For a curious, science-interested person, I have an amazing job. I’ve been asked: what does a healthcare pension fund / sustainability investor do during the week? My weeks can be so varied that it can be hard to pin down the exact rhythm aside from regular team doings. But I will tell you a few items I learnt about this week.
➳“I want Mummy to go to jail because she said the wrong thing yesterday.” Each time Spike talks about a stabbing or murder it is like a punch in the gut. On autism and learning.
➳New Mark Ravenhill play, Angela
➳More consultations! TCFDs, audit reform.
➳My work week: hepcidin, pharma netzero, R&D, antibiotics, ADHD and video game therapy.
➳What weird things should UK innovation look at
➳Philosophies of education
➳On epidemic genomics, NYT on COVID (which is part of my work year, if not work week)
➳Default green energy choice is sticky for consumers
➳Jane Bodie and Me in conversation on Art
➳Fuschia Dunlop on Chinese takeaways
So, this week I learned:
-the hepcidin pathways and why biological targets along this pathway may be useful for iron overload/deficiency conditions, especially for anemia associated with myelofibrosis (a form of bone marrow cancer).
-the use of video game technology to reduce symptoms of ADHD and other aspects of attention (for instance due to dementia or MS) that has been approved on a prescription basis in the US and undergone pivotal peer review trails (Lancet Digital Health).
-the safety/efficacy of a phase 3 antibiotic. More specifically, an injectable beta-lactamase inhibitor (BLI) that features selective and potent in-vitro activity against both serine- and metallo-beta-lactamases...and yes, I have to look up the science to get enough understanding before I can begin to talk about whether this drug is likely to work or not.
-listened into a R&D briefing by AstraZeneca and asked a question on cultural change and how it related to R&D productivity while gaining an understanding of the latest thinking in areas of - for instance - respiratory and asthma drug mechanisms.
Of note, there were questions along the line of: “...the vaccine is great BUT...If the company had not committed to rolling out its vaccine at cost it could have made £21 billion. Instead its value has fallen by £27 billion… and no one seems to appreciate it...” Big pharma management have completely noted what has happened with AstraZeneca. Think on that. At the margins, would this argue that pharma companies have become more reluctant to try and do the right thing… cf. antibiotics
-spoke to former senior management in a medical device company about global trends in healthcare technology and services and the challenges of corporate bloat and “matrix management”
-spoke to senior management at a large pharma company about - amongst other items - their true carbon zero ambitions and their “eco-balance scorecard": for staff incentives but also how preliminary TCFD like report suggested minor risk impacts from climate change and so full TCFD not needed.
-And then turning to sustainability - I was involved in discussions as to what a Paris aligned pathway for large bank financial lending would look like, especially in certain polluting sectors and the challenges and difficulties of assessing “scope 3” (carbon intensity of use of products)
-A lengthy discussion of the “theory of change” of corporate disclosure - what evidence do we have that higher disclosure leads to market participants pricing this information into investing decision making especially with respect to climate but more generally with intangibles and other ESG/Sustainability/social responsibility data. This in itself has triggered more thinking here for a future blog post.
Those were some highlights of a typical Ben week!
In my evenings, I’ve been putting some reading behind the various philosophies of education. I had been aware but had not fully appreciated how far back these arguments go (all the way back to at least Plato). Here’s a snippet of some broad buckets of the arguments:
There are two divergent lines of thought about education: Should we be telling children facts and ideas and telling them to learn them or should we be encouraging them to discover knowledge for themselves?
How should we view knowledge? Is there a stock of knowledge which we need to record, accumulate and pass on to the next generation or is knowledge fluid and transitory and made useful when it is personally discovered and acquired?
How should we view learning? Is it demonstrated by the proven acquisition of facts and skills over the demonstration of a faculty with reasoning and solving problems?
And how should we view children? (Rightly or wrongly this is often about children) do we see them principally as members of the society and participants in an economy for which they need to be prepared as adults in the making? Or is our role in their development to think less about preparation and more about cultivation?
For progressives, education is about supporting the ability to think critically and should be child-centred and focused on problem-solving. For the formalist though, it’s a process of importing and acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary for well-being and success in life. It’s about instruction and the acquisition of information and skills needed for the success of the society in which you live.
For progressives, learning is natural. It’s happening all the time and it’s what humans are programmed for. Children learn to talk, for example, without any teaching at all. For the formalists learning can be a hard slog. They contend it’s just a fact of life that there are some things you need to learn the hard way. There is complex information that we need to know to which there is no easy route. If you want to learn to write for example you need to understand the ways in which language is put together. You need to know the glue that binds sentences, the rules for making language work. This is not easy and you don’t “discover” it.
I also had some ideas at looking at what UK innovation should look like:
-Progress Studies (including social progress and creativity)
-Basic Climate research
-How creativity happens
-Productivity schedules (sleep, diet, schedules)
-Building Speed (how to do big projects fast[er])
-Healthcare speed, innovation, public health challenge trials,
The UK is creating a £800m sciency agency based on the US ARPA* - an innovation agency. The UK agency will be called ARIA, Advanced Research and Invention Agency. This idea had considerable backing from former special adviser Dominic Cummings (see his lengthy blogs on this, links end*). While it has received criticism and isn’t a novel idea in innovation circles, we have it. So let’s make the most of it.
And finally for this week, I started moving from sketches and research on my tentative piece -How We Die, to putting some script/slides together.
One key element will likely be - although who knows at this stage - it may get cut - the Mortality Bills - see here.
Today we don't really record "death from grief" but in the Bills of Mortality it was often recorded.
From wiki: Bills of mortality were the weekly mortality statistics in London, designed to monitor burials from 1592 to 1595 and then continuously from 1603. The responsibility to produce the statistics was chartered in 1611 to the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks. The bills covered an area that started to expand as London grew from the City of London, before reaching its maximum extent in 1636. New parishes were then only added where ancient parishes within the area were divided. Factors such as the use of suburban cemeteries outside the area, the exemption of extra-parochial places within the area, the wider growth of the metropolis, and that they recorded burials rather than deaths, rendered their data incomplete. Production of the bills went into decline from 1819 as parishes ceased to provide returns, with the last surviving weekly bill dating from 1858.
Autism aware. “Let’s observe our thoughts. As a thought comes into your mind, say it out loud and I’ll write it down, here. Then we can think about those thoughts. Are they helpful or unhelpful? True or untrue? Ok. What are you thinking?”
“Knifing a man on a train.
I want an Antboy costume.
I want Mummy to go to jail because she said the wrong thing yesterday.”
Each time Spike talks about a stabbing or murder it is like a punch in the gut. I try not to react on the outside. I have trained myself not to. There is some complex psychology at play that I do not fully understand. I don’t want to add a cartoonishly shocked expression or my fear or anger to the mix. For the last six months or so Spike has been perseverating on an unpleasant collection of topics: prisons, arrests, murders and murderers, bullies and bullying. While I mostly manage to remain outwardly composed in the face of these verbal shocks, I feel it on the inside, my organs twisting in a soup of worry and fear. What is the cause of this perseveration? What are the consequences?
Anoushka, autism aware and the difficulties of regulation, language and learning.
Consultations: UK's BEIS have published proposals to mandate TCFD-aligned climate-related financial disclosures by publicly quoted companies, large private companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs). The consultation will run for 6 weeks until the 5th May. If you have views please submit: https://lnkd.in/ejtdFDv
UK Govt on stand-alone audit profession: "Government is proposing new regulatory measures to increase competition and reduce the potential for conflicts of interest, by providing new opportunities for challenger audit firms and new requirements for audit firms to separate their audit and non-audit practices." This is part of a consultation on major audit reforms. If you have a view please consider feedback to govt and, or, FRC. See: https://lnkd.in/gZgMNkS
An insightful look by Alex Edmans into "cost of capital" arguments vs unexpected changes in cashflows in thinking about sustainability investments. Note "cost of capital" is still a heavily debated topic partly because it is very hard to measure/estimate a company's current cost of capital and often investors use historic data to make certain estimates but these estimates are only estimates....https://lnkd.in/gSyua2C
Tom Gosling suggests companies should not automatically include ESG *targets* in pay. “There are lots of practical difficulties, and scope for unintended consequences” such as distorted incentives and measurement challenges. “There’s a risk that more ESG targets simply results in more pay, due to the difficulty of knowing how stretching these targets are..." (LI link)
New Mark Ravenhill play, Angela. Anyone who has observed dementia at close quarters is likely to recognise the unspoken pain contained in Mark Ravenhill’s autobiographical audio drama about his late mother’s Alzheimer’s. But rather than showing us the effects of Angela’s dementia on himself and his father, Ted, the playwright gives primacy to her inner voice and confusions, building a rich subjectivity despite the accompanying sadness. Angela is available online 26-28 March and 1-2 April.
Links and tweets:
Lovely from @fuchsiadunlop (I have gift articles if you need) looking at British-Chinese takeaways but through a social anthropology lens as well as food as culture - casts a light here through food and how adapted, and touches lightly on immigrant life. From FT.
Focus is on the "space wine" (which aged a bit more in space it seems) BUT, I'm interested in the space vines which grew faster (with less light?). Euronews.
Sticky green energy... we found that presenting renewable energy to existing customers as the standard option led to around 80% of the household and business sector customers staying with the green default, and the effects were largely stable over a time span of at least four years. (Nature)
NYT on use of genomics on COVID.Long read - good for lay person in this area.
In my irregular video chat series, amazing playwright and mentor, Jane Bodie and myself talk about art, life and writing. There’s a transcript and video.
Jane Bodie and Ben Yeoh talk about creative processes, how they have ended up as makers, the impact of the pandemic, what does or doesn’t make great art. For Ben the importance of travel (having travel agents as parents) and his early work as a photographer (when the photo world was analogue - see some here). For Jane, on teaching, family - having a mother as a brilliant artist, and understanding what makes for a brilliant writing day.
I chat with Rebecca Giggs on her new book looking at humanity through the lens of the whale. There is video and a transcript. Self-recommending.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to forward this letter to anyone you think might be interested in signing up.
Archive and repeat words below. Stay well, Stay safe, Ben
Micro-grants. £10K for positive impact people.
* ☪ *
I’ve re-issued my 2006 play, Yellow Gentlemen (4 stars in Time Out and is one of my more personal works about the night immigrant Tommy Lee is dying). Buy it for laughs on Kindle for the price of a coffee. All profits to charity. I’ve only sold a few copies at the price of a coffee - 1.99.
* ☪ *
“...Through a long-term orientation and stewardship, this is the time for active investment managers to show their worth. It starts with asking the right long-term business questions. Some companies are giving us answers, but are we really listening?”
My full opinion article in the FT. (3 mins, behind paywall, but you get a free article or email me and I can send you a copy)
Find out more about my aphorism book and contact me for a copy.
The move to online dating has potentially empowered women as the cost to ghosting is so low.
Notes from a conversation with former Royal Court Lit. Manager.