Thanks for the insightful article, particularly on a topic that’s current and constantly evolving. It seems to me that although Trump has promised many things including tax cuts, changes to the tariff, and rollback of strict mileage standards, he has yet to have made any real impact in his first year. For instance, I saw this article below recently on latest proposals by the Trump administration on changes to NAFTA. Part of the proposal relates to increasing the percentage of a vehicle’s value that must come from the domestic region, from the current 62.5% (already highest among any global trade bloc) to something higher. While this alone would be difficult to enact (and has had lots of pushback from auto industry execs and trade groups), Trump also wants to at the same time “modernize” the parts list that counts towards the 62.5% threshold. This means adding more content requirements to the parts list to make auto manufacturers source more parts from North America or pay tariffs on them. These are only a couple points in his NAFTA proposals, which he aims to complete in early 2018 ahead of Mexican and US elections in 2018. However, like many of his other proposals, I think he is focusing on too many things at once here and I don’t see a path forward given the cost implications and disruption to an already complex supply chain. I agree that Ford should think longer term, but with so much uncertainty and gap between what Trump says he wants and what he has achieved, I think it will be difficult to mitigate against supply chain risks going forward.
While 3D printing / additive manufacturing has been the talk of late, I’m wondering if the disadvantages associated with it offset its advantages. 3D printing requires high upfront equipment costs, and quality assurance could be an issue since the surface finish and dimensional accuracy could be distorted during the process. Additive manufacturing also seems better suited for smaller batches of products so could be hard to scale; subtractive manufacturing seems more efficient and less expensive at scale. In addition, in-depth training is required to manage these highly-complex machines, and finding the right labor at various countries across the globe could prove to be an inhibitor. 3D printing technology is certainly in its infancy, and I wonder if over time it can improve to mitigate some of the risks associated with using it for mass production for companies like GE.
Very interesting article (and great puns). I saw an article (below) that talks about how researchers have been trying to develop an avocado tree that can grow in California’s Central Valley, the state’s agricultural powerhouse. Currently only the southern part of California has the year-round weather to grow avocados. 95% of avocados eaten by Americans are of the Hass variety, which can only grow in milder climates like southern California. New types of avocado that can grow in Central Valley would increase the supply of domestic avocados in the US and is one example of educating farmers on newer ways of growing avocado in the face of climate change.
The point around impact on labor is an interesting one to me, as truck drivers is the most popular job in the US in most states. According to the article below there are 8.7M trucking-related jobs in the US. Autonomous trucking would not only affect those jobs, but local economies (particularly in small towns) touched by truck drivers’ income (motels, restaurants, etc). Truck drivers also get paid pretty well today, and is arguably one of the best paid jobs that doesn’t require a post secondary degree. The article also mentions that most researchers believe autonomous trucking to reach massive adoption / disruption somewhere between 2020 and 2030, with countless number of companies pouring money into the industry (including Tesla who recently announced its own autonomous semi-truck focused on the platooning concept). Personally, it feels like mass adoption feels closer to 2020 than 2030, and most of the hurdles today are regulatory in nature vs technological. To many people, it feels like we need some form of alternative income distribution or face economic / social stagnation going forward as technology continues to replace human labor.
It feels like Gamestop saw what happened to Blockbuster and is rapidly pivoting its business model to adjust to the digitization of the video game industry. I think the point made about non-gaming businesses is a big area of focus for Gamestop, as the company has now spread across several different consumer categories. According to the article below, the company saw sales of collectibles rise by 28% YoY recently; Gamestop will open 35 new collectibles stores globally over the next year. Gamestop has also built its Technology Brands segment, which owns Simply Mac (Apple repair) and Cricket Wireless (cheap cellular plans) stores. Non-gaming businesses have driven the company’s profit margin expansions. It’ll be interesting going forward to see whether the growth of Gamestop’s non-gaming segments can offset the gradual decline in its physical gaming business.
The energy consumption related to Bitcoin mining is certainly astronomical. I read the article below a few days ago which stated that Bitcoin mining now consumes more electricity than 159 individual countries (including 20+ countries in Europe).
I’m also curious how much of the rapid growth in prices for Bitcoin is driven by increasing costs of energy required to mine for them vs other factors. Certain “altcoins” (alternatives to Bitcoin) such as Ripple or Litecoin are supposed to be more energy-efficient than Bitcoin, so I’m wondering if the value of those altcoins will appreciate faster over time as energy costs are brought into the spotlight. However, while some of these lower-energy-consumption blockchains save on mining costs, they may not find favor among security-obsessed cryptocurrency users.