This week INTN is on the road in lovely Santa Clara, California where we are attending the Autonomous Vehicles Conference. It was a little awkward talking with the Lyft driver on the way to the conference hall telling him we were attending an event that aims to put him out of a job. In fact, a Lyft executive was on one of the panel discussions we attended and we thought about bringing the driver in to ask a question. Just a few years ago such a conference would have been regarded as one focusing on speculative technology and indeed there are still challenges to achieving fully autonomous vehicles–one company told of an Australian partner who informed them the car would need to be able to distinguish between a cow and a kangaroo (they hopped right to the task). But all the companies we talked with agreed that the two main challenges are not building autonomous vehicles that can truly drive on their own, but instead the triple threats of regulatory issues, cultural barriers and hackers. In fact, the existence of the conference itself is testament to the arrival of autonomous vehicles–it is your basic trade show, with networking, trade booths, and rubber chicken for lunch. We might as well be at a vacuum cleaner convention. But even as we prepare to shift into our autonomous vehicle future, we still bring you the results of a global uncertaintly index, information on where to invest for the long term and the big changes in manufacturing costs around the world. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, discarding envelopes from Warren Beatty even as we open up the world to your inquisitive eyes.
Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.
May You Live in Uncertain Times
Last week we presented an economic uncertainty index for China developed by three business professors. It should be taken with a grain of South China sea salt since it was based on tracking the frequency of articles about policy related economic uncertainty from only one newspaper, the South China Morning Post. But the three profs also track global economic uncertainty and for that they have a more rigorous method: they track articles on economic uncertainty from a variety of newspapers, as well as changes in tax codes and Fed predictions. As you see in their graph below, the global economic uncertainty index is at its highest level since 1997, when they began tracking the data. The previous peak of global uncertainty took place right after the Brexit vote. It’s surprising that both today’s uncertain times and Brexit led to a higher score in the index than the fall of Lehman Brothers and the global financial crisis. Does this say something about what is happening today or about newspapers and the Fed? We are uncertain (darn, will that increase the index even more?).