Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” - Ed Viesturs

Last week, we watched a PBS documentary following Iraqi soldiers during the Battle of Mosul when we had a vision of the future. As we were looking at these (relatively) well equipped soldiers fighting house to house and dying to retake one of Iraq’s largest city, we saw one potential future of the Middle East: a battleground were tribes and religions fight endlessly across the ‘modern’ borders of nation states. With ISIS almost defeated and central governments in Syria and Iraq having restored their authority over their borders, we can hope for a stabilization of the region.

Yet it is unlikely that the Sunni uprising will die out completely in Iraq. Nor will the Islamist extremism across Northern and West Africa be stamped out in the coming years. The shoots of the Arab Spring were quickly killed by the Arab Winter, the dark aftermath were extremism spread rapidly due to weak central governments and unending economic crisis. This vicious circle that cannot be easily broken down, meaning that Europe’s migrant crisis will not end anytime soon.

If you compound the existing situation with extreme natural catastrophes resulting from global warming, the future looks bleak at best. It doesn’t have to be this way, nor will it become so overnight. Instead, a slow slide into chaos punctuated by crisis will gradually transform the world into a hot mess.

The Climate Crisis? It’s Capitalism, Stupid – We’re fucked. “Even before the United States backed out of the Paris Accord, we were well on our way to a 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit [4 degrees Celsius] temperature rise by 2100, “a temperature that at times in the past has meant no ice at either pole.”

Science Suggests We’re Making Fish Homicidal Through Antidepressants We Flush Into the Water – Just another externality. Antidepressants are found in fish brains, altering their behaviors for the worst. And this is just one type of pharmaceutical molecules.

Longevity is less about diet, more about social circumstances – Not about ‘social circumstances’ but about income equality. In other words, rich people in countries with high income inequalities live less longer than rich people in countries with less inequalities.

Productivity and the crisis of attention – The sharp decline of productivity is correlated with the rise of smartphones. Correlation or causation? Deep down, most of us know the answer.

China’s Bike-Share Startup Frenzy Turns into Money-Suck – There are now 40 platforms for bike sharing in China and they’re going bust one after the other after burning million of USD from (dumb) investors. Our own experience about bike sharing in Europe is that given that users will always try to avoid paying the (small) fees, the services should be provided by local governments or companies that do not have an interest in profitability but in providing the service.

New Paper Debunks Desperate Rationalization for Private Equity: Lower Volatility Based on Bogus Valuations – Since they do not use third party valuation, PE fund overvalue their funds to make them more attractive to investors. Their lower volatility in spite of higher leverage should have been a warning sign but investors apparently do not care too much.

The Nationalist’s Delusion – (Hat tip Yu Chuan) – Trump was elected because he appealed to the hidden racism of a large part of the white American electorate, across all types of social backgrounds and wealth. The ‘economic’ argument for the election of Trump doesn’t explain everything, but we believe that it definitely helped to radicalize many. Is it a coincidence that the worst populist events to date happened in the countries that underwent neoliberal governments?

Japan shows how to grow sustainability amid a shrinking population – Japan is a model for Western countries experiencing ageing populations: instead of importing labour (that will eventually have to be supported), Japan managed to grow economically at the same rate (GDP growth rate per working age person) as other Western countries thanks to increases in productivity and automation.

Picture of the week: 2017 Terrorism & Political Violence Risk Map (Aeon)

About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi