Investors Take a Page Out of Thomas Piketty’s Big Book


Photo: Thomas Piketty

Today’s Top News
 — Investors Take a Page Out of Thomas Piketty’s Big Book
 — Is Bitcoin the New Gold?
 — Google’s Musical AI
 — The FDA Gets Real With New Nutrition Labels
 — Electric Car Batteries Get Better
 — Swiss To Vote on Basic Income

Investors Take a Page Out of Thomas Piketty’s Big Book
 When economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century became a surprise bestseller in 2013, it also became the target of criticism for many reasons, among them its argument that outsize executive pay hurts society. But now, the Financial Times reports, some of the people you’d least expect to line up behind one of his prescriptions to reduce income inequality are doing so. Big investors are pushing back (paywall) against compensation policies at BP, Citigroup, Deutsche, Goldman Sachs, and many other companies. As a UK investment manager says: “There is a much bigger sensitivity this year to large payouts and income inequality. I have never seen these issues so openly discussed.” The FT may be overstating Piketty’s individual impact here, but it’s clear now that his big book was an important salvo in an ongoing struggle.

Is Bitcoin the New Gold?
 Those looking for Bitcoin to go mainstream (we’re looking at you, Marc Andreessen) may have mixed feelings about this Wall Street Journal piece that shows what Bitcoin advocates and gold hoarders have in common. Both are seen by their adherents as a hedge against a potential failure of the world economic system. Bitcoin volatility has lessened as of late (after a period of extreme volatility) but it’s at a much lower level of consumption: there is $6.8 billion of Bitcoin in “circulation,” as opposed to $7.5 trillion of gold. The two communities may overlap, though. Those skeptical about Bitcoin are looking into “the digitization of gold” using the same underlying foundation as Bitcoin: the blockchain.

Google’s Musical AI
 Forget the Google I/O event last week. The search giant travelled cross-country to psychedelic music conference Moogfest, where it showed off a new research project that will investigate whether computers can be truly creative (Quartz). The new Magenta group will look at what artificial intelligence can do in unexplored areas, particularly music, with minimal human involvement. It’s another step in Google taking a technology in which it has a demonstrated advantage, AI, and pointing it in new directions.

The FDA Gets Real With New Nutrition Labels
 We’ve covered the need for new nutrition labels previously in The Daily, and late last week the FDA delivered new rules (The Atlantic). The two most important changes: manufacturers must now list added sugars, one of the drivers of Type 2 Diabetes, and they must also adjust serving sizes “that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat.” The new labels will go into effect July 26, 2018. Better labels are no panacea — they tend to preach to the already-converted — but they have value as part of a broader set of education and regulation. (Note: Stay tuned this week for more from NewCo on how food regulations really work.)

Electric Car Batteries Get Better
 The batteries in electric cars may be about to get a lot more power and somewhat cheaper (Slate). With lithium packs costing 70 percent less than they did in 2012, the battery in the next-generation electric car from Chevrolet will cost 10 percent less than its predecessor but be four times more powerful. It won’t stop there. It’s not quite Moore’s Law, but it does show how a reduction in battery prices can inch electric-powered vehicles to the middle of the road.

Swiss To Vote on Basic Income
 On June 5, the people of Switzerland will vote on whether to institute unconditional basic income (Bloomberg). There are a lot of reasons why the initiative won’t win: The government is against it and polls suggest that 60 percent of the population is, too. But it’s yet another conversation coming to the surface that was unimaginable only a few years ago.

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