Steve’s gift from the grave

July 2, 2019

Today, railroads are bringing the fire, and the Rolling Stones want help you retire, but first…
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iPhones… not as terrible for the planet as we thought

In recent months, iPhones have gotten flak for causing exploitation of the teenage workers who build them and crippling screen addiction for the people who buy them.  

But, according to a new theory highlighted by MIT economist Andrew McAfee in Wired, the iPhone may have also done the world a big favor.

In the last several years, fewer plastics and natural resources have been used for manufacturing, and energy consumption in the US has remained flat — and iPhones may be responsible. 

Think back to Radio Shack

On the surface, iPhones seem like a glowing Greenpeace nightmare. 

The 2B iPhones sold since 2007 have required resources like cobalt, metal and plastic, and the digital economy facilitated by iPhones accounts for an estimated 10% of the world’s electricity consumption.

But this research suggests much more of the world’s resources would have been used if we were still living in the Radio Shack era. The great majority of the appliances and gizmos the world once bought — cameras, calculators, etc. — are now readily available on a smartphone.    

People are still taking pictures and videos and crunching mathematical equations. They are just doing it in a way that doesn’t require as many resources to be used on extra items.

A second Enlightenment 

McAfee believes Apple’s iPhone, along with other technologies, are leading us toward a healthier relationship with the world: “a second Enlightenment — a physical one this time, rather than an intellectual one.”     

And if all this isn’t convincing, a tip for environmentally conscious smartphone users: Just wait longer to buy a new iPhone. 

The production process for each new phone requires as much energy as it does to use a current iPhone for a decade.

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Microsoft pulls its old e-books and proves e-ownership is a myth

A few months ago, customers chewed out Apple for removing movies they’d “bought” from iTunes.

Now, Microsoft’s in the hot seat after it announced plans to remove all the e-books it’s ever sold from customers’ digital libraries.

It’s an ugly outcome for an e-book experiment

Microsoft announced it would stop selling e-books in April, turning the page on a failed digital bookstore effort launched in 2017.

Don’t worry, Microsoft will refund all purchases, and even toss in an extra $25 for anyone who (digitally) annotated their books.

But, regardless of the $25 bait and switch, many customers are undoubtedly still left wondering…

Is this the end of ownership?

While Apple insisted its removal of old movies was an exceptional situation, Microsoft was matter-of-fact about the move — a reminder of who holds the cards when it comes to digital rights management (DRM).

DRM law is intended to protect copyrighted work, but it also gives companies complete control over restricting access to content — and no legal responsibility to make it available forever.

In other words, Microsoft is reimbursing its customers only to keep people happy, not because it’s legally required to — and next time, customers may not get as much mercy.

» Owners got owned
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An $8.4B buyout is a bet that trains could be the next autonomous trucks

Genesee & Wyoming, an American railroad freight company, announced earlier this week that it will be taken private in an $8.4B sale to a Canadian investment company and a Singaporean sovereign wealth fund.

This valuation is off the rails

As the freight landscape experiences an e-commerce overhaul, many large railroads are moving away from running small trains frequently and toward running large ones less often. 

So this buyout — a 50% premium on the railroad company’s share prices at the start of the year — is a big, bold bet that railroads will continue to make money.

Will trains beat trucks?

Ballooning valuations at self-driving truck companies like Starsky Robotics and TuSimple make autonomous trucking seem like the next big thing. 

But the high-profile failure of Otto, Uber’s self-driving truck startup, shows autonomous trucks may still be a long way off from making money.

Revamped railroads, on the other hand, already seem to be on the right track: Genesee, which owns 120 railroads, has gone on an acquisition spree in recent years — and the company’s shares rose 8.7% yesterday after the acquisition announcement.

» Trains vs. trucks

The Rolling Stones are so old, their latest tour’s being sponsored by a retirement fund

While clearly cleverly executed, this is not a joke. The Stones are celebrating their 1 millionth year as a band together by going on tour, and they’re running with the perfect sole sponsor to promote it: the Alliance of Lifetime Income. 

That’s right, The New York Times reports that the wild child of rock in the 1960s and ’70s is going on a North American tour with a trade association that sells retirement annuities.

Time is not on their side

Not the kind of partnership you’d expect from the bluesy bad boys of Britain, but the Stones — all of whom are over 70 — aren’t exactly painting it black these days.

The “Lifetime Income Tour” was already postponed once due to Mick Jagger’s heart surgery for Pete’s sake.

At this point, with the future of Social Security uncertain in the US, a tour with an investment fund that provides an income stream to the retiring rockers of the world could be more on brand with their demographic than “Exile on Main Street.”

Define ‘Wild Horses’

Some critics are against a private company like the Alliance of Lifetime Income swooping in to supplement a cheaper government fund. But you can’t always get what you want.

Though, according to the Alliance’s website — “You can get what you need, when you have an annuity.”

In a weird way, the Stones may have just come full circle with their rebellious days of selling cigarettes, alcohol, and sports cars.

» Under the thumb of age
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