Issue 20 - intermezzo

Batteries, Chinese nuclear, vaccine approval, patents and Chinese charts

Dear reader,

Welcome to this week’s issue of the Anti-Apocalyptus newsletter. Each week I send you five links about some of the most important challenges of our time: climate change, weapons of mass destruction, emerging technologies, mass causes of death and great power wars. If you haven’t done so yet, feel free to subscribe at the button below, hit the heart button or share this email with anyone who could be interested.

This is the 20th edition of the Anti-Apocalyptus newsletter. We’re still in a pandemic, yet the holidays are also approaching. Which is why you’re not going to receive a newsletter in your mailbox for a few weeks.

In 2021 this newsletter will return, possibly with some changes here and there. But for the next few weeks I look forward to relaxing, not following the news as much and reading books.

So hope you enjoy this edition, and see you all in 2021!

1. Climate change

WIRED - Did QuantumScape Just Solve a 40-Year-Old Battery Problem?

Interesting article about QuantumScape, a company that claims to have made a solid-state battery. This new type of battery was until now hard to make, yet offers massive advantages for electric cars, among others in range and charging times. Now one startup says they designed one that works. We’ll see what’s hype, and what’s reality here, but the article offers a good overview of the field, the money going into it and the scientific challenges it entails.

2. Weapons of mass destruction

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - Nuclear notebook: Chinese nuclear forces, 2020

An in-depth report on the state and growth of the Chinese nuclear arsenal. The US increasingly sees Chinese nuclear capacity as a threat, yet so far growth predictions for their arsenal haven’t come to pass (yet).

3. Emerging technologies

NY Magazine - We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time

Very good overview of the controversy over why it took so long for vaccines to get approved (one of them was already ready in January). Libertarians have jumped on this fact, and say that if we just had less regulations, the pandemic wouldn’t have happened. Yet this article complicates that, tons of experimental treatments received emergency approval and failed, and production still needs to scale-up. Most interestingly, the author also points to a possible new paradigm for pandemic prevention: prepare vaccines for the main diseases that could cause a pandemic, and when a new strain arises, adapt existing vaccines and roll them out quickly.

4. Mass causes of death

NY Times - Want Vaccines Fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights

Interesting argument in the entire, ‘should pharma profit from the pandemic?’-genre. There’s been a lot of moral discussion about this question, yet little concrete solutions. This piece proposes that because large pharma companies received massive state support, in R&D grants and pre-orders, and because they cannot scale-up production capacity fast enough, they should temporarily release the intellectual property for the vaccines in certain (developing) countries, so that generic alternatives could be offered there. An arrangement that’s similar to what’s already been done for HIV medicines.

5. Great power war

Adam Tooze - Chartbook Newsletter #8

In his newsletter, Adam Tooze digs into China’s economic statistics, and looks at what the pandemic will mean for its rise. China might be set to profit heavily from the pandemic, growing faster than many other countries that handled the disease well. But there also remain some issues, such as debt. In general, it’s impressive (and somewhat scary) how fast the country is growing.

I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Feel free to send me comments or remarks by responding to this email. If you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe at the link below, hit the heart button or forward this email to anyone who could be interested.