TSMC: How a Taiwanese Chipmaker Became a Linchpin of the Global Economy

A fascinating look into shifting power within tech’s supply and value chains – and how they’re intersecting with political concerns and geopolitical priorities.

As we recently discussed at the Eversheds Sutherland event (above), global jockeying is taking place in and via tech, which leaves boards of companies within these shifting sands at a cross roads as to their business model. Investors, equally, will need to closely monitor where they place their bets on winners and losers.

New Effort To Clean Up Space Junk Reaches Orbit

Cleaning up space is critical, as has been demonstrated by another environmental failure: ocean plastics. Various governments and private companies have been using Earth’s low orbit as a dumping ground: “Space junk has been a growing problem for years as human-made objects such as old satellites and spacecraft parts build…until they decay, deorbit, explode or collide with other objects, fragmenting into smaller pieces of waste.”

It also underscores our premise that the taxonomy of ESG needs to be modernised for a Digital Age. ‘Environment’ has to include not only earth, but that of the space around it, and potentially further away as tech companies look to colonise other planets.

Investors will be increasingly faced with difficult trade-offs regarding tech companies that have stellar credentials on earth, while launching thousands of satellites, that they might abandon in earth’s orbit thereafter.

Scientists Create Living Entities In The Lab That Closely Resemble Human Embryos

Bioethics is yet another area Digital Age ESG would take account of. How does society deal with structural changes, such as those where select parties can create ‘designer babies,’ not only via CRISPR technology, but now potentially through artificial embryos?

These new Digital Age challenges may not fall easily within existing ESG definitions and it’s essential to begin the work of reviewing this framework now, in order to catch up with tech developments, while taking the time to do so thoughtfully and help shape the outcomes.

Facebook: The Billion Dollar Bot Problem

While this not new information, it does seem to have gone under the radar of advertisers, and investors, for years. In the last quarter of 2020, Facebook “disabled 1.3bn fake accounts — a tally equal to almost half its real monthly active users.”

In spite of a hiring spree and utilising AI to detect fake and duplicate accounts, Facebook is still accruing them at almost the same rate as it detects them. And this issue is even more pervasive in their growth markets: emerging economies.

With numbers this high, it’s surprising that investors have not focussed on this issue, and it harks to a more serious ESG issue: “Pervasive fakery is just another aspect of big tech that undermines its credibility with politicians, regulators and the public.”

Chief executive of Jack Ma’s Ant Group steps down

The recent headlines around Alibaba and Ant’s aborted IPO ought to send shivers down the backs of tech company CEOs, and investors more broadly. While not all countries have the kind of control that China’s regulators do, it does demonstrate two points:

  1. Regulators who have left tech companies alone for too long, and wake up belatedly to their pervasive power, tend to err on the side of conservative, rather than lenient actions
  2. The impact to reputation, talent exodus and valuations are massive

Even with a lower probability of such actions elsewhere, the significant downside risks ought to be reflected in the valuations of tech companies in the cross-hairs of regulators and politicians. This week brings yet another grilling of tech CEOs by US lawmakers over misinformation.