ESSA's Monthly Highlights: March

ESSA's Monthly Highlights: March

Enlightenment Now – By Steven Pinker

A book for optimists, or those who think that our future looks bleak and want to be convinced otherwise.

The book is centred around a relatively simple idea: today we are living healthier, wealthier and more productive lives despite the seemingly endless news to the contrary. Pinker provides an historical context to many fundamental human themes (e.g., peace, equal rights and the environment) to illustrate to the reader the leaps and bounds we have made to improving life in recent years. However, Pinker’s brilliance is best exemplified when he begins to address the future of these topics. He is focused on solving our current issues, using empirical evidence and ignoring the politics. For example, he provides ideas (backed by extensive research) to resolve the climate crisis, inequality and improving worldwide happiness. For anyone interested in what the future of our world will look like, I would argue that this is almost compulsory reading. And if you don’t believe me, Bill Gates described Enlightenment Now as his “new favourite book of all time.”

The All-In Podcast Episode 22: Reflecting on the Robinhood Situation

Listen HERE on Apple Podcasts.

This ambitious podcast series draws together friends and poker group members Jason Calacanis, Chamath Palihapitiya, David Sacks and David Freiberg. Together, this quartet have been early investors in companies such as Uber, Robinhood, Trello, SpaceX and Airbnb, and have also been involved with tech companies such as Facebook, PayPal and Google. In this episode, they interview Robinhood CEO Vladimir Tenev for a candid and penetrating discussion of the zero-commission trading company’s controversial handling of the GameStop stock price hike.  Now that several weeks have passed since the accounts of Redditors from Wall Street Bets were suddenly frozen by Robinhood, this discussion provides an interesting reflection into the rationale behind the contentious decision to cut-off customers from trading made by the commission-free company, who brands itself as a medium to democratise trading for the masses. If you are interested in financial markets and still perplexed by last month’s madness around the meme-stock, this podcast will be sure to make for some stimulating listening.

How To Avoid a Climate Disaster – By Bill Gates

Bill Gates is widely known for being one of the richest men in the world as founder of Microsoft, his efforts combatting global poverty as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and as a leading figure in the fight against COVID-19. In his latest book, How To Avoid a Climate Disaster, he provides a comprehensive overview of the technological breakthroughs and policy interventions required to transform decades of catastrophic climate practises. He premises his discussion very simply by focussing on two crucial numbers: 52 billion and zero. 52 Billion tonnes represent the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere annually, while zero represents the goal of net zero carbon emissions that the world ought to reach by 2050. Perhaps the most engaging characteristic of Gates’ book is how he dispels common, unhelpful ideas about combatting climate change. An instance of this is the tendency of people to over-focus on climate solutions where substantial progress has already been made, such as electric vehicles and renewable energy sources. As Gates explains, the more challenging problems where there is far less progress are often overlooked by climate commentators and governments, such as the relatively unknown fact that 31% of emissions stem from the way we manufacture goods such as steel and cement – making it one of the essential areas of innovation required to achieve carbon neutrality. For those wishing for an approachable and well-explained assessment of the technologies and areas of investment required to address climate change, this book is highly recommended.