Numlock News: December 6, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Just as a gold rush is a great time to sell shovels and pickaxes, a rush of venture capital money flowing into businesses that rent out scooters in cities across America means that it’s a pretty good time to be Ninebot, the Chinese manufacturer selling electic motorized scooters to the likes of Bird and Lime. Despite your occasional manufacturing hiccup — what’s a 2,000 vehicle recal due to the possibility they could explode between friends? — sales grew sixfold in 2018. While the scooter renters are getting billion-dollar valuations, Ninebot itself is now valued over $1.5 billion. You know how these things go: in ten years, Ninebot is either gonna be a world-class vehicle manufacturer or a smoking crater that remains after a class-action lawsuit for the ages.

Mark Bergen and Jushua Brustein, Bloomberg


Watchlists, or the queues we use to figure out the order in which we would like media to make us happy, can cause severe stress for the completionists among us. On Letterboxd, the average number of movies in a user’s watchlist is 45, and the completion rate for watchlisted movies is 16.8 percent, and that’s actually pretty high compared to other services aimed at more casual cinephiles. Even among the most dedicated users who have logged at least 10 films in their diaries — people for whom the average watch list is 173 films — the completion rate still only rises to 19.6 percent.

BJ Pang Chieh Ho, Digg

Trade War Casualties

The Trump Administration’s trade fight with China has been particularly hard in Nebraska, with the Nebraska Farm Bureau estimating that retaliatory tariffs let to a loss between $695 million and $1.026 billion so far in 2018, which is about 11 to 16 percent of the entire value of Nebraskan agricultural goods. Factor in labor income losses and the total economic hit to the state is $859 million to $1.2 billion. Break that down per capita, and each Nebraskan would need to pay $632 to cover the lost dollars.

Joseph Morton, Omaha World-Herald

Digital Currency Addresses

The Treasury Department is taking a new approach to counter hackers who deploy ransomware, which are viruses and malware that seize control of necessary infrastructure and hold the systems hostage until a ransom is sent to a cryptocurrency account. Well, the Office of Foreign Assets Control has published two of those addresses 149w62rY42aZBox8fGcmqNsXUzSStKeq8C and 1AjZPMsnmpdK2Rv9KQNfMurTXinscVro9V — and by publicizing them and linking them to their indicted owners have effectively forbade individuals and organizations from paying them or helping them process transaction.

Josephine Wolff, Slate


Uber is a money losing operation for the time being, with upwards of $1 billion in losses this past quarter. That’s because Uber is subsidizing the cost of riding in an Uber, selling its services at 74 percent of cost last quarter. That’s up from 64 percent in 2007 and 43 percent in 2015. While other tech companies managed to burn cash to grow, even they eventually had to take their foot off the gas, and Uber hasn’t actually made its product more efficient to fuel its progress, it just cut driver pay. Given where their high driver churn rate now, pay can’t get much lower.

Yves Smith, Intelligencer

Cafe Con Leche Index

A cup of coffee in Caracas, Venezuela now sells for 400 bolivars, up 285,614 percent over the past 12 months. Much of that has come in the past 3 months — if the inflation rate over the past three months was stretched out to a year, inflation is a ridiculous 1.7 million percent annualized.

Fabiola Zerpa, Bloomberg


Anxiety and depression among Americans is so severe that 18 percent of respondents to a survey reported that they get so anxious or depressed that their work is disrupted “all the time” or “often.” This is worst among employees aged 18 to 34, where three in ten said that their anxiety was that bad. Part of this is because many people are unwilling to take a mental health day: 53 percent of employed adults said that even when they think they should stay home and get their mental health back where it needs to be, they go to work anyway.

Lila MacLellan, Quartz

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