” Correll, was hired soon after his retirement to handle government relations at Aerojet Rocketdyne, a company that builds rocket engines for ULA. Musk didn’t mince words online when offering his interpretation of events:

Source: Quartz

Elon Musk was at the receiving end of it. He needed the NASA contracts desperately to keep SpaceX from sinking. At the time, he had managed to fly and land a few rockets but there was no revenue. His ONLY revenue model was NASA.

Source: Wikipedia

He had already received several hundreds of Millions in grants and funding from NASA since 2012, but in the absence of proven technology, they were unwilling to award contracts. There was certainly some lobbying and wrangling involved as well.

And then the 2016 elections swept around. This guy called Peter Thiel, with whom Elon Musk had run PayPal; who also happened to be a major investor in SpaceX, openly supported Donald Trump. Not only that, the company that Peter Thiel runs, Palantir, was responsible for the data crunching that delivered Trump his victory.

But the company that brought the idea of commercial space travel to fore was once struggling to even stay afloat. Elon Musk-led SpaceX was almost broke, with no way to turn around. The helping hand that pulled the pioneering company from this debacle came from US space agency NASA in the form of a $1.5 billion contract.

Source: Mint

The change in Musk and SpaceX’s fortunes are obvious to see from 2017. He just doubled the number of launches and money flowed like wine at a French party. NASA broke rank with their old trusted partners and SpaceX became part of the new Space Industrial Complex.

But Elon Musk – “look my whole body is a huge brain” – was not happy with sharing any of the money going to any other provider.

On August 7, the US Space Force announced two winners of a coveted agreement to launch dozens of spy satellites and other classified payloads into orbit.

United Launch Alliance won a 60% share of the future missions, planned for 2022 through 2027, while SpaceX scooped up the remaining 40%. Both companies beat out rivals Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, and Northrop Grumman for the multibillion-dollar spoils of the agreement, called National Security Space Launch Phase 2.

But in series of tweets by Elon Musk on Thursday, and following days of silence, the SpaceX founder appeared to be remarkably unhappy with how things turned out.

Source: Business Insider

Also, perhaps because by the end of 2020, he knew that Trump was not going to be re-elected.

Throughout 2020, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have been trading the title of the “richest person in the world”. Since the beginning of this millennium, both of them have been working on space companies. Unlike Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos has complained that he has so much money that there is no other way that he can blow it away.

Even so, as Blue Origins continues to gobble USD 1 Billion each year, there is only so much charity that Jeff wants to make. He wants those NASA contracts as well. So he sued NASA.

Well, Bezos is now frustrated by NASA. Last week, Blue sued the space agency in federal court, arguing that it inappropriately awarded a multi-billion dollar contract for a lunar lander to Blue’s chief rival, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Blue’s initial challenge to that decision was rejected by the Government Accountability Office, which found that NASA had not played favorites in choosing just one contractor due to lack of funding for two. The other members of its consortium, the companies Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper, declined to comment on the lawsuit their partner has brought.

Lawsuits between contractors and the government aren’t uncommon. In a way, they’ve helped define the rise of commercial space companies and SpaceX itself. But it’s worth looking at how this challenge diverges from others that arguably opened up low-earth orbit for business.

SpaceX sued NASA in 2005, before it even launched its first rocket. At the time, another nascent rocket maker, Kistler Aerospace, was on the verge of bankruptcy. It suddenly received a $227 million NASA contract to share its test data with the government. SpaceX challenged the case, arguing that if the government wants commercial rocket test data, it should accept competitive bids, not hand a contract to a company led by a former high-ranking NASA official. NASA withdrew the contract with Kistler.

Nine years later, in 2014, SpaceX sued the government again; this time challenging the US Air Force’s decision to award a multi-launch contract to United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture that held a monopoly on US government spaceflight. (SpaceX had also challenged the creation of that monopoly in 2006.)

Source: Quartz

Obviously, this is a well-worn tactic that seems to have been used very effectively especially in the opaque world of the Industrial complex. A person like Jeff Bezos is not used to hearing “No” and he is getting tired of hearing it over and over from NASA.

So which Billionaire is going to get to blow away public money in their pursuit of space?

This is playing out as we continue to take this planet – the only habitable one we know for our form of life – hurtling towards the point of no return in terms of climate. It is a shame that this is what the richest on the planet feel, is the appropriate utilisation of money.

Much like the theme of GDP that I had mentioned last time, the trouble is that these people are so rich because all they have ever learnt is the accumulation of wealth and believe that is the only purpose of life. They feel Space is the most virgin area to exploit to continue to accumulate wealth. Hence they are slugging it out for a piece of it.

Categories
General Thinking

Suffering

Is the purpose of human life.

Ambition ~ The emotion that leads to self-inflicted suffering

If you look back at all the work that you did, I am sure it is going to be that one project that kept you up through the night; that seemed impossible to finish, which you would remember fondly. I have come across nobody who told me that the highlight of their career was – ‘those three weeks when they got to sit around and do nothing in office.’

We thrive when we are suffering.

Celebrities who have made it and earned so much that they do not have to work another day of their lives often end up committing suicide. Their life promises no more suffering and therefore no purpose. Also, perhaps they do not have the ambition to invent a new kind of suffering for themselves, like say, starting a production company. 

Every fallen businessman seemed to have it made, till they did not. Vijay Mallya could have just partied for the rest of his life and he would not have exhausted all his wealth. But he had to start an airline. It gave his life purpose.

Amitabh Bachchan had peaked and done some of the best work of his life by the late 90s but he had to start a production company. Both people ended up almost bankrupt thanks to their ambition. 

One has not bounced back, the other has and incredibly so, but that is for another blog.

What we call ambition is just another way of describing a person who is willing to put himself/herself through a degree of suffering that is greater than what they are currently going through.

It might seem like hell when you are going through it, but you will get to the other side and you will look back at it fondly. For sure. 

Suffering is what great stories are made of.

Have you read any story that ended – “then he got a job and had a steady salary for the next 30 years.” 

Categories
Learning by Proxy

IPCC | Learning by Proxy

In 1988, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) came together to create a body to which membership was open to all countries of the UN. The body was mandated to provide objective scientific information relevant to understanding human-induced climate change. This body was called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


In 1988

The GDP of America was 8.87 Trillion dollars that of China was USD 406 Billion.

By the end of this year, more than half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution will have been released since 1988 — the year it became widely known that these emissions are warming the climate.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists


They released their first report in 1990 and based on that report, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was created. This in turn resulted in the meeting in Kyoto and the Kyoto Protocol.

They knew back then that the ‘Business as usual’ approach was not going to be okay. That global greenhouse emissions would increase temperatures by 0.3 Degrees per decade over the new century.

In the meantime

Emissions from the United States

Source: Climate Action Tracker

Emissions from China

Source: Climate Action Tracker

Emissions from India

Source: Climate Action Tracker

The US seems to have arrested the growth of greenhouse emissions since 2000 and has even started bringing it down since 2008 when Obama took over as president. One must keep in mind that this was enabled by a one-word miracle “Outsourcing”.

America outsourced almost all of its production and industrial activities to China. So the Chinese growth in emissions is in a big was an American consumption story. Nevertheless, Chinese emissions were half that of America in 1990 and how they are almost double that of America.

In the meantime, India’s emissions have grown 3 fold as well. We are at the level at which China was in 1990.


The problem with Climate Action

Often the assumption is that climate change is something regarding which governments are not willing to take action because they do not want to hurt their businesses and slow down growth. This could not be further than the truth.

If today, the entire world decided that by 2025 every single Watt of electricity on this planet was to come from renewable sources, what do you think would happen? Business would go down? Or would solar panel factories be opened in every state of every country?

The problem with taking climate action comes down to this thing called EGO.

The precipitous rise you see in the chart above from 1945 (just after the second world war) to 1998 was perpetrated by the USA and Western Europe in huge parts – perhaps a good 80% of it. Their economies were able to grow while they polluted with total disregard for the environment and used the cheapest source of fuel (Coal) to do this. London used to suffer from smog regularly in the post-war years. [Watch The Crown on Netflix]

All that production and productivity (read pollution) made them some of the richest nations in the world. Banking on old-world colonialism (UK) and neo-colonialism (USA), they were able to extract preferential trade agreements often at the point of a gun.

As the cold war came to an end in 1989 with the fall of the USSR, the power of the nation was no longer measured by the number of phallic nuclear missiles they possessed but by a number called the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Race

In the 1990s both China and India joined the race and undertook “liberalisation”.

Now.

India soon joined in and there has been this race to get to the top and be the country with the largest GDP. China has made great strides towards achieving it but the cost has been tremendous as well.

India, China and many other nations in the world willingly got sucked into this ego race of achieving a large GDP number often at the cost of the environment. The westerners managed to set the rules and make everyone play by them. But now, the consequences are apparent.

As IPCC realised that there were terrible consequences to pursuing this GDP war, India and China were only getting started and they did not want to be disallowed from increasing their GDP effortlessly by “Climate Regulations”. This ego war has entirely defined the last 30 years of our climate response or the lack thereof.

So what now?

The first scientist to measure carbon dioxide’s potential to absorb heat was an American woman, Eunice Foote, in 1856. She filled one glass cylinder with carbon dioxide, and another with air, and set them out in the sunshine. Her scientific brief, published in the American Journal of Science and Arts, recorded the temperature in the carbon dioxide-filled cylinder as rising much higher than in the one with air.

Ever since, scientists have been steadily building confidence in the idea that humans are changing the climate by dumping billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The advent of supercomputers has given researchers massive computer simulations of the climate system, recreating the interactions between oceans, land, and the atmosphere to detect humanity’s role in global warming. The science has been right most of the time. After analyzing 17 climate models designed between 1970 and 2007, researchers found the majority of the predictions were “indistinguishable from what actually occurred.”

[…]

In the IPCC’s latest assessment report (AR6), the first section of which was published on Aug. 9, scientists sent a clear signal of growing confidence in their findings. Comparing the text with that of the first piece of the group’s previous assessment report (AR5), from 2013, “low confidence” statements fell from about 20% to 6% of the total number of confidence statements, while the portion of statements expressing “high confidence” rose from 36% to 56%.

Source:

Quartz

After years of saying that climate change is “most likely” man-made and pussyfooting around the evidence, the IPCC is finally in a place where it is saying that this link is unquestionably real. This report is not just about science, it is about politics. Since it is an intergovernmental panel, all of them need to sign off on it.

For this to happen – we had to have two states in America suffer fires and floods at the same time; 14 others continue to burn and 4 others continue to be pummeled by cyclones. We also needed the most catastrophic floods that Western Europe has seen in a long time and for China itself to be hit by floods.

What did they finally say?

It concludes with “high confidence” that the plans countries so far have put forward to reduce emissions are “insufficient” to keep warming well below 2°C, the goal enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. While unsurprising on its own, it is surprising for a document that had to be signed off on by the same government representatives it condemns.

The last time global temperatures were comparable to today was 125,000 years ago, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is higher than anytime in the last 2 million years, and greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than anytime in the last 800,000 years.

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the global climate system since pre-industrial times” (the last IPCC report said human influence was “clear”). Specifically, the report blames humanity for nearly all of the 1.1°C increase in global temperatures observed since the Industrial Revolution.

Climate change is happening faster than previously understood, and the likelihood that the global temperature increase can stay within the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C is extremely slim.

The more emissions increase, the less they can be offset by natural sinks—and in a high-emissions scenario, the loss of forests from wildfires becomes so severe that land-based ecosystems become a net source of emissions, rather than a sink

Methane, particulate matter, aerosols, hydrofluorocarbons, and other non-CO2 gases that don’t linger very long in the atmosphere (just a few hours, in some cases) but exert a tremendous influence on the climate while they do.

Climate sensitivity is a measure of how much the Earth responds to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. For every doubling of atmospheric CO2, temperatures go up by about 3°C, this chapter concludes.

Although instances of drought are expected to become more common and more severe, wet parts of the world will get wetter as the warmer atmosphere is able to carry more water. Total net precipitation will increase, yet the thirstier atmosphere will make dry places drier.

Warmer water expands, contributing significantly to sea level rise, and the slow, deep circulation of ocean water is a key reason why global temperatures don’t turn on a dime in relation to atmospheric CO2. Marine animals are feeling this heat, as scientists have documented that the frequency of marine heatwaves has doubled since the 1980s.

Cities, in particular, will warm faster as a result of urbanization. Global warming extremes in urban areas will be even more pronounced, especially during heatwaves. Although global models largely agree, it is more difficult to consistently predict regional climate impacts across models.

Our climate is already different compared to the early or mid-20th century and we’re seeing big changes to mean temperatures, growing season, extreme heat, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation, and Arctic sea ice loss. Expect more changes by mid-century: more rain in the northern hemisphere, less rain in a few regions (the Mediterranean and South Africa), as well as sea-level rise along all coasts.

Source:

Quartz

We have contributed to this crisis and there is little hope of escape if we continue down the path we are on – even if that involves cutting back by paltry amounts as promised in Paris. In a couple of decades – no more seafood! Mediterranean desert and rich people in America prepare to swim in your cities. You can read the full report here.

Source: IPCC

Here is the thing. The people in the tropics have had to suffer wild temperature swings, as it is, for decades now. In Delhi, it is normal to have a 15-degree difference between high and low in a day and up to a 35-degree difference between summer highs and winter lows. This is not true of the countries closer to the poles – Today.

They will get a taste of what it is like if the temperatures keep rising. This is already evidenced by the events unfolding at this moment. They are not infra-structurally or physically adapted to deal with these wild swings. They will DIE.

The days of climate consequences hurting only the poor are over; It is coming for the rich countries. It is time for the ostrich to get its head out of the soil or die as the water washes in and suffocates it to death.

Weather Jujitsu

Jujitsu is a form of martial art where you use the power of the opponent against them. For a century man has had the arrogance to think that man could control nature. The most physical expression of this is Dams. China has 98,000 dams. Yeah, that is not a typo!

While’s it’s difficult to link any one extreme event to global warming, the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published Monday (Aug. 9) says that rainfall and floods seen as “once in a decade” events are going to become increasingly more frequent. In east Asia, the IPCC predicts with high confidence that heavy rainfall will increase in frequency and intensity.

[…]

According to a report commissioned by the National Climate Center, part of China Meteorological Administration, mean temperatures in the country were above normal in every season in 2020. Meanwhile, the annual rainfall for the whole country in 2020 ranked as the fourth-highest since 1951. The heavy rainfall caused extreme floods across southern, central, and eastern China. As a result, water levels at the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric plant, located in central China and completed in 2009, rose 6.5 feet above its flood-prevention level.

One of the dams that collapsed this year, the Xinfa dam in Inner Mongolia, was “well constructed and prepared very well (for floods)” said Mohammad Heiderzahad, an associate professor of civil engineering at Brunel University in London. Heiderzahad, who is a dam engineer himself, explained that even so the dam collapsed quickly despite having two spillways and an emergency bottom outlet, which allows for water to be released safely when a dam is in danger of overflowing.

Source: Quartz

The tools that we employed to control nature are going to be used against us by nature. This is not going to be pretty to watch. There is one thing that all of us can be certain of; we will be having hotter summers, colder winters and more and more flooding events across the world.

Growing trees and plants have taken up about a quarter of all fossil fuel emissions since 1960, with the Amazon playing a major role as the largest tropical forest. Losing the Amazon’s power to capture CO2 is a stark warning that slashing emissions from fossil fuels is more urgent than ever, scientists said.

The research used small planes to measure CO2 levels up to 4,500m above the forest over the last decade, showing how the whole Amazon is changing. Previous studies indicating the Amazon was becoming a source of CO2 were based on satellite data, which can be hampered by cloud cover, or ground measurements of trees, which can cover only a tiny part of the vast region.

The scientists said the discovery that part of the Amazon was emitting carbon even without fires was particularly worrying. They said it was most likely the result of each year’s deforestation and fires making adjacent forests more susceptible the next year. The trees produce much of the region’s rain, so fewer trees means more severe droughts and heatwaves and more tree deaths and fires.

Source: The Guardian

The shareholder value that was created by burning fossil fuel will be spent repairing cities and attempting to keep people alive. All of this is because we can measure our success only in terms of GDP.

As George Carlin put it – “The planet was there for Billions of years before we humans showed up, and it would probably be here for Billions more after us. The planet is not dying, WE ARE.” I think it is high time we start talking about climate in those terms. The planet will not suffer, we will.