The FTX Problem Lurking In Your Business

Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of FTX... Photo: Getty Images

The financial collapse of FTX may seem like a distant concern since the mostly unregulated industry is different from software, e-commerce, manufacturing, or services. But the heart of FTX’s strategic error – using customer funds to pay for risky business bets – exists throughout the small business community.

Many entrepreneurs do not even realize they are doing it. The strategy lurks in the working capital section of balance sheets and cash flow statements, where many managers do not know to look. As a fractional CFO, I see it all the time, usually when a new client comes to me in a state of financial distress. FTX is now accused of ethical violations. Are you at risk of committing the same ethical errors?

Customer financing in business

FTX used their customer’s deposits to place risky bets for profit. That strategy works when everything goes according to plan, but it’s a house of cards when something unexpected happens.

Using customer deposits and prepayments to fuel business bets exists in nearly every industry. Here are some scenarios:

  • SaaS deferred revenue

A SaaS company offers a 20% discount to pay for the year up-front. The SaaS company uses these deferred revenues to invest in advertising and sales but fails to generate a healthy return. Seven months later, the company goes bankrupt and can not refund its customers.

  • E-commerce backorders

A celebrity releases a limited-edition gym shoe. One reputable online store offers pre-orders for $1,500 each and sells out quickly. Several months pass, and the customers have yet to receive their shoes. Some apply for refunds only to discover the company’s cancelation policy is punitive and unreasonable. Eventually the company declares bankruptcy without giving any customers their money back. (Inspired by this true story.)

  • General construction mis-bid

A general contractor (GC) bids on a big construction job that pays 50% upfront for materials. Supply chain constraints and a tight labor market crush the GC’s budget, creating delays and cost overruns. Faced with a financial impossibility, the GC walks off the job, leaving the customer with a half-completed project.

All three small businesses used customer deposits (a liability) to fund some risky bet – a construction job, a rare new sneaker, or growing the core business. To be clear, these are not bad business strategies. In fact, the GC, crushed by macroeconomic forces, was mainly just unlucky. Nonetheless, each was a betrayal to the customers who did not explicitly consent to the risks taken with their money.

The Ethics of Customer Deposits

If you are taking deposits or prepayments from customers, you have an ethical responsibility to soundly manage your business’ financials. Here are my top 3 tips to make sure you are behaving ethically.

Know your working capital structure: You must know your working capital risk by knowing your balance sheet. Consult a financial advisor if you have doubts about your working capital knowledge.

Know your regulations: Real estate, title, finance, and attorneys must maintain separate accounts for customer deposits. Take time to know which regulations apply to you and invest in accounting resources to maintain accurate records.

Forecast monthly: Use an operating forecast to project cash flow, test scenarios, and avoid crashing the business. I recommend running through “disaster planning” once a year so you are familiar with the signs and symptoms of a downturn and can respond accordingly.

Do not kill the golden goose: Successful entrepreneurs often chase new ideas with zeal at the expense of existing and profitable businesses. Never bet the house on a new product, service, or market. For a bootstrapping company, avoid investing more than 20% of your revenue into R&D or growing a new market.

Prepare backup capital: Be prepared for emergency funding if needed. You cannot secure new financing during distress, so you should prepare capital sources during the good times. Options for small businesses include:

  • Business lines of credit
  • Owner personal funds and contributions
  • Assets that can be sold quickly

Know when to pull the plug: Sometimes the most responsible thing you can do is fold the business before the damage becomes too great. Set clear limits with your management team about when the game is lost. Examples include:

  • We will not incur more than $x in debt
  • We will close the division if volume drops below X units per month
  • We will quit that project if we cannot hit the deadline by xx/xx/xxxx

Keep your stakeholders in mind: Remember that your business has more stakeholders than shareholders. Financial management is an ethical responsibility for all entrepreneurs. If your business is running out of cash or you are unsure how to manage working capital responsibly, ask for help now. It is your ethical duty.

By LJ Suzuki, Fractional CFO

Source: The FTX Problem Lurking in Your Business | Inc.com

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The Federal Reserve’s Plan To Combat Inflation By Raising Interest Rates Carries The Risk of A Recession

A woman shops for chicken at a supermarket in Santa Monica, California, on September 13.Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images 

The last year of inflation has disproportionately hurt low-income and nonwhite families — those with the least flexibility in their monthly budgets to absorb higher prices. Now those same groups could be hurt by economic policymakers’ plan to tackle inflation through interest rate hikes, and in potentially longer-lasting ways.

Last month, leaders at the Federal Reserve predicted that, given their plans to continue raising rates, unemployment would rise from 3.7 percent (or 6 million people) to 4.4 percent by the end of 2023. In plain terms, this means an additional 1.2 million people would lose their jobs over the 15-month period. “I wish there was a painless way to do that,” Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell had said. “There isn’t.”

Other financial analysts projected even higher unemployment to result. Bank of America predicted unemployment would reach 5.6 percent by the end of 2023, translating to 3.2 million more people out of their jobs. Researchers at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in September that unemployment may need to reach as high as 7.5 percent to curb inflation, which would mean roughly 6 million people losing work.

The Federal Reserve raises interest rates to slow down consumption across the economy: As the cost of borrowing rises, the hope is that people buy fewer things, and prices stop spiraling higher. The latest data shows inflation still up roughly 8 percent compared to a year ago, and recent reporting in the New York Times suggests Fed leaders may even raise rates more aggressively into 2023 than they had previously envisioned.

The question is whether the Federal Reserve will be able to hit the brakes when they decide they’ve done enough — or whether it will be too late, and the economy will be hurtling downhill toward a recession that the Fed created but can’t control.

“One thing that’s a very open debate and a very important subtext to all the fights is the question of whether the Fed can actually increase unemployment just a little,” said Mike Konczal, the director of Macroeconomic Analysis at the Roosevelt Institute, a left-leaning think tank. “And with every million who lose their jobs, it’s that much harder to reintegrate them [into the labor force] later on.”

Stabilizing the economy, Konczal said, is like mending a garment. “You can pull at the threads, but if it tears you can’t just push it all back,” he said. “That’s certainly what keeps me very nervous, that the Fed is so worried it underreacted last year [to inflation] that now it might overreact.”

Some economic experts and journalists are asking if the current pain of inflation outweighs the suffering of a potential recession, and if there are less blunt tools the federal government could be leveraging instead.

“To have a smaller paycheck due to inflation, is that really worse than having no paycheck at all?” Today, Explained host Noel King asked Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari last week. “There’s not an easy answer,” Kashkari acknowledged, ultimately arguing that unemployment affects fewer people than inflation, and it’s easier for the government to target assistance to those who might be hurt.

But higher unemployment and recessions don’t just affect those who lose their jobs, and the assumption that the government would be willing or even able to provide targeted assistance to those pushed out of the labor market beyond the maximum six months of traditional (and relatively meager) unemployment benefits seems highly uncertain, given how Democrats’ more generous pandemic stimulus policies have been blamed for contributing to inflation in the first place.

Experts say the country still lacks the infrastructure to deliver more targeted aid, and with Democrats barely even mounting a defense of their pandemic assistance, whether there’s political oxygen — let alone technological capacity — to help those in a recession remains unclear.

On top of all this, if rate hikes do push millions more people out of work, those who would likely bear the biggest brunt of that job loss and take the longest to recover are the same groups suffering most now from inflation: low-income workers, workers with less education, and people of color.

Missing a “soft landing” means millions more people could lose their jobs

The workers who are most vulnerable to near-term layoffs work in construction and mortgage lending, and sell products like TVs and cars. These are so-called “interest-sensitive” industries, particularly responsive to changes in interest rates and borrowing costs. The next hit would be those working in firms that are particularly exposed to financial speculation — like traders and tech companies built around equity valuation.

The Federal Reserve’s goal is to achieve a so-called “soft landing” — meaning they want to lower inflation without throwing the economy into a recession.

Earlier this year Powell, the Fed chair, explained their goal was to make it harder for people to switch jobs, since job-switching and the fierce competition to hire workers were driving up wages. In this scenario, maybe a business eyeing higher interest rates would post fewer new jobs or decide not to fill vacant roles.

Maybe an employee would see the hiring landscape as less friendly and decide to stay put. “The idea is there’s a whole lot of activity happening that we don’t see by just looking at the unemployment rate,” said Konczal, of the Roosevelt Institute. “So in this scenario, where it becomes harder to switch to new jobs, the economy still cools without unemployment going up.”

Konczal says there’s some evidence that Powell’s “soft landing” argument has been bearing out over the past two months — the number of new job openings has slowed, as have the number of workers voluntarily switching to take another job. Wage data expected at the end of October should provide a clearer picture of where things stand.

But many experts are pessimistic that inflation can really come down without driving up unemployment, and say that if the Federal Reserve wants to see a genuine drop in prices it will have to force layoffs in less “interest-sensitive” industries, even if that increases the risk of a recession. Fewer people simply work in interest-sensitive fields like manufacturing than they did decades ago.

“That’s where face-to-face services like hospitality start to take the hit,” said Josh Bivens, the research director at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “Recessions can have big multiplier effects. Layoffs typically start in construction and then radiate onward, and things can get pretty bad if you have a big spiral.”

It’s harder for less educated, low-income, and nonwhite people to find work after layoffs

While some policymakers are trying to figure out if they could reduce inflation while keeping unemployment around 4 or 5 percent, other economists are sounding the alarm on what even this optimistic aggregate figure obscures — the unemployment rate for Black people is generally double that of white people, and for Hispanic people it’s typically 1.5 times the rate.

In one recent study, researchers found that lowering interest rates disproportionately helped the employment prospects for Black workers, women, and those without a high school diploma. It makes sense — if employers are facing increased competition for labor, they may be less likely to discriminate in the hiring process. Relatedly, over the past year, workers with criminal records and workers with disabilities were more in demand than they have been, as employers struggled to fill vacancies.

“It’s just a truism that when bad things happen in an economy, it’s the marginalized people, the people with less power, who are hurt fastest and most,” said Wendy Edelberg, the director of the Hamilton Project, an economics division within the Brookings Institution. “That should be fiscal policymakers’ laser focus, at all times but particularly in a downturn.”

The government is less likely to offer aid to workers who lose their jobs

When the pandemic hit, and millions lost their jobs or had their working hours reduced, the federal government responded with an array of financial policies to ease the pain such as expanded unemployment benefits, three rounds of stimulus checks, rental assistance, monthly cash deposits for parents with kids, hundreds of billions for state and local governments, and subsidies for businesses — big and small.

The investments kept millions out of poverty and evictions below historic averages, and are credited generally with helping the economy rebound much faster than following past downturns, and more quickly than other nations that had less robust stimulus policies.

But now Republicans have latched onto that federal aid as one of the top reasons inflation is at its highest point in four decades. They blame the Biden administration for putting too much money in people’s pockets, allowing them to spend too much and drive up prices. Some argue the American Rescue Plan was simply too big, or not targeted enough to those who really needed help. Economists disagree over how much the pandemic policies are to blame but Democrats, notably, are not touting their investments on the campaign trail, as voters cite inflation as a top election concern.

Republicans are expected to win control of the House, and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has for months attacked Democrats’ Covid policies for driving inflation. This raises the question: If the economy does spiral and workers lose their jobs or their workable hours, what kind of assistance might they expect to receive in that scenario?

“It’s one of the reasons I’m so worried about the Fed potentially overshooting, that we just won’t do that much to help people since we’re told that helping people too generously is what got us into this mess,” said Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. “I think that’s wrong, but I’m still totally worried about this dynamic.” Bivens also warned that if Republicans control Congress, it might be in their interest to prolong economic hardship ahead of the next presidential election.

“If the Fed slips the economy into recession, what kinds of tools and political capital will be available? That’s a real concern that we aren’t talking about and aren’t being honest with ourselves,” said Mark Paul, an economist at Rutgers who has argued raising rates is the wrong response to the inflation crisis. “In the pandemic, policymakers reacted in a far better way than they have in our lifetime, where, rather than the economy taking 10 years to get to pre-Covid levels, it essentially took 1.5 years. The narrative now is that the government overshot, but the question is what were the other options and what would those have led to?”

Edelberg of the Hamilton Project said if there is a downturn, she hopes we can get “targeted relief” to those most in crisis, so that it only has modest effects on inflation. “We should do that with eyes wide open — knowing it will boost aggregate demand a little bit and that will be okay because a policy should have more than one objective,” she said.

Edelberg acknowledged the country isn’t exactly positioned to distribute targeted relief — the nation’s unemployment insurance system remains in need of serious upgrades. “We should be improving the system so we can find the people who need to get the money, so we don’t need to do things like send checks to everyone,” she said. “We do not have that infrastructure now because we haven’t really valued it.”

Slow wage growth affects even those who keep their jobs

It took 10 years after the Great Recession for wages to finally start rising, long after unemployment had gone back down. Part of this was fueled by state and local minimum wage increases, but part of it, experts believe, was due to a finally tightening economy.

Workers have enjoyed increased power over the past two years amid the even tighter post-pandemic labor market. Wages have gone up, especially for workers at the lower end of the income spectrum, and especially among those who switched their jobs. In 2021, wages grew by 4.5 percent on average, the fastest rate in almost four decades.

Now that we’re finally seeing broad-based gains in the economy, progressive economists warn that aggressive Fed policy could make those raises disappear. One major risk of a recession is slowed wage growth, which can impact everyone, not just those who lose their jobs. Even modest economic downturns can significantly reduce the chance of employers handing out raises.

The Federal Reserve has been explicit that its goal is to reach 2 percent inflation — meaning prices would continue to rise in that scenario, just hopefully more slowly and predictably. But if wages are not also rising, then families will still feel worse off and struggle to afford basic necessities.

“This wage growth angle is, by far, the most important reason why just looking at the rise of unemployment in a recession is a radical understatement of how many workers are adversely affected by recessions,” Bivens wrote in July.

One big fear for inflation watchers is the risk of a so-called “wage spiral” — a scenario where wage increases cause price increases, which in turn cause more wage increases. The concern isn’t baseless; wage spirals have happened before, most notably in the US in the 1970s, but it’s certainly not an inevitability. The labor movement was also much stronger four decades ago — over a third were unionized compared to 6 percent of private sector workers today — giving workers the kind of bargaining power they simply lack now.

Fears of a wage spiral have been dissipating somewhat. Wage growth is still higher than pre-Covid levels but has been slowing down this year. Earlier this month, researchers with the IMF concluded that wage spiral risks “appear contained” for now.

What else could be done?

Some economists and writers have warned that raising interest rates further is unlikely to curb some of the root causes of inflation — such as the war in Ukraine and factory shutdowns — and that inflation would come down next year regardless as supply chains get back on track.Others say more attention should be on things like investigating corporations for raising their prices far beyond the cost increases for raw materials.

The House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy held a hearing on these concerns in late September, and three Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill in May that would seek to ban price gouging during market disruptions. Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, pointed to what he called “an extraordinary increase in profit shares in a relatively short period” — rising from 23.9 percent in 2019 to 26 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Some centrist and conservative analysts have framed higher unemployment and a possible recession as simply a necessary if regrettable stage in the life cycle of an economy, almost like a biological reset. “The Fed’s rate hikes will hurt,” said the right-leaning Washington Post editorial board. “That’s unavoidable.”

But “the idea that severe recessions are necessary is absolutely not true,” said Konczal. “That’s the whole point of having a Federal Reserve and macroeconomics. And the idea that recessions are somehow regenerative and healing to the economy is also wrong.”

Whether one needs higher-than-expected unemployment or lower-than-existing GDP to bring down inflation is not really clear. “People are not sure if that’s true,” said Konczal. “It’s a small sample size, and we have only so many economies that you can test.”

Others have argued that fiscal policy — as opposed to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy — demands more attention to combat inflation. (Fiscal policy refers to a government’s decision to tax and spend, whereas monetary policy is about a central bank’s control over the flow of money and credit.) Fiscal policy can be more targeted, but it can also be difficult to pass through the legislative process, and take far longer to have an economic effect.

For example, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has called for a “production agenda” that would involve new investments in child care, housing, and community college to bring down prices and train Americans to work. These strategies, if successful, would take years however to trickle out. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) similarly argued this past summer that Congress investing in child care would help bring more parents into the workforce, which could counteract inflation, though pouring more money into child care amid a worker shortage, conversely, could also worsen it.

In August, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) introduced a bill that would place price controls on utilities, food, and housing, bolster the scope of the White House supply chain disruption task force, and authorize better data collection on corporate profiteering. (Price controls are controversial, and led to soaring prices after they were lifted in the 1970s.)

Paul, the Rutgers economist, helped advise Bowman on his bill and told Vox that he believes the Federal Reserve is not taking seriously its dual congressional mandate for both price stability and maximum employment. “Right now the Fed seems to be focused on price stability at all costs,” Paul said. “Full employment be damned.”

Source: The Federal Reserve’s plan to combat inflation by raising interest rates carries the risk of a recession – Vox

Related contents:

Inflation data suggests that the Bank of England should be doing precisely nothing with… Tax Research UK

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5 Modern Technologies ‘The Jetsons’ Accurately Predicted 60 Years Ago

When The Jetsons premiered in 1962, show writers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera imagined what the future might look like in 100 years. They also created George Jetson, the “dad of the future,” to handle the trials and tribulations of the nuclear household of 2062, and they set his date of birth as July 31, 2022.

In celebration of this beloved cartoon father’s birthday, we decided to take a look at the various gizmos and gadgets in the show to see how much of it might have inspired modern technologies we use today. It turns out there’s a quite a lot.

1. Video Calls

Perhaps the most obvious bit of tech from The Jetsons to make its way to the modern age is the video call. Video calls took place regularly on the show, most often for connecting family members to one another or for connecting George to his boss.

Notably, the first real video call took place long before the show was even created, in 1927, to connect then-US Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover in Washington, D.C. to then-AT&T President Walter Gifford in New York City. AT&T later announced video conferencing as a subscription service at the 1964 World’s Fair, but canceled it in the ’70s due to low subscription rates. Nowadays video calling is so commonplace that most of the popular services we use on a regular basis are offered for free.

2. Personal Assistants

The cultural impact of Rosie the robot cannot be overstated when talking about tech from The Jetsons. While having a personal robot assistant like Rosie still remains largely a dream, voice assistants are very much a reality that many of us use on a daily basis. And let’s not forget about robot vacuums and mops, two welcome household ‘bots that do some of the dirty work for us.

There’s also the Astro, Amazon’s personal robot that can act as a mobile voice assistant and security guard (and shares a name with the Jetsons’ dog), and Proteus, the company’s fully autonomous robot designed to work at Amazon’s fulfillment and sort centers (at least initially). So while we may not have our own Rosie just yet, we’re getting pretty close.

3. Smartwatches

George Jetson was constantly getting work calls from his boss on his wristwatch. While that watch was almost exclusively used for video calls in the show, modern smartwatches are far more useful, offering you navigation directions or the ability to call a cab, measuring your activity and heart rate, and, of course, letting you make and answer phone calls. Some models offer video-calling capabilities as well, but these day we have plenty of more convenient screens for that.

4. Food Printing

Preparing dinner on The Jetsons was as simple as choosing what you wanted to eat and setting it into the food replicator, which automatically produced tasty-looking results (for a cartoon, that is). In 2006, the Cornell University student group Fab@Home created the first 3D printer capable of printing food, with a series of syringes filled with substances like chocolate and cookie dough. Modern 3D food printers use cartridges of powdered food components (such as proteins and simple carbohydrates) to create different foods within the printer itself.

While 3D food printers haven’t quite reached a level of ubiquity where most of have one on the kitchen shelf, we’ve reviewed gadgets at PCMag such as the Zimplistic Rotimatic, which turns out perfect roti at the push of a button. While it’s not quite a food replicator, we can tell you that the future of flatbread is indeed delicious.

5. Space Tourism

Though The Jetsons took place in the fictional, cloud-based Orbit City, space travel on the show was so commonplace that people would take vacations to the moon.While it’ll likely be some time before you can book an interstellar family getaway, the first space tourist is set to visit the International Space Station in 2023. In addition, companies like Blue Origin are regularly launching missions to send their own teams of astronauts into space with the goal of making space travel possible for the common individual.

Looking back, it’s pretty impressive just how far technology has advanced since The Jetsons was created. We can’t know for sure what the next 60 years has in store for us and what technology will meet us there, but we can at least hope that much of it is fun as what Hanna-Barbera dreamed up in 1962. Want to stream The Jetsons? Watch all three seasons on HBO Max,

By Francisco Lahoz

Source: 5 Modern Technologies ‘The Jetsons’ Accurately Predicted 60 Years Ago

Critics by Saemoon Yoon

17 ways technology could change the world by 2025

We asked our 2020 intake of Technology Pioneers for their views on how technology will change the world in the next five years. From quantum computers and 5G in action to managing cancer chronically, here are their predictions for our near-term future.

1. AI-optimized manufacturing

Paper and pencil tracking, luck, significant global travel and opaque supply chains are part of today’s status quo, resulting in large amounts of wasted energy, materials and time. Accelerated in part by the long-term shutdown of international and regional travel by COVID-19, companies that design and build products will rapidly adopt cloud-based technologies to aggregate, intelligently transform, and contextually present product and process data from manufacturing lines throughout their supply chains.

By 2025, this ubiquitous stream of data and the intelligent algorithms crunching it will enable manufacturing lines to continuously optimize towards higher levels of output and product quality – reducing overall waste in manufacturing by up to 50%. As a result, we will enjoy higher quality products, produced faster, at lower cost to our pocketbooks and the environment.

2. A far-reaching energy transformation

In 2025, carbon footprints will be viewed as socially unacceptable, much like drink driving is today. The COVID-19 pandemic will have focused the public’s attention on the need to take action to deal with threats to our way of life, our health and our future. Public attention will drive government policy and behavioural changes, with carbon footprints becoming a subject of worldwide scrutiny. Individuals, companies and countries will seek the quickest and most affordable ways to achieve net-zero – the elimination of their carbon footprint.

The creation of a sustainable, net-zero future will be built through a far-reaching energy transformation that significantly reduces the world’s carbon emissions, and through the emergence of a massive carbon management industry that captures, utilizes and eliminates carbon dioxide. We’ll see a diversity of new technologies aimed at both reducing and removing the world’s emissions – unleashing a wave of innovation to compare with the industrial and digital Revolutions of the past.

How do I follow the Pioneers of Change Summit? We have a rare and narrowing window of change to build a better world after the pandemic.The World Economic Forum’s inaugural Pioneers of Change meeting will bring together leaders of emerging businesses, social entrepreneurs and other innovators to discuss how to spark and scale up meaningful change.

3. A new era of computing

By 2025, quantum computing will have outgrown its infancy, and a first generation of commercial devices will be able tackle meaningful, real-world problems. One major application of this new kind of computer will be the simulation of complex chemical reactions, a powerful tool that opens up new avenues in drug development. Quantum chemistry calculations will also aid the design of novel materials with desired properties, for instance better catalysts for the automotive industry that curb emissions and help fight climate change.

Right now, the development of pharmaceuticals and performance materials relies massively on trial and error, which means it is an iterative, time-consuming and terribly expensive process. Quantum computers may soon be able to change this. They will significantly shorten product development cycles and reduce the costs for R&D.

4. Healthcare paradigm shift to prevention through diet

By 2025, healthcare systems will adopt more preventative health approaches based on the developing science behind the health benefits of plant-rich, nutrient-dense diets. This trend will be enabled by AI-powered and systems biology-based technology that exponentially grows our knowledge of the role of specific dietary phytonutrients in specific human health and functional outcomes.

After the pandemic of 2020, consumers will be more aware of the importance of their underlying health and will increasingly demand healthier food to help support their natural defences. Armed with a much deeper understanding of nutrition, the global food industry can respond by offering a broader range of product options to support optimal health outcomes. The healthcare industry can respond by promoting earth’s plant intelligence for more resilient lives and to incentivize people to take care of themselves in an effort to reduce unsustainable costs.

5. 5G will enhance the global economy and save lives

Overnight, we’ve experienced a sharp increase in delivery services with a need for “day-of” goods from providers like Amazon and Instacart – but it has been limited. With 5G networks in place, tied directly into autonomous bots, goods would be delivered safely within hours.

Wifi can’t scale to meet higher capacity demands. Sheltering-in-place has moved businesses and classrooms to video conferencing, highlighting poor-quality networks. Low latency 5G networks would resolve this lack of network reliability and even allow for more high-capacity services like telehealth, telesurgery and ER services. Businesses can offset the high cost of mobility with economy-boosting activities including smart factories, real-time monitoring, and content-intensive, real-time edge-compute services. 5G private networks make this possible and changes the mobile services economy.

The roll-out of 5G creates markets that we only imagine – like self-driving bots, along with a mobility-as-a-service economy – and others we can’t imagine, enabling next generations to invent thriving markets and prosperous causes.

6. A new normal in managing cancer

Technology drives data, data catalyzes knowledge, and knowledge enables empowerment. In tomorrow’s world, cancer will be managed like any chronic health condition —we will be able to precisely identify what we may be facing and be empowered to overcome it.

In other words, a new normal will emerge in how we can manage cancer. We will see more early and proactive screening with improved diagnostics innovation, such as in better genome sequencing technology or in liquid biopsy, that promises higher ease of testing, higher accuracy and ideally at an affordable cost. Early detection and intervention in common cancer types will not only save lives but reduce the financial and emotional burden of late discovery.

We will also see a revolution in treatment propelled by technology. Gene editing and immunotherapy that bring fewer side effects will have made greater headway. With advances in early screening and treatment going hand in hand, cancer will no longer be the cursed ‘C’ word that inspires such fear among people.

7. Robotic retail

Historically, robotics has turned around many industries, while a few select sectors – such as grocery retail – have remained largely untouched . With the use of a new robotics application called ‘microfulfillment’, Grocery retailing will no longer look the same. The use of robotics downstream at a ‘hyper local’ level (as opposed to the traditional upstream application in the supply chain) will disrupt this 100-year-old, $5 trillion industry and all its stakeholders will experience significant change. Retailers will operate at a higher order of magnitude on productivity, which will in turn result in positive and enticing returns in the online grocery business (unheard of at the moment).

This technology also unlocks broader access to food and a better customer proposition to consumers at large: speed, product availability and cost. Microfulfillment centers are located in existing (and typically less productive) real estate at the store level and can operate 5-10% more cheaply than a brick and mortar store. We predict that value will be equally captured by retailers and consumers as online.

8. A blurring of physical and virtual spaces

One thing the current pandemic has shown us is how important technology is for maintaining and facilitating communication – not simply for work purposes, but for building real emotional connections. In the next few years we can expect to see this progress accelerate, with AI technology built to connect people at a human level and drive them closer to each other, even when physically they’re apart. The line between physical space and virtual will forever be blurred.

We’ll start to see capabilities for global events – from SXSW to the Glastonbury Festival – to provide fully digitalized alternatives, beyond simple live streaming into full experiences. However, it’s not as simple as just providing these services – data privacy will have to be prioritised in order to create confidence among consumers. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we saw a lot in the news about concerns over the security of video conferencing companies. These concerns aren’t going anywhere and as digital connectivity increases, brands simply can’t afford to give users anything less than full transparency and control over their data.

9. Putting individuals – not institutions – at the heart of healthcare

By 2025, the lines separating culture, information technology and health will be blurred. Engineering biology, machine learning and the sharing economy will establish a framework for decentralising the healthcare continuum, moving it from institutions to the individual. Propelling this forward are advances in artificial intelligence and new supply chain delivery mechanisms, which require the real-time biological data that engineering biology will deliver as simple, low-cost diagnostic tests to individuals in every corner of the globe.

As a result, morbidity, mortality and costs will decrease in acute conditions, such as infectious diseases, because only the most severe cases will need additional care. Fewer infected people will leave their homes, dramatically altering disease epidemiology while decreasing the burden on healthcare systems. A corresponding decrease in costs and increase in the quality of care follows, as inexpensive diagnostics move expenses and power to the individual, simultaneously increasing the cost-efficiency of care. Inextricable links between health, socio-economic status and quality of life will begin to loosen, and tensions that exist by equating health with access to healthcare institutions will dissipate. From daily care to pandemics, these converging technologies will alter economic and social factors to relieve many pressures on the global human condition.

10. The future of construction has already begun

Construction will become a synchronized sequence of manufacturing processes, delivering control, change and production at scale. It will be a safer, faster and more cost-effective way to build the homes, offices, factories and other structures we need to thrive in cities and beyond. As rich datasets are created across the construction industry through the internet of things, AI and image capture, to name a few, this vision is already coming to life.

Using data to deeply understand industry processes is profoundly enhancing the ability of field professionals to trust their instincts in real-time decision making, enabling learning and progress while gaining trust and adoption. Actionable data sheds light where we could not see before, empowering leaders to manage projects proactively rather than reactively. Precision in planning and execution enables construction professionals to control the environment, instead of it controlling them, and creates repeatable processes that are easier to control, automate, and teach. That’s the future of construction. And it’s already begun.

11. Gigaton-scale CO2 removal will help to reverse climate change

A scale up of negative emission technologies, such as carbon dioxide removal, will remove climate-relevant amounts of CO2 from the air. This will be necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. While humanity will do everything possible to stop emitting more carbon into the atmosphere, it will also do everything it can in order to remove historic CO2 from the air permanently.

By becoming widely accessible, the demand for CO2 removal will increase and costs will fall. CO2 removal will be scaled up to the gigaton-level, and will become the responsible option for removing unavoidable emissions from the air. It will empower individuals to have a direct and climate-positive impact on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. It will ultimately help to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels and give humanity the potential to reverse climate change.

12. A new era in medicine

Medicine has always been on a quest to gather more knowledge and understanding of human biology for better clinical decision-making. AI is that new tool that will enable us to extract more insights at an unprecedented level from all the medical ‘big data’ that has never really been fully taken advantage of in the past. It will shift the world of medicine and how it is practiced.

13. Closing the wealth gap

Improvements in AI will finally put access to wealth creation within reach of the masses. Financial advisors, who are knowledge workers, have been the mainstay of wealth management: using customized strategies to grow a small nest egg into a larger one. Since knowledge workers are expensive, access to wealth management has often meant you already need to be wealthy to preserve and grow your wealth. As a result, historically, wealth management has been out of reach of those who needed it most.

Artificial intelligence is improving at such a speed that the strategies employed by these financial advisors will be accessible via technology, and therefore affordable for the masses. Just like you don’t need to know how near-field communication works to use ApplePay, tens of millions of people won’t have to know modern portfolio theory to be able to have their money work for them.

14. A clean energy revolution supported by digital twins

Over the next five years, the energy transition will reach a tipping point. The cost of new-build renewable energy will be lower than the marginal cost of fossil fuels. A global innovation ecosystem will have provided an environment in which problems can be addressed collectively, and allowed for the deployment of innovation to be scaled rapidly. As a result, we will have seen an astounding increase in offshore wind capacity. We will have achieved this through an unwavering commitment to digitalization, which will have gathered a pace that aligns with Moore’s law to mirror solar’s innovation curve.

The rapid development of digital twins – virtual replicas of physical devices – will support a systems-level transformation of the energy sector. The scientific machine learning that combines physics-based models with big data will lead to leaner designs, lower operating costs and ultimately clean, affordable energy for all. The ability to monitor structural health in real-time and fix things before they break will result in safer, more resilient infrastructure and everything from wind farms to bridges and unmanned aerial vehicles being protected by a real-time digital twin.

15. Understanding the microscopic secrets hidden on surfaces

Every surface on Earth carries hidden information that will prove essential for avoiding pandemic-related crises, both now and in the future. The built environment, where humans spend 90% of their lives, is laden with naturally occurring microbiomes comprised of bacterial, fungal and viral ecosystems. Technology that accelerates our ability to rapidly sample, digitalize and interpret microbiome data will transform our understanding of how pathogens spread.

Exposing this invisible microbiome data layer will identify genetic signatures that can predict when and where people and groups are shedding pathogens, which surfaces and environments present the highest transmission risk, and how these risks are impacted by our actions and change over time. We are just scratching the surface of what microbiome data insights offer and will see this accelerate over the next five years. These insights will not only help us avoid and respond to pandemics, but will influence how we design, operate and clean environments like buildings, cars, subways and planes, in addition to how we support economic activity without sacrificing public health.

16. Machine learning and AI expedite decarbonization in carbon-heavy industries

Over the next five years, carbon-heavy industries will use machine learning and AI technology to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint. Traditionally, industries like manufacturing and oil and gas have been slow to implement decarbonization efforts as they struggle to maintain productivity and profitability while doing so. However, climate change, as well as regulatory pressure and market volatility, are pushing these industries to adjust.

For example, oil and gas and industrial manufacturing organizations are feeling the pinch of regulators, who want them to significantly reduce CO2 emissions within the next few years. Technology-enabled initiatives were vital to boosting decarbonizing efforts in sectors like transportation and buildings – and heavy industries will follow a similar approach. Indeed, as a result of increasing digital transformation, carbon-heavy sectors will be able to utilize advanced technologies, like AI and machine learning, using real-time, high-fidelity data from billions of connected devices to efficiently and proactively reduce harmful emissions and decrease carbon footprints.

17. Privacy is pervasive – and prioritized

Despite the accelerating regulatory environments we’ve seen surface in recent years, we are now just seeing the tip of the privacy iceberg, both from a regulatory and consumer standpoint. Five years from now, privacy and data-centric security will have reached commodity status – and the ability for consumers to protect and control sensitive data assets will be viewed as the rule rather than the exception. As awareness and understanding continue to build, so will the prevalence of privacy preserving and enhancing capabilities, namely privacy-enhancing technologies (PET). By 2025, PET as a technology category will become mainstream.

They will be a foundational element of enterprise privacy and security strategies rather than an added-on component integrated only meet a minimum compliance threshold. While the world will still lack a global privacy standard, organizations will embrace a data-centric approach to security that provides the flexibility necessary to adapt to regional regulations and consumer expectations. These efforts will be led by cross-functional teams representing the data, privacy and security interests within an organization.

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Why Inflation Looks Likely To Stay Above The Pre-Pandemic Norm

The bad news on inflation just keeps coming. At more than 9% year on year across the rich world, it has not been this high since the 1980s—and there have never been so many “inflation surprises”, where the data have come in higher than economists’ forecasts (see chart). This, in turn, is taking a heavy toll on the economy and financial markets.

Central banks are raising interest rates and ending bond-buying schemes, crushing equities. Consumer confidence in many places is now even lower than it was in the early days of the covid-19 pandemic. “Real-time” economic indicators of everything from housing activity to manufacturing output suggest that economic growth is slowing sharply.

What consumer prices do next is therefore one of the most important questions for the global economy. Many forecasters expect that annual inflation will soon ebb, in part because of last year’s sharp increases in commodity prices falling out of the year-on-year comparison. In its latest economic projections the Federal Reserve, for instance, expects annual inflation in America (as measured by the personal-consumption-expenditure index) to fall from 5.2% at the end of this year to 2.6% by the end of 2023.

You might be forgiven for not taking these prognostications too seriously. After all, most economists failed to see the inflationary surge coming, and then wrongly predicted it would quickly fade. In a paper published in May, Jeremy Rudd of the Fed made a provocative point: “Our understanding of how the economy works—as well as our ability to predict the effects of shocks and policy actions—is in my view no better today than it was in the 1960s.” The future path of inflation is, to a great extent, shrouded in uncertainty.

Some indicators point to more price pressure to come in the near term. Alternative Macro Signals, a consultancy, runs millions of news articles through a model to construct a “news inflation pressure index”. The results, which are more timely than the official inflation figures, measure not just how frequently price pressures are mentioned, but also whether the news flow suggests that pressures are building up. In both America and the euro area the index is still miles above 50, indicating that pressures are continuing to build.

Inflation worry-warts can point to three other indicators suggesting that the rich world is unlikely to return to the pre-pandemic norm of low, stable price growth any time soon: rising wage growth, and increases in the inflation expectations of both consumers and companies. If sustained, these could together contribute to what the Bank for International Settlements, the central bank for central banks, describes in a report published on June 26th as a “tipping point”. Beyond it, warns the bis, “an inflationary psychology” could spread and become “entrenched”.

Evidence is mounting that workers are starting to bargain for higher wages. This could create another round of price increases as firms pass on these extra costs. A survey by the Bank of Spain suggests that half of collective-bargaining deals signed for 2023 contain “indexation clauses”, meaning that salaries are automatically tied to inflation, up from a fifth before the pandemic.

In Germany ig Metall, a trade union, has asked for a 7-8% pay rise for nearly 4m workers in the metals and engineering sector (it will probably get about half that). In Britain rail workers went on strike as they sought a 7% pay rise, though it is unclear whether they will succeed. All this will make wage growth hotter still. Already, a tracker for the g10 group of countries compiled by Goldman Sachs, a bank, is rising almost vertically (see chart). A measure of pay pressure from Alternative Macro Signals is similarly animated. And wage floors are rising, too.

The Netherlands is bringing forward a rise in the minimum wage; earlier this month Germany passed a bill increasing its minimum by one-fifth. On June 15th Australia’s industrial-relations agency raised the wage floor by 5.2%, more than double last year’s increase. Faster wage growth in part reflects public’s higher expectations for future inflation—the second reason to worry that inflation might prove sticky. In America expectations for average price increases in the near term are rising fast.

The average Canadian says they are braced for inflation of 7% over the next year, the highest of any rich country. Even in Japan, the land where prices only rarely change, beliefs are shifting. A year ago a survey by the central bank found that just 8% of people believed that prices would go up “significantly” over the next year (consumer prices, indeed, rose by only 2.5% in the year to April). Now, however, 20% of Japanese people reckon that will happen.

The third factor relates to companies’ expectations. Retailers’ inflation expectations are at an all-time high in a third of eu countries. A survey by the Bank of England suggests that clothing prices for Britain’s autumn and winter collections will be 7-10% higher than a year ago. The Dallas Fed does find tentative evidence that customers are less willing to tolerate price increases than before; a respondent in the rental and leasing business complained that “it is getting tougher to pass on the 20-30% price increases we have received from manufacturers.” But that merely points to a lower level of high inflation.

The big hope for lower inflation relates to the price of goods. Fast increases in the prices of cars, fridges and the like, linked in part to supply-chain snarls, drove the initial inflationary surge last year. Now there is some evidence of a reversal. The cost of shipping something from Shanghai to Los Angeles has fallen by a quarter since early March. In recent months many retailers spent big on inventories in order to ensure their shelves stayed full. Many are now cutting prices to shift stock.

In America car production is finally picking up, which could unwind some of the outrageous price increases for used vehicles seen last year. Falling goods prices could, in theory, help douse the inflationary flames in the rich world, easing the cost-of-living crisis, giving central banks breathing room and buoying financial markets. But, with enough indicators of future prices pointing the other way, the odds of that happening have lengthened. Don’t be surprised if inflation roars for a while yet.

Source: Why inflation looks likely to stay above the pre-pandemic norm | The Economist

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China Manufacturing Begins To Rebound as COVID-19 Restrictions Ease

Manufacturing in China started to improve in May after the country lifted coronavirus lockdowns that shut down China’s richest and most populous city of Shanghai, as well as other industrial areas, according to an official survey released Tuesday.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index of the National Bureau of Statistics of China’s manufacturing industry jumped from 47.4% in April to 49.6% this month on a 100-point scale. Numbers below 50 reveal activity contracting.

New orders, exports and employment all improved during the month of May. More businesses in Shanghai are allowed to reopen this week after COVID-19 outbreaks were considered by the government as under control.Other industrial centers like Shenzhen and Changchun were also forced to shut down this spring due to the coronavirus, which disrupted the cities’ manufacturing and trade.

Tuesday’s data shows that “activity has started to rebound as containment measures were rolled back,” Capital Economics’ Sheana Yue said in a report, adding that the recovery “is likely to remain tepid amid weak external demand and labor market strains.”

More businesses in Shanghai, China’s most populous city, are being allowed to reopen this week after outbreaks were deemed to be under control. Other industrial centers including Shenzhen in the south and Changchun in the northeast also were temporarily shut down, disrupting manufacturing and trade.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is zeroing in on the ties that China’s state banks and other financial stalwarts have developed with big private-sector players, expanding his push to curb capitalist forces in the economy.

Source: China manufacturing begins to rebound as COVID-19 restrictions ease | Fox Business

In April, China’s industrial groups posted their biggest profit decline in two years, the latest sign of economic and corporate woes caused by a wave of coronavirus lockdowns. Industrial profits fell 8.5% in April from the same period a year earlier, the biggest drop since March 2020, when China was also engulfed in restrictions to deal with the initial outbreak of the virus.

The cutbacks are increasing pressure on the government, which is pushing to maintain its zero-Covid policy to eliminate infections through mass testing, lockdowns and quarantines. The strategy is a priority for President Xi Jinping this year as he seeks an unprecedented third term in office, but its rising economic costs pose a serious threat to the country’s 5.5% growth goal by 2022.

Official data last week showed a drop in overall activity in April at a time when Shanghai, China’s financial center, was closed and residents were chained to their homes. Retail sales, an important indicator of consumption, fell 11%, while industrial production also fell. Unemployment hit 6.1 percent, the highest level in two years. The lockdowns are estimated to have affected dozens of cities and hundreds of millions of people. Restrictions are also being put in place in Beijing, which reports dozens of cases daily.

The latest outbreak in China was centered mainly in Shanghai, where about 63,000 infections have been reported and where many residents are still staying at home. Officials stressed the need for a rapid citywide response to the highly contagious Omicron variant. Zhu Hong, senior statistician at the National Bureau of Statistics, said the outbreak “had a big impact on the production and operation of industrial enterprises” in April, adding that profits fell by 22% for manufacturing companies in particular.

The authorities, which had already eased monetary policy in response to last year’s real estate liquidity crunch, have taken other steps to support the economy. Last week, China’s mortgage lending rate was cut for the second time this year. Analysts at Goldman Sachs pointed to the impact of “high raw material costs” on industrial profits, in addition to supply chain disruptions caused by Covid lockdowns at manufacturing centers.

“We expect further policy easing on the fiscal front to stimulate demand, given the downward pressure on growth and the uncertainty of the pace of recovery from the Covid disruption,” they said.

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