Airbnb is enabling a future of ‘jurisdictional arbitrage’ in travel 

This week, Brian Chesky, founder/CEO of Airbnb, spoke about his vision “for a dramatically changed travel industry of the future.” Much of the discussion focused on a post-pandemic, Zoom-enabled world where “knowledge workers” can clock in wherever they want. A key motif: Chesky’s long-term vision is for Airbnb to compete not just with other travel platforms and hotels, but with entire cities for citizens who live, professionally speaking at least, “on the Internet.” (He recently told a mayor, “think of your citizens as customers.”) This dynamic suggests something akin to “jurisdictional arbitrage,” i.e. a new paradigm shift where individuals can choose to work and live from wherever they want with Airbnb as their enabling platform. Here’s a link to a recap of his talk, and the full interview here at the 16:00 mark. (Thanks to Cam Tierney for highlighting this talk and suggesting the concept of “jurisdictional arbitrage.”)

“Travel as we know it is never coming back. It’s a whole new game. And I think that’s a good thing… Before the pandemic, we used to live in one place. We called that our house. We went to another place to work, and we called that the office. And we traveled to a third place [for vacation]. But what the pandemic did was it forced us to do all three activities in one place. With Zoom, we could suddenly be anywhere. This revolution is all about flexibility. Suddenly you could live anywhere, you could work anywhere… You can do everything remotely. Suddenly we all have flexibility… The next generation of companies are going to be flexible.”


The search for a better battery 

This week’s Bloomberg Businessweek cover story dives into an area we spend a lot of time researching: the accelerating rate of improvements across new battery chemistries and technologies. “Because batteries are a technology like a microchip, rather than a commodity like oil, it makes sense that the trajectory of their capacity and cost will be closer to the former’s steady exponential improvement over time,” notes the reporter, Drake Bennett. It’s not exactly easy to write a compelling long-form article about the technical limitations of new-age batteries for a mass (i.e. non-geek) audience. Drake’s piece is one of the better and livelier analyses I’ve come across on this subject in the public domain. 

“The grim news of the day has obscured that in the past few years there’s also been dramatic technological progress in the effort to replace fossil fuels. Some of the greatest advances have come in batteries. Over the past decade improvements in energy density and reductions in manufacturing costs have combined to bring the price of electric vehicle batteries down almost tenfold. … Those same advances have made it feasible to store the intermittent energy from solar cells and wind farms in ‘grid-scale’ batteries, making renewable energy even more competitive, on price alone, with coal and natural gas power plants.”


The long-term implications of the rapid pace of technological change  

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a little about Azeem Azhar’s new book on the current “exponential age” we are living through, which I highly recommend reading. This week, Azhar sat down for a long Q&A interview (available both as podcast and transcript) to chat about a variety of subjects, from the deflationary forces of new technologies, to compounding innovations across biology and healthcare, and a frank discussion of the political and social consequences in an increasingly globally-connected world. 

“In 2010, the world’s largest companies were companies of the 20th century. It was Exxon Mobile and oil companies and General Motors and General Electric. These were technologies of the era of Rockefeller and Ford and Edison. And by 2015, all of the world’s largest companies were essentially IT companies sitting on the top of semiconductor improvement rates. And so there is a distinct shift and that’s been reflected by the market. It’s been reflected by the fact that during the pandemic the companies that grew were the companies that had invested most heavily in automation and AI. And it was companies like Amazon, not traditional retailers. And so, what I think is distinct today is that we can go back and say, ‘There is a moment, and there is that sense of what the kind of consensual animal spirits of the market has gone off. ‘ The world looks different now, and we don’t value an Exxon or a GM the way that we value an Apple or a Facebook or a Salesforce.”


A few more links I enjoyed: 

“With painting or prose, it has been said that a work is completed, in some metaphorical sense, by its encounter with an audience. With code, this circuit is literal. Programs and platforms are put on display, then tweaked because of error reports and user data; in multiplayer games, the activity of other players animates the experience. It is easy to say that this diminishes the artist-developer. But what the history of video games reveals is the story of all art. Our accounts often thrive on the vision of singular minds, even though every great work relies on the sweat, luck, and talent of many people, each inflecting one another in a continuous loop.”
“Cognitive errors (e.g., illusion of control bias, hindsight bias and confirmation bias) are primarily due to faulty reasoning and can often be corrected or mitigated with better training. Emotional biases are not related to conscious thought and stem from feeling, impulses or intuition. Therefore, while cognitive errors are important, since emotional biases are harder to coach out of our humanity, it behooves us to acknowledge their presence, and structure investment processes designed to neuter them. While philosophies can be adopted in the abstract, the specific processes used must be customized to the individual, given we all have a unique psychological makeup.”
“The biggest takeaway from history is that the characters change but their behaviors don’t. The technologies, trends, tragedies and winners – the events that take place – are always in flux and can be nearly impossible to predict. But the behaviors that drive people into action, influence their thoughts and guide their beliefs, are stable. They’re the same today as they were 100 years ago and will be 100 years from now.”

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