Charlotte Street Partners



How did we get here?

Written by Kevin Pringle, partner
29 August 2020

Good morning,

The theme of this week’s pieces is about how the world has got to where it is and what the future might look like. 

A few years ago, I picked up a book in a second-hand shop with the unusual title: “Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives! A World Without World War I”, by Richard Ned Lebow. 

It was an entertaining attempt to describe how the 20th century would have been dramatically different if events had taken another course, as they so easily could have (the unfortunate Franz’s assassination itself only happened because of a ridiculous amount of bad luck). 

Today’s world is an arbitrary place, shaped by events that needn’t have occurred and could easily have been changed. You couldn’t make it up, as the saying goes, and what really happens may be more bizarre than imagined alternatives. It certainly seems like that at present.   

The only lesson I took from the book is that the future is there to be shaped; so be active for what you believe in, not fatalistic. 

I hope you find the offerings below of interest. Who knows, they may even help to stimulate action! 

Have an enjoyable weekend. 

China’s check-mate

While the open technology war between US and China is intensifying the tensions between the two players, a quietly developed new digital currency has the potential to advance the endgame. The Chinese government-backed blockchain infrastructure BSN – aimed at integrating blockchain technology across government, big business and emerging markets – is China’s special and, maybe, winning move. 

Read in: Forbes 

The story of a moonshot

We may be all different but there is at least one thing that we can agree on – that humanity brings its own problems. Health and climate crises across the globe mean that we are in desperate need of a moonshot. 

But moonshots require collaboration, as history testifies. Back in the 1974, two scientists – one American, one Italian – discovered a giant hole in the atmospheric ozone layer over the Antarctic. The solution? International collaboration that led to the establishment of one of the most successful global environmental policies of the 20th century. 

Listen to it on: Tortoise  

The future of Silicon Valley

Prior to the pandemic, Silicon Valley stood as the 21st century’s prime illustration of the virtues of industrial clustering. With Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter and others having recently announced plans for significant portions of their workforces to remain remote even after offices open – how much will Covid-19 tamper with the valley’s secret sauce for innovation? 

Read in: Bloomberg

How money works

“You better own something other than debt”, as Warren Buffett recently said. When the government can just keep on printing money to pay their own debt, it’s laughable to think it will ever default. So, if money will keep being printed out of thin air – what does that mean for your investments, assets and savings? 

Amid all this, the US is facing record unemployment and a global health crisis. Yet stock markets are hitting record highs. George Soros called the stock market a bubble. “Investors are in a bubble fueled by Fed liquidity”, he says, and that’s why he “no longer participates.” 

Read in: Medium 

Will the Conservatives start conserving? 

Before Covid-19, the climate emergency was the existential threat that dominated news headlines around the globe. Now, to an extent, that momentum has been lost. But this huge challenge should not be forgotten, and this piece suggests that being better to our environment is an open goal that the UK government seems to be at pains to ignore at present. 

Read in: Unherd 

The future of food

There are more than 30,000 edible plant species in the world and humans eat only 150 of them. That’s less than one per cent of the food crops available to us, with disease and loss of biodiversity the knock-on effects. And yet, 70% of the agricultural land on the planet is given over to livestock production – 30% of the Earth’s total land mass – despite the fact that we know cattle produce more greenhouse gases than planes, trains and automobiles combined. 

There’s no doubt that the world needs a rapid change in eating habits if it is to avoid climate catastrophe. But what are the future solutions being proposed, and how far are governments going to make them a reality? 

Read in: Geographical 

Declassified CIA sabotage tips

The CIA’s declassified “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” contains information on how to hinder an enemy organisation from within that will be familiar to many. While examples such as, “the saboteur should insist on everything being done through ‘channels’ – never allowing short-cuts which might expedite decisions”, and “the saboteur must haggle over the precise wordings of all communications, minutes and resolutions” might be funny to most, it is also a good reminder for us to reflect on whether modern-day office politics has us sabotaging ourselves and preventing meaningful change. 

Read in: The Scotsman 

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