Matthew Lekushoff |
                 New perspectives | Rise in Agriculture | Reading List

I'm back from the land of pizza, pasta, and vino, and have returned with new experiences and perspectives. 
The Roman Empire was once the undisputed champion of the ancient world before it fell. Visiting cities that once set the standard for art, architecture, innovation, gastronomy, military might, and many more was inspiring, but also sobering.

If history has taught us anything, it's that very little stays the same. In fact, progress is dependent on change, and as humans, we have an inherent need to constantly compete, improve, grow, and do the impossible. It's why we have the David, the Sistine Chapel, and the Coliseum. Without it we'd likely still be hunter-gatherers and, tragically, not enjoying good pasta!
On the market front
Most markets have been down slightly with the exception of gold and agriculture-the latter showing the first sign of strength in some time. The price of agricultural goods on global markets has been weak over the last few years due to slower than expected global growth and strong crop yields.
Looking ahead there are reasons to believe agriculture prices will rise. First, the world's population is projected to reach about 9.7 billion by 2050, up from the current estimated 7.4 billion. These additional 2.3 billion people (a 31% increase) will need to be fed somehow.
Secondly, increasing global warming will not only put stress on long-term crop yields, but could also increase droughts.
A third, and possibly the most important influence, is that the majority of the world's population currently exists in developing countries that are expected to grow at rapid rates given their low GDP per capita. Although this is good news for these countries, it may cause some challenges. One of the first things people do as they rise out of poverty is to consume more calories per day. Shortly after that, they begin eating foods that require more space to grow like meat.
Should one, or especially a number of the above occur, a substantial imbalance between supply and demand would arise, resulting in increasing food prices.
On the flip side, we can't rule out the possibility of another agricultural revolution, which would reduce or even negate agricultural shortages.
On the review queue
Holidays, particularly those where I'm in flight for a combined 18 hours, give me the opportunity to catch up on some reading. Below are some of my top picks from the past few weeks.

Long Walk to Freedom  by Nelson Mandela: I've wanted to read Nelson Mandela's autobiography for a long time and am glad I finally have. After going through his story in depth, I have a new respect for his inner strength and willingness to put his people's cause before his own and his family's self-interest. I also have a new appreciation for the epic struggle South African indigenous   groups endured at the hands of the racist South African apartheid regimes. I constantly found myself wondering how anyone could treat other people in such an inhuman way.
The book was a fascinating dichotomy between humankind's potential to inflict tremendous cruelty onto others, while highlighting a beacon of light amidst this darkness.

Chaos: Making a New Science  by James Gleick: I was introduced to this book via Robert Sapolsky's lectures for his Human Behavioral Biology  course. Chaos may seem a strange topic for a wealth manager to be interested in; however it can be found in many areas of life, including investing. Although this book provides a well-written account of the history of chaos theory, its complicated nature, and need for mathematical formulas makes it easy to get lost in the weeds.

My first takeaway from the book was that even infinitely small changes in complex systems, can make huge differences in outcome as time goes by, thus making predictions highly unreliable. My second and more esoteric learning was that nature has many hidden patterns and sequences disguised from us as randomness. I will likely delve further into this topic in the coming months.
The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence by Tim Urban:  A long but really interesting essay on the history and future of progress while focusing on artificial intelligence. Give this a read if you're worried about the robot apocalypse or just want a glimpse into how technology and AI could revolutionize our world. The irony of including this article after the previous one is not lost on me.  
Tim Ferris Podcast with Marc Andreesen :  I'd never heard of Mark Andreesen before, but given his resume (founder of Mosaic and Netscape) I thought it would be worth a listen. It definitely was. This brilliant Silicon Valley icon's success seems to be no accident. In the podcast he talks about the value of learning from others, reading biographies, and how his venture capital firm,  Andreessen Horowitz , benefits from a culture where employees are encouraged to vigorously challenge each other's ideas and proposals. The biggest takeaway was his core philosophy of having "strong opinions that are weakly held". In other words, have strong beliefs, but ensure you are very open to changing your mind when you are wrong or come across a better idea.




Matthew Lekushoff, CIMA

Financial Advisor 

Raymond James Ltd.


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