The Shock Tactics Set to Shake Up Immunology

The technique, called vagus-nerve stimulation, has been used since the 1990s to treat epilepsy, and since the early 2000s to treat depression. But Katrin, a 70-year-old fitness instructor in Amsterdam, who asked that her name be changed for this story, uses it to control rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that results in the destruction of cartilage around joints and other tissues. A clinical trial in which she enrolled five years ago is the first of its kind in humans, and it represents the culmination of two decades of research looking into the connection between the nervous and immune systems.

The Deregulation of Private Capital and the Decline of the Public Company

From its inception, the federal securities law regime created and enforced a major divide between public and private capital raising. Firms that chose to “go public” took on substantial disclosure burdens, but in exchange were given the exclusive right to raise capital from the general public. Over time, however, the disclosure quid pro quo has been subverted: Public companies are still asked to disclose, yet capital is flooding into private companies with regulators’ blessing.

Populism: The Phenomenon

Great historical context on populist movements globally from Bridgewater Associates


This report is an examination of populism, the phenomenon—how it typically germinates, grows, and runs its course.

Populism is not well understood because, over the past several decades, it has been infrequent in emerging countries (e.g., Chávez’s Venezuela, Duterte’s Philippines, etc.) and virtually nonexistent in developed countries. It is one of those phenomena that comes along in a big way about once a lifetime—like pandemics, depressions, or wars. The last time that it existed as a major force in the world was in the 1930s, when most countries became populist. Over the last year, it has again emerged as a major force.

Unicorns, Guardians, and the Concentration of the U.S. Equity Markets

In recent years, in conjunction with rising inequality in the United States, there has been a decisive shift from broad-based ownership of firms to much more concentrated forms of ownership in both private and public markets. Private equity markets are concentrated by legal definition: relatively few people are qualified to participate directly. Yet private equity has become the preferred method of capital formation, epitomized by “unicorns,” firms valued at over $1 billion without being publicly traded. Public equity markets are dominated by funds with trillions of dollars under management, and small staffs, who are in effect “guardians” for the portfolios that ensure long-term stability for individuals and institutions, notably through retirement and endowments. The governance of the U.S. economy has to a surprising degree become a matter of grace: the nation now relies on a small elite to make good decisions on its behalf about the allocation of capital, the governance of firms, and the preservation of portfolio value. This consolidation of ownership rivals that of the late 19th century, and may challenge the law to address the equity markets in new ways.

Economics of the Music Industry (Renaissance Edition)

Interesting history on the rise of Western Music from the book In Praise of Commercial Culture” by Tyler Cowen

Financial support for musical for music composition developed more slowly than for the visual arts. Renaissance musicians usually depended upon churches, courts, or municipal governments for their support. They could not sell their product in a market thick with wealthy private buyers.

Economic factors help explain the slower growth of the music market. Early music, as a commodity, was neither durable or reproducible printed sheet music remained costly and did not successfully penetrate the music market until the eighteenth century. The performance could be sold in lieu of the composition, but performances tended to be expensive, unique events.

Georg Friedrich Telemann led the commercialization of German music with his frequent public concerts. The energetic Telemann presented secular works, sacred works, and commercial operatic productions  in great number.

Telemann targeted upper-middle-class audiences in Frankfurt and Hamburg, and did not rely on patrons. Telemann initiated the commercial emancipation of the German musician that Beethoven was to complete. His catchy themes, encouraged by his desire sire to reach a large audience, make him a continuing favorite on classical radio stations today.”

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Investing in the Unknown and Unknowable

From Richard Zeckhauser at NBER:

From David Ricardo making a fortune buying British government bonds on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo to Warren Buffett selling insurance to the California earthquake authority, the wisest investors have earned extraordinary returns by investing in the unknown and the unknowable (UU). But they have done so on a reasoned, sensible basis. This essay explains some of the central principles that such investors employ. It starts by discussing “ignorance,” a widespread situation in the real world of investing, where even the possible states of the world are not known. Traditional finance theory does not apply in UU situations. Strategic thinking, deducing what other investors might know or not, and assessing whether they might be deterred from investing, for example due to fiduciary requirements, frequently point the way to profitability. Most big investment payouts come when money is combined with complementary skills, such as knowing how to develop real estate or new technologies. Those who lack these skills can look for “sidecar” investments that allow them to put their money alongside that of people they know to be both capable and honest. The reader is asked to consider a number of such investments.

Markets and People (or Thoughts on Venture Investing)

I’ve been thinking about this passage from an article about Sequoia’s Michael Moritz recently:

“Moritz waxed philosophical by comparing venture capital investing to bird spotting. “I rarely think about big themes. The business is like bird spotting. I don’t try to pick out the flock. Each one is different and I try to find an interestingly complected bird in a flock rather than try to make an observation about an entire flock.” For that reason, while other firms may avoid companies because they perceive a certain investment sector as being overplayed or already mature, Moritz said Sequoia is “careful not to redline neighborhoods”.

Continuing with the ornithological analogy, Moritz pointed to Cisco and said, “There’s a lot to be said for investing in the ugly duckling.” When Don Valentine led Sequoia Capital’s investment in Cisco, many others had passed on the husband and wife founding team of Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner.

At its core, venture investing is a job that can be broken down into people (execution) and markets.

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CAA's SXSW Event (and Impact)

At SXSW this year, Creative Artist Agency (CAA) hosted the Thinkery, a local Austin non-profit as a sponsor to event and encouraged attendees to donate to the charity.

In addition to direct donations, the inclusion of Thinkery in the branding and at the event, gave the group access CAA’s platform to create awareness about their cause (which happens to be building a center for making and doing at the Austin’s Children Museum)

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