Category: Technology

Autotech in Latin America: An Overview

1.4 million cars joined the roads in Latin America in the first quarter of 2018. In a region that struggles with automobile safety, the increase of motor vehicles on the road raises challenges for policymakers, auto manufacturers, and citizens. Over 115,000 people die every year from car accidents in Latin America. In 2000, 26.2 people per 100,000 died in car accidents and that number is expected to rise to 31 car-related deaths for every 100,000 people by 2020. In the US, the rate of accident deaths hovers around 11.4 per 100,000 people.

Managing Latin America’s growing automobile fleet is one of the most significant challenges that startups and governments will need to tackle as cities swell. Latin America is home to many auto producers, so manufacturers will also need to pay attention to new technology to stay competitive.

Opportunities in autotech in Latin America

Worldwide, startups and giant tech companies are tackling the conventional auto industry with solutions that include self-driving vehicles, electric cars, pay-per-mile insurance, and car-shares. Latin America is experiencing a wave of autotech startup launches, including a few that raised notable international investment rounds.

Much of this innovation remains concentrated in Latin America’s two largest markets: Brazil and Mexico. This disparity makes sense as 70% of vehicles on the road in Latin America are in these two countries. In Brazil, there is approximately one car per four inhabitants, while in Mexico, the ratio is one in three. Argentina, Colombia, and Chile trail far behind in quantity of vehicles but maintain similar ratios.


Overview of Fintech in Latin America: Startups, Funding and Opportunities

Only 11% of Latin Americans have access to credit from formal institutions. In fact, in Chile, 37% of adults have no accounts with a formal financial provider, even though Chile has one of the highest levels of financial inclusion in the region.

In comparison, under 40% of adults in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have formal bank accounts. However, in one of the most chronically underbanked parts of the world, improvements in financial technology have opened the doors for widespread financial inclusion throughout the Latin America.

More and more people are accessing mobile payments, credit systems, and P2P lending opportunities through recent advances in local fintech, and investors are catching wind of the enormous opportunity.

While there have been considerable advances in financial technology in Latin America in the past five years, many tools are still only available in the countries where they were founded. A report by Oliver Wyman, released in September 2016, provides a snapshot of local fintech players in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.



AI, Becoming Multiplanetary, the Fermi Paradox, SpaceX Tesla and Elon Musk on Wait But Why

Every once in awhile I read something that leaves me thinking, wow! Something that completely changes my perspective or opens a door that was previously blocked off, or that I didn’t even know existed. Tim Urban’s Wait But Why blog is incredible, but his posts on Artificial Intelligence and Elon Musk’s drive to make us a multi planetary species are on another level. I read these posts about 3-4 months ago, but haven’t stopped thinking about them, and they’ve influenced my thinking on a variety of subjects.

The posts are long, but if you take the time to read them, they’re completely worth it. Urban’s descriptions and analogies are amazing and really help explain what’s going on to someone who didn’t know anything about the subject before hand. Here’s some notes (and highlights) from the AI posts. (more…)

How to Survive and Be Successful in a Siren Server World

My post Siren Servers: Why Are We OK With Giving Away Our Data? did not get a single comment. It got two likes on Facebook and no retweets. But it’s been the post that’s generated the most emails from people of any post I’ve written in the past year.

It seems that a small group of people are realizing the changes that are happening as a result of human choices in technology, but not many are willing to comment publicly. I’m not sure why, but I’d like to keep the conversation going.

To recap, Jaron Lanier shows that we’ve decided that our data does not need to be compensated monetarily. This decision has wide ranging implications, but the biggest is that large companies with powerful servers end up sucking up most of the wealth, leaving the rest of us with the scraps.

So if you want to be successful in this coming world, there are only three choices:

1. Try to operate within the system

If you want to be successful and make money, you can try to become a siren server. But that’s really just like buying a lottery ticket. There are only a handful of successful siren servers in the world and your chances of being one is very small. If you can’t be the siren server, then it’s best to work at a siren server, or provide services to a siren server. These jobs aren’t all that safe, as you’re still exposed to massive competition and disruption.

You could also “sing for your supper” as Lanier likes to put it. You can give lectures, consult, do legal work and anything that’s labor intensive. These jobs will likely pay well while you are working but if you get sick, get old, have a kid, get married or decide you don’t want to physically perform every day of your life, you’re done. There’s little to no security. And to really make big money, you have to become a star, which is probably only an order of magnitude easier than being a siren server.

Put bluntly, if you want to be successful in a Siren Server world working within the current system, you’d better have top notch skills, an incredible work ethic, a bunch of luck and the drive to succeed. I’m talking the top 10%. And that 10% will likely get smaller every single day. If not, you’ll be relegated to menial work or unemployment. This is exactly what’s happening today.

2. Try to change the system and rewrite our social compact

Our current economy is simply a social compact. We’ve decided that our data is monetarily worthless. We’ve decided that we’ll go along with the narratives that those who are winning in today’s society deserve it 100% based on merit. We’ve decided that we believe in extreme meritocracy and we’re using it to justify just about anything. So if you want to be successful, you can work to change our social compact and change the system. You can raise awareness about what’s happening and why, although you’ll likely end up singing for your supper. You could try to create a new solution via technology that compensated people for their data. Or at least gave companies incentives to pay for data.

3. Decouple from technology and find a niche

In the long term, nearly all, if not all, industries will be affected by siren servers, but in the near and medium term, there are many industries will be slow to change or where change will allow people to be successful in niches. For example, even though the vast majority of food is manufactured via big agriculture, there’s a profitable niche for organic, free range and heirloom varieties at a premium price. In the age of Ikea, there’s a niche for handmade furniture that’s one of a kind. In the age of Starbucks, there’s a niche for a small premium coffee shop. In the age of Amazon, there’s a niche for super secure web hosting and niche products. You must be in the top couple percent in whatever niche you choose.

Most of these potential jobs are variations of singing for our supper, but they at least provide jobs that are less dependent on technology and siren servers, at least for the time being.


Notice that I don’t mention programming, nursing, science and engineering. I think as siren servers continue to develop, we’ll certainly still need these professions, but whereas now we can use the top 50% of people who have these skills, we’ll see a smaller and smaller amount who have useful skills.

I’ll use programming as an example. In 2005 if you wanted to create a personal website, you had to hire at least one programmer and one designer to custom build it for you. You’d likely spend at least $5,000 for a decently done personal website or blog, sometimes even upwards of $10,000. Fast forward to today. You can setup WordPress with a myriad of top-notch designs in minutes for as little as $100. Or free if you’re willing to torrent. I’m not a technical programmer, but even I understand enough to launch my own website, with decent design.

This same phenomenon is going to continue so that lay people will be able to do today’s seemingly difficult programming, just as I’m able to do a time consuming programming task from 2005 with software as a service. We’ll always need the top 1%-5% of talented people to do the big, tough groundbreaking work. But what will the rest do? No jobs are safe from the siren servers.

Long term, we face a stark choice. Do we continue to go down our current path of siren servers that accrue the benefits of technology and radiate the risk back into the system, while sucking up most of the monetary benefits? Or do we decide to make a change?

I’d love to get more of your thoughts, so if you’re thinking about similar topics, please comment here or send me a private message.