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The Economist: Big tech's $2trn bull run - No.08 - 20th Feb 20

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Tạp chí The Economist là tạp chí uy tín của Anh với lịch sử hơn 176 năm hình thành. The Economist nổi tiếng với văn phong hàn lâm, chuyên sâu về các vấn đề chính trị, kinh tế trên toàn thế giới. Mỗi tuần có hơn 1.7 triệu bản đến tay độc giả trên 200 quốc gia. Hiện ấn bản nhập về Việt Nam là phiên bản cho khu vực Châu Á - Thái Bình Dương.

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On The Economist No.8

How to make sense of the latest tech surge

In 2018 a new word entered Silicon Valley’s lexicon: the “techlash”, or the risk of a consumer and regulatory revolt against big tech. Today that threat seems empty. Even as regulators discuss new rules and activists fret about the right to privacy, the shares of the five biggest American tech firms have been on a jaw-dropping bull run over the past 12 months, rising by 52%. The increase in the firms’ combined value, of almost $2trn, is hard to get your head round: it is roughly equivalent to Germany’s entire stockmarket. Four of the five—Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft—are each now worth over $1trn. (Facebook is worth a mere $620bn.) For all the talk of a techlash, fund managers in Boston, London and Singapore have shrugged and moved on. Their calculus is that nothing can stop these firms, which are destined to earn untold riches.

This surge in tech giants’ share prices raises two worries. One is whether investors have stoked a speculative bubble. The five firms, worth $5.6trn, make up almost a fifth of the value of the s&p 500 index of American shares. The last time the market was so concentrated was 20 years ago, before a crash that triggered a widespread downturn. The other, opposite concern is that investors may be right. The big tech firms’ supersized valuations suggest their profits will double or so in the next decade, causing far greater economic tremors in rich countries and an alarming concentration of economic and political power.


How will the next president fix America’s student-loan problem?

America’s total student debt, at over $1.5trn, is larger than the national borrowing of most countries. It has quintupled in size since 2004, overtaking both borrowing on credit cards and car finance. This growth is often presented as evidence of a crisis. But the rise in total debt, though arresting, is not the real problem. It largely reflects increased borrowing by graduate students, such as budding lawyers, who will go on to be high earners. And 92% of student debt is owed to the federal government, meaning defaults pose no risk to the financial system. The real problem is that 11m Americans, many poor and non-white, and many duped into studying for worthless degrees, struggle to repay even modest debts…


Integrating data is getting harder, but also more important

Geeks are not known for being poets. But sometimes even they have a way with words, for example when trying to describe the main challenge of dealing with data. It is the search, they say, for “a single version of the truth”.

This also nicely describes what has been the goal of corporate information technology since it emerged 60 years ago. And the adage encapsulates the main tension for businesses in the data economy: finding digital truth—that is, identifying and combining data that accurately represent reality—is becoming more difficult and more important. More difficult because data and their sources are multiplying. And more important because firms need to get their data house in order to benefit from ai, which they must to stay competitive. ai boosts revenues and profits, according to a recent survey by McKinsey, a consultancy


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