On the Climate, Big Tech, and the NFL

tl;dr: We all walk around with assumptions. We need the government to lead the charge on addressing climate change; Facebook and Amazon are a part of the fabric of our lives; the NFL is America’s dominant sport. Some thoughts on why I might be wrong.

I’ve noticed that I’ve started to question my pre-existing views on a few things recently.

Climate Change

It’s not that I don’t think it’s an issue. I do. It’s a huge issue, but I’ve been distracted by all the talk of a “Green New Deal” and emissions standards.

I fell into the trap, even for someone with my Libertarian leanings, that government can solve the problem.

If the government wants to help with climate change, what they need to do is remove obstacles and hurdles to technological innovation.

This came to me as I was reading Peter Diamandis’ blog on the new innovations of Direct Air Capture and how nuclear is going through a renaissance with technologies such as molten salts and micronuclear.

As Diamandis writes:

Imagine making fuel, plastics, and concrete out of “thin air.” That’s the promise of Direct Air Capture (DAC), a technology that fundamentally disrupts our contemporary oil economy.

For the last few years, I’ve become pessimistic and depressed about the world’s future. Every time I see plastic litter, which happens far too often, my heart sinks a little bit.

However, I think I’ve underestimated and downplayed the potential for humans to innovate. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention and we have a real necessity here.

What Diamandis’ blog has shown me is that the capacity exists to solve so many of the world’s biggest challenges, if we let the innovators lead the way and not have to jump over too many regulatory or legal hurdles.

After all, time is running out.

Big Tech Breakup

The data monopolies at Facebook, Google, and Amazon (with others as well) have achieved a level of dominance and influence in the lives of billions that puts them in a position of near omnipotence.

They stifle innovation by controlling access to their platforms or just acquiring anything perceived as a potential threat.

I think GDPR has done more than I anticipated in terms of awakening people to the issues around data privacy, though the implementation-given that the costs are high. They can only be borne by big companies and probably should be different. Still, it raised awareness in a way that I didn’t anticipate.

I have no idea how a breakup would work or if it could. Or if it would simply lead to others rising in its place.

It might require something drastic such as a “right to privacy” law that individuals must be compensated for the data they provide. Or, even better, a “moon shot” national initiative creating a decentralized identity network with individual ownership.

This type of regulation, protecting the playing field and consumer interests, may make sense.

Teddy Roosevelt did it and AT&T was broken up. Sure, new monopolies emerge, but that’s when you have to step in again.

Of course, a better approach (though not impervious to control by an oligarchy) could be a crypto-network, but with 2 billion users and 1 person (Zuckerberg) who controls the majority of voting shares, this is “too big to fail” of another kind.

The NFL is on a gradual decline to niche

I grew up a big-time fan of American football. Ever since I saw the movie Concussion with Will Smith, I’ve felt moral pangs while watching the games (which I do less and less).

It’s an exciting sport to be sure, but I wonder if it has peaked?

The big one recently was Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement announcement. The average tenure of an NFL player is now under 3 years.

And here’s a part of the future that I don’t think the NFL sees yet….what is happening with the next generation of fans and customers.

My son (9th grader) and his friends certainly know and follow American football, but you know what they really love these days?

Real football. AKA soccer.

They follow the Premier League, Champions League, Bundesliga, and La Liga. They know the players and understand the transfer market.

For the Champions’ League final a few months ago, my son went to a viewing party with 30 boys from his high school. They had jerseys for Liverpool and Tottenham. They had scarves. They lived and died with the game.

30 years ago, soccer was “boring.” Now, teenage boys watch the draw for the World Cup groups.

When I asked my son why, his answer was simple:

Premier League Sunday Mornings.

From 10am-12pm on Sunday morning, before the NFL or NBA or NHL come on TV, the games are on the NBC networks. There is literally no competition for the attention of a teenage boy who is a sports fan at that time of the day.

A brilliant move by NBC and the Premier League.

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying that I”m right about any of these. All I am saying is that I have been thinking them over and wondering if my previous assumptions are outdated.

On the Climate, Big Tech, and the NFL was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.