India@75: A nation in the making

Ten interesting things we read this week

Some of the most fascinating topics covered this week are: Sports (NBA superstar's evolution from high school prodigy), Parenting (How to apologize to your kids), Philosophy ('A reckoning for our species') and Environment (Race to scale up green hydrogen).

Published: Mar 13, 2021 08:25:30 AM IST
Updated: Mar 12, 2021 02:38:48 PM IST

Ten interesting things we read this weekImage: Shutterstock

At Ambit, we spend a lot of time reading articles that cover a wide gamut of topics, ranging from zeitgeist to futuristic, and encapsulate them in our weekly ‘Ten Interesting Things’ product. Some of the most fascinating topics covered this week are: Sports (NBA superstar's evolution from high school prodigy), Parenting (How to apologize to your kids), Philosophy ('A reckoning for our species') and Environment (Race to scale up green hydrogen).

 Here are the ten most interesting pieces that we read this week, ended March 13, 2021.
 
1) LeBron James: NBA superstar's evolution from high school prodigy [Source: BBC Sport
Like any other field, to make it big in sports, one needs to be dedicated and consistent. And that’s what LeBron James knew early on. In the summer of 2003, James was putting in extra work before his rookie season. Aged only 18, he had long been regarded as basketball's next great hope. He was the cover star of the prestigious Sports Illustrated magazine while still a junior in high school. No one was more aware of the future that had been written for him than James himself. No one better appreciated the work required to fulfil that promise. James also understood the highest echelons of superstardom are only attained when the pageantry of elite sport is embraced; that you create your own myth before selling it to the world.

James' debut arrived on 29 October 2003. Cleveland Cavaliers travelled to face the Sacramento Kings for their season opener.
Expectations were high, but the teenager still had more than his share of doubters. After all, he had skipped a step on the traditional route to the NBA, going professional straight out of high school - prep to pro - rather than using college basketball as a stepping stone.  Cleveland lost the game 106-92, The King outdone by the Kings, but James could hardly have impressed more in defeat. His 25 points set a record for a prep-to-pro player on debut, bettering the exalted company of Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant. James became the first player in Cavaliers history to be named NBA rookie of the year at the end of his maiden season.

James' move to Miami in 2010 was tinged with controversy. Many fans and league insiders felt announcing which team he'd join in free agency via a live television special, entitled The Decision, was in bad taste. But that was reversed in 2014. In the four years he'd been away, Cleveland had compiled the worst overall win-loss record (97-215) in the NBA. They finished 10th in the Eastern Conference for 2013-14. James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in each of the four years of his second spell in Cleveland, taking his personal tally of consecutive Finals appearances to eight. Jose Calderon, who played for the Cavaliers during the 2017-18 season, says: "When people ask me about LeBron, I always say: he's maybe not the best scorer; he's maybe not the best rebounder; he's maybe not the best with assists. But all around, I think he's the best player. He's the most complete player.    

2) How to apologize to your kids [Source: NY Times
We all at some point or the other scold our kids or get angry and shout at them. The first thing to know is that “all parents snap at their children,” said Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University School of Medicine, and doing so from time to time doesn’t make you a good parent or a bad one. It’s just a fact of life. The most important thing is what happens after you snap at your children. Here’s what you can do. 1) Acknowledge your mistake: After you’ve calmed down, apologize to your child, and talk to them in an age-appropriate way about your feelings. Then you can talk about ways to calm down that you could have used, like going for a walk, taking a deep breath or walking away from the discussion. It’s a learning opportunity for a child.

2) Give yourself a time out: They aren’t just for kids; they’re for grown-ups, too, said Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist based in New York. “If you’re so overwhelmed that you can’t think about what is developmentally appropriate, give yourself a time out,” Dr. Sacks said. “When parents have too-high bars for perfection and flawlessness, they feel they can’t walk out of the room, or give the kid five more minutes of screen time,” even if it would help the parent calm down, Dr. Sacks said. Don't fall into this martyr trap.

3) Remember that kids struggle with impulse control: If you don’t want disturbance, you can put a sign on the door when you really don’t want your kids to come in and disturb you. As a visual cue that might remind them to stop, and help them resist opening it. 4) If your snapping is frequent, try to get help: With the caveat that there are so many situations in which this is not possible, if you find yourself irritable all the time and lashing out at your kids frequently, and these emotions are a marked change for you, you “need support or relief,” Dr. Sacks said. That additional support could mean extra child care, or seeing a therapist.  

3) Fixed vs. Growth: The two basic mindsets that shape our lives [Source: brainpickings.com
In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck talks about the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. One of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves, Dweck found in her research, has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness. At the heart of what makes the “growth mindset” so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. What makes Dweck’s work different is that it is rooted in rigorous research on how the mind — especially the developing mind — works, identifying not only the core drivers of those mindsets but also how they can be reprogrammed.

Dweck cites a poll of 143 creativity researchers, who concurred that the number-one trait underpinning creative achievement is precisely the kind of resilience and fail-forward perseverance attributed to the growth mindset. But her most remarkable research, which has informed present theories of why presence is more important than praise in teaching children to cultivate a healthy relationship with achievement, explores how these mindsets are born — they form, it turns out, very early in life. In the rest of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck goes on to explore how these fundamental mindsets form, what their defining characteristics are in different contexts of life, and how we can rewire our cognitive habits to adopt the much more fruitful and nourishing growth mindset.

4) The IPO routes for India's internet unicorns [Source: Forbes India
Many tech start-ups are looking to launch their IPOs. Be it to pay off debt or give an exit to the existing investors. Last December, Sebi released a consultation paper on 'Review of Framework of Innovators Growth Platform (IGP)', with recommendations from the Primary Market Advisory Committee (PMAC). In 2015, Sebi had introduced a similar segment called Institutional Trading Platform (ITP), but it failed to get any interest from start-ups. The current reforms in the IGP framework, when implemented, are expected to find far more interest among Indian startups and technology companies.“

Pepperfry, the Mumbai-based online furniture marketplace, is a start-up planning its IPO. Neelesh Talathi, CFO, Pepperfry, believes the IGP could be a platform for innovative businesses, not just in India but also in South Asia. “This [the IGP framework] is a recognition that the only similarity between all these new businesses is that they're all dissimilar,” he says. Pepperfry is open to listing on all exchanges, including the IGP, once the new reforms are implemented by Sebi. IPOs, however, are not always a means to raise money for all companies; for some, it is the achievement of a milestone in a company’s journey. At Freshworks, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) unicorn, which has just hit $300 million in annual recurring revenue and is growing at over 40%, founder and CEO Girish Mathrubootham has both time and money on his side.

The earlier restrictions under the ITP/IGP alternatives, including in relation to issue size, trading lot sizes and eligible investors, did not present a compelling alternative either. “However, reforms proposed by the PMAC last December, if implemented, are likely to address many of the challenges under the IGP framework, and come to the fore as a serious alternative to overseas listing,” says Yogesh Singh, partner and national co-head corporate practice group, Trilegal. The IGP framework is likely to benefit startups—both large and small—and is therefore seen as a step in the right direction to change the startup landscape in India. Despite Sebi implementing the IGP framework, companies like Zomato or Paytm, which are eligible to list on the board, are likely to choose an overseas listing, either directly (provided regulations permit) or through the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) route. Internet-based startups have enough and more options to list, both in India and overseas.

5) Job market picks up strength, led by food and drink [Source: NY Times
As vaccination efforts are ramping up and restrictions on businesses are easing, America is witnessing rise in employment. Most of the increases came in the leisure and hospitality industries, which have been particularly hard hit by shutdown orders and employ 3.5 million fewer people than a year ago. The February gains included 286,000 jobs in food services and drinking establishments, along with 69,000 at businesses like hotels and gyms. Some restaurant owners say the combination of falling coronavirus cases and warming weather in recent weeks is attracting more customers.

Retail and manufacturing payrolls also showed some growth. Losses in employment by state and local governments — mostly in education — pared the overall increase, however. Harsh and unusually cold weather in February further held down gains. The unemployment rate last month was 6.2 percent, down from 6.3 percent in January. But as the Federal Reserve and top administration officials have emphasized, that number understates the breadth of the damage. “We’re still in a pandemic economy,” said Julia Coronado, founder of MacroPolicy Perspectives and a former Fed economist. “Millions of people are looking for work and willing to work, but they are constrained from working.”

Recruiting sites have had an increase in job postings in recent weeks. Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, a Chicago staffing firm, said the employers he spoke to were “absolutely ready to hire.” Similarly, many companies are planning to step up hiring. Over the past year, online retail and other e-commerce-related sectors saw explosive growth while the face-to-face economy went into a deep freeze. Postings for warehouse and stocking jobs, for example, were 38 percent above February last year, said Nick Bunker, head of research for the job site Indeed. The question is whether that will continue. “We’ve shifted consumption,” he said, “but how much of that snaps back once the pandemic is under control?”

6) 'A reckoning for our species': the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene [Source: The Guardian]     
Timothy Morton, a philosopher, wants humanity to give up some of its core beliefs, from the fantasy that we can control the planet to the notion that we are ‘above’ other beings. Over the past decade, Morton’s ideas have been spilling into the mainstream. Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director of London’s Serpentine gallery, and perhaps the most powerful figure in the contemporary art world, is one of his loudest cheerleaders. Obrist told readers of Vogue that Morton’s books are among the pre-eminent cultural works of our time, and recommends them to many of his own collaborators. The acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson has been flying Morton around the world to speak at his major exhibition openings. Excerpts from Morton’s correspondence with Björk were published as part of her 2015 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Part of what makes Morton popular are his attacks on settled ways of thinking. His most frequently cited book, Ecology Without Nature, says we need to scrap the whole concept of “nature”. He argues that a distinctive feature of our world is the presence of ginormous things he calls “hyperobjects” – such as global warming or the internet – that we tend to think of as abstract ideas because we can’t get our heads around them, but that are nevertheless as real as hammers. He believes all beings are interdependent, and speculates that everything in the universe has a kind of consciousness, from algae and boulders to knives and forks. He asserts that human beings are cyborgs of a kind, since we are made up of all sorts of non-human components; he likes to point out that the very stuff that supposedly makes us us – our DNA – contains a significant amount of genetic material from viruses.

Morton’s theories might sound bizarre, but they are in tune with the most earth-shaking idea to emerge in the 21st century: that we are entering a new phase in the history of the planet – a phase that Morton and many others now call the “Anthropocene”. The term Anthropocene, from the Ancient Greek word anthropos, meaning “human”, acknowledges that humans are the major cause of the earth’s current transformation. Extreme weather, submerged cities, acute resource shortages, vanished species, lakes turned to deserts, nuclear fallout: if there is still human life on earth tens of thousands of years from now, societies that we can’t imagine will have to grapple with the changes we are wreaking today. The Anthropocene is not only a period of manmade disruption. It is also a moment of blinking self-awareness, in which the human species is becoming conscious of itself as a planetary force. We’re not only driving global warming and ecological destruction; we know that we are.

7) Cryptocurrency will not die [Source: gq.com
Will cryptocurrency takeover physical cash? Will people start accepting payments through cryptos? Will the financial regulatory bodies world over allow this to happen? In this article, the author talks about two people (giving them artificial names – Kim and Derek) who dabbled in cryptocurrencies without any knowledge. Kim heard about crypto from his friend Derek. “I think it was about 2013 or ’14,” Kim said. “[Derek] was like, ‘Hey, I’ve been looking into this and I really think maybe we should invest in some Bitcoin.’ ” Kim was intrigued, but he didn’t follow through. Like a lot of people, he’d heard about Bitcoin, the original crypto and still the OG, but it didn’t sound fully real. Then, in 2017, he tried buying some “altcoins.” An altcoin is essentially any cryptocurrency that isn’t Bitcoin; in October 2019, a database listed over three thousand of them.

The autumn of 2017 was near peak crypto madness. Kim started out with the altcoin Cardano, buying about twenty bucks’ worth at four cents a coin. A few days later, it rose to eight cents, doubling his investment. “So that was like, ‘Holy shit. If I’d put in like a hundred bucks, that would’ve been two hundred bucks.’ ” Remembering the moment, Kim widened his eyes slightly. “I was like, ‘What am I doing keeping money in a bank account when I can just put it into these things and it doubles?’ ” Through Derek, Kim soon heard about another coin called RaiBlocks. The appeal of RaiBlocks was its quick transaction speed. You could send a friend a couple RaiBlocks almost instantly, whereas Bitcoin transactions might take several minutes or longer to register. At the time RaiBlocks was trading for about a dollar. Kim bought in. Soon it was selling for two dollars, and Kim bought more.

What makes crypto trading dangerous isn’t just a lack of regulation; it’s the chance of being hacked. Reports have found that, since 2017, $1.7 billion worth of crypto has been stolen from exchanges. Crypto owners live in fear that an exchange operator will turn off the lights one night and vanish with the cash. About a month after the holidays, an Italian crypto exchange called BitGrail halted trading. The exchange’s founder and CEO, Francesco Firano, who went by the handle The Bomber, said approximately 15 million RaiBlocks, over $150 million’s worth, had been stolen from his exchange. Kim and Derek were in a hot panic. They didn’t have any RaiBlocks with BitGrail, but the currency was losing value. Today, many cryptocurrencies are worth pennies compared to their peak prices. Yet we’re still reading headlines about Ponzi schemes and money laundering.

8) What’s wrong with Jeb’s Brain? [Source: outsideonline.com]
A BASE-jumping pioneer Jeb Corliss had a rough start to his career. On a warm, breezy February day in 2000, Jeb Corliss strapped on a parachute and stepped to the edge of a 310-foot sandstone cliff in South Africa. That jump didn’t go well. Sucked inward and downward by the roaring water, Corliss bounced off a rock ledge hard enough to snap his sacrum, break a vertebra, and dislocate his tailbone. Impact with a second ledge shattered his right knee and left foot, and broke every rib on his right side. “The funny thing is,” Corliss said, “that accident was a catalyst for my entire career. If I had not hit that waterfall, had I not been injured that way, I would never have become a professional BASE jumper. I would have had to continue being a graphic artist. And I really do think that one saved my life. It helped me work through a lot of psychological problems I’ve had since I was young.”

The acronym BASE refers to the four categories of fixed objects from which jumpers hurl themselves: buildings, antennae (as in radio towers), spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs). Humans have been dabbling with the idea since at least 1617, when an Italian inventor named Fausto Veranzio is thought to have made a prototype parachute, leapt off Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and miraculously survived. Early stirrings of the modern sport came in 1978, when filmmaker Carl Boenish shot footage of himself parachuting off El Capitan in Yosemite. Matt Gerdes, author of The Great Book of BASE and owner of Squirrel Wingsuits, a manufacturer of BASE-jumping gear, estimates that there were only a few hundred active jumpers worldwide in 1997, when Corliss first gave it a try. “Jeb came into the sport when it was almost completely underground,” Gerdes told. “There was no network, and the only way to learn was from a friend. Very few people even knew what BASE jumping was.”

Corliss soon bought a camcorder and put it to good use. In 1999, he and a friend bought last-minute plane tickets to Venezuela, paid a local Cessna pilot $150 to fly them over 3,212-foot Angel Falls, opened the door, and jumped into the jungle, without food, water, survival gear, or an exit plan. They spent the night on top of Angel Falls and then jumped off. Real TV picked up the footage. A year later, after Real TV bought footage from Corliss’s Howick Falls accident for a few thousand dollars, he saw a way to make a living. Corliss maintains that BASE jumping saved his life; a central theme of his memoir is that it allowed his troubled younger self to create a life of passion around something he loved more than living. Now, though, as Corliss puts it, “I’ve found a person I love more than that, so I don’t have to do it anymore.”
  
9) When everyone’s a genius (few thoughts on speculation) [Source: Collaborative Fund
In this article, Morgan Housel puts his thoughts on speculation in the market. 1) The end of a speculative boom can be inevitable but not predictable: Unsustainable things can last a long time. Identifying something that can’t go on forever doesn’t mean that thing can’t keep going for years. Years and years and years. Part of it is emotion, and part of it is storytelling. If enough people believe it’s true it’s just as powerful as actually being true. 2) Every investor is making bets on the future: It’s only called speculation when you disagree with someone else’s bet. In hindsight there was as much speculation in the 1990s that Kodak and Sears would keep their market share as there was that eToys and Pets.com would gain market share. Both were bets on the future. Both were wrong. It happens.

3) Optimism always overshoots – It has to: The correct price of any asset is what someone else is willing to pay for it, because all asset prices rely on subjective assumptions about the future. And like a blind man who doesn’t know where a wall is until he bumps into it, markets cannot know exactly how much people are willing to pay until they go a little too far and say, “Ah, in hindsight, that was the limit.” 4) Correlations go to one during wild times: Everything goes up regardless of merit, then everything goes down just as indiscriminately. So everyone feels like a genius on the way up and a moron on the way down. But neither is true. As Scott Galloway says, “It’s never as good or as bad as you think.”

5) Investors play different games: GameStop at $400 a share makes no sense if you’re a long-term investor. But if you’re a day trader betting it will go to $401 in the next hour, it might be a great buy. A lot of financial debates don’t reflect people actually disagreeing with each other, but people playing different games talking over each other. 6) Optimism is the best long-term mindset: And it requires a certain level of believing things that can’t be verified, either because you don’t have the technical skills to verify them – nobody knows everything – or because something hasn’t happened yet but you think it will happen in the future. Not enough speculation is just as dangerous as too much speculation.

10) The race to scale up green hydrogen [Source: Financial Times
ITM Power has, over the past 20 years, created an international name for itself in a clean energy industry that has grabbed the attention of governments from Germany to Japan. Its new £22m factory — the size of two football pitches — manufactures electrolyser equipment that can use renewable power to produce hydrogen from water. Interest in the kind of clean hydrogen ITM’s equipment produces has ballooned in the past three years, as governments, companies and academics look at whether the light, colourless gas — which doesn’t produce carbon dioxide when burnt — could help solve some of the world’s dirtiest energy problems.

Among the biggest advocates of this hydrogen revolution are the world’s largest oil and gas companies, gambling that greater use of the gas could help secure their long-term future. One of the units being manufactured at ITM’s factory is destined for Shell’s Rhineland refinery north-west of Bonn in Germany, where the oil and gas major is installing what will be the world’s largest hydrogen electrolyser. It will be capable of producing around 1,300 tonnes a year of hydrogen to be used in processes such as removing sulphur from conventional fuels. “Almost anyone involved in the energy space over the past year has announced some kind of commitment to low-carbon hydrogen,” says Ben Gallagher at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. “A lot of [public] money is now being thrown at low-carbon hydrogen to de-risk it.”

The Hydrogen Council — whose members include oil companies like BP, carmakers like BMW Group and manufacturers such as 3M — believes green hydrogen could reach price parity with that produced from fossil fuels in renewable energy-rich regions towards the end of this decade. Yet, hydrogen’s future is still uncertain, says Gallagher, who nonetheless describes the “momentum” gathering behind it as “unbelievable”.

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