A Few Pictures Of Promise

So, despite all the scary headlines and genuine bad-actor or bad-bot risks, artificial intelligence (AI) now officially rules the financial world. Nvidia, the AI chip superstar, is now worth a staggering $3.327 trillion and has overtaken Apple and Microsoft as the most valuable company on the planet. Or to put it in simple futuristic terms, investors are expecting greater returns from this company over time than from any other company operating today. To quantify the sheer scale and speed of the change in expectation from investors, let me paint a slightly different picture. Just over 3 years ago in March 2021 the market value of Nvidia was just $330 billion. So, in just over 3 years financial markets have changed their view of Nvidia’s future by $3 trillion. Wowzers. Now, in the spirit of changing views, allow me to present a few more pictures which promise better things than current headlines might suggest.

The perception and headlines written post the recent European elections would suggest Green/climate candidates suffered setbacks and populist near-term promises won the day. Indeed, closer to home, Green Party leader, Eamonn Ryan, has decided to step down. A rushed analysis might suggest voters have decided that climate crisis policies have stunted growth and opportunity. However, the following chart from the Financial Times using World Bank data suggests reducing carbon emissions can be achieved, or can be ‘decoupled’, while countries’ growth trajectories diverge in a positive way:



Another area perceived to be struggling with our ambition to decarbonise the global economy is electricity. In our last article we certainly identified a significant need, and worrying potential shortage, for critical metals like copper to assist the electrification of economic activity. However, a more encouraging perspective might emerge from an unusual source. China gets bad press on coal, pollution and environmental damage but its electricity story is a global leader. The excellent writer, Noah Smith, has pointed out that China is miles ahead of every other country and could arguably be described as the world’s “first major electrostate”.  The next chart or picture doesn’t lie and is based on data from sustainability research group, RMI:



Perhaps, China is a good example of how countries or regions can gain a laggard reputation but can then become a leader. For example, Europe’s productivity growth has lagged the US for almost 2 decades. Incredibly, the GDPs of the US and EU were roughly the same size back in 2008. Today, the US economy is 44% larger than that of the EU. The productivity story in this Financial Times graphic is pretty stark and uses LSE Group data:




Clearly, the digital revolution has been a big factor in that productivity divergence. However, it’s more nuanced than just digital adoption. Bluntly, US capital backed its entrepreneurs and its flagship digital leader companies in a big way, and in frustrating contrast to a more risk-averse European business and investment culture. It’s not just a finance thing. The US became the coding and software capital of the world. Software developer talent was paid extremely well, were encouraged to create more products and became the rock stars of the US economy. So, would you be surprised to know that the US now employs fewer software developers than it did in 2018? This chart from ADP Research might surprise….



Then I read an interesting piece from the excellent Angular Ventures VC newsletter this morning and started to think some more. The newsletter cited a recent post written by Chris Paik at Pace Capital which has raised eyebrows in the tech world. The title alone was provocative.. “ The End of Software”. He reckons AI and large-language-models (LLMs) are driving the cost of software downwards like content creation in the early 2000s. He concluded with the punchy view, “Majoring in computer science today will be like majoring in journalism in the late 90’s.” Ouch. Angular Ventures’ David Peterson can see some merit in Paik’s view on the direction of software travel and paints the picture succinctly:


“It’s uncontroversial at this point to say that LLMs are surprisingly good at writing code. Is the code as elegant or performant as the code written by an experienced software developer? No. Could you ask an LLM to write a custom piece of enterprise-grade software? Also, no. But even today LLMs are good enough to empower non-technical people to write small snippets of code – tiny, trivial, seemingly insignificant lines – to solve problems which they previously thought impossible to solve by themselves. And that is more meaningful than it seems, because it has the potential to shift the clearing price of software itself.”


My own thinking is still evolving but I do believe Europe and its productivity stagnation might now be an opportunity. That might seem a little bold but the AI talent race is looking good for Europe. In turn, innovative applications of AI in the European economy could close the software and productivity gap with the US. A recent report from VC Atomico on “The State of Tech” states that Europe has more AI talent than the US. Here’s the encouraging picture:



Again, the headlines might suggest the US is leading in the AI race but the talent story will be a critical driver of future growth rates. So, lots to think about and, whether it’s electricity, carbon emissions, AI or productivity, readers should be keenly aware of the dangers of chasing rear-view mirror headlines. The data and charts can paint an opportunistic picture not seen by the headline writers. As a final thought, and an illustration of change, the Nvidia $3.3 trillion valuation mark prompted me to look at other historic charts and ‘beginnings’. So, here goes….. Nvidia’s current market value is roughly the same ($3.5 trillion) as China’s entire GDP as recently as 2007. China’s economy today is worth $18 trillion.

Keep looking at the big picture…

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