Very interesting insights from the UBS Forum 2017

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Yesterday Giles and Magda invited me to attend the annual UBS Forum at the beautiful Rosewood Hotel, one of those hotels in a renovated palace in the heart of London, with a resident dog.

Held in major financial cities across Europe, the UBS Forum is presented under the banner “sharper opinions – smarter decisions”, where UBS specialists and external experts provide insights on key topics. This years’ speakers and topics were:

  • Jamie Broderick, CEO, UBS Wealth Management UK; and David Rowe, Managing Director, UBS Wealth Management: “Global and UK economic outlook for 2017 and beyond”
  • Paul Donovan, Chief Global Economist, UBS Wealth Management; and Caroline Simmons, Deputy-head, Investment Office, UK, UBS Wealth Management: “where the investment opportunities lie in 2017 and beyond”
  • Paul Craven, former Goldman turned behavioral economist: “the Status Quo bias and why people default to doing nothing and/or not changing” and “the loser’s game”
  • Tim Kent-Robinson, Head of Client Investment Specialists, UBS Wealth Management: “Implementing the House View”

There was also a Panel discussion and Audience Q&A, facilitated by a “clicker” with which the audience voted on several issues. Surprisingly enough the majority of the audience was in agreement with Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, even though they said it would damage the UK’s interests. Talk about Status Quo bias!! Definitely, the UK is the land of unquestioned Status Quo.

Here are some of the most interesting takeaway points and quotes I wrote down:

  • UBS has a cool simulator: “The end game? You have just been appointed as all-commanding leader of a major country. You have control over the monetary, fiscal, and foreign policy of your country.”

  • The “Risks” (last) slide in the presentations was choke full of tiny print and was displayed for 3 seconds

  • A Mexican car exported to the USA has crossed the border over 20 times before ever reaching the end-consumer

  • The 2008 financial crisis took away credit -> Without credit income inequality rises and consumption drops -> creating a shift from “economics of aspiration” to “economics of envy” (“your neighbor buys a car, you buy a car… it does not matter if your neighbor paid cash and you took a loan”, but what if you can’t get a loan?) -> leading to resentment which leads to populism

  • Domestic investors understand local politics better, therefore reacting more calmly to political uncertainty

  • “If you give money to an American, they will spend it”

  • “China will grow 6.25% to 6.5%. Why? Because President Jinping wants that”

  • The FTSE return last year was 17%, BUT if you take out the best performing 5 days, then it was only 1%

  • “Nationalism, prejudice and discrimination leads to inefficient markets and the waste of perfectly good human capital which leads to less growth and economic damage” (SIC, but wake up: that’s how they see you)

  • The Loser’s Game is an old research paper, but completely worth reading it

  • Prospect Theory: Potential gains encourage risk aversion, potential losses encourage DOUBLE risk taking

  • An amazing Status Quo bias example is the reason behind Europe’s “two levels” of organ donations

  • An amazing example of the Decoy Effect or Anchoring Effect is The Economist subscriptions options (number 6 in this list)

  • If you think you are in control (the “driver of the elephant”), check out the Jastrow Illusion

Two days in Brussels

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Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, February 1 I went to Brussels by train. It is sad to see the permanent heavy military presence around Brussels main train station.

Microsoft had invited me to participate in the ‘Health Digital Transformation’ at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center, because my company is a founding member of the ‘AI in Health Partner Alliance’ (along with Microsoft and 20 other tech companies) which was launched at the event. The event was attended by executives from tech companies, researchers, journalist, and policy makers.

I was also in Brussels to meet some people from the European Parliament to discuss official business.

“Fun” fact: did you know that 1/4 of the whole EU Parliament budget goes to translation services?

This Revolution needs a Revolution

Yesterday I went with my wife and son to visit the Victoria & Albert’s Museum exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The aim of the exhibition was quite clear:

How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?

I was very much looking forward to visiting the exhibition. It is SO timely, and SO needed, I thought.

After visiting it, I left enraged. Why? After all, it was very well “put together”, full of artifacts and information, with a fancy sound system, and beautifully arranged and orchestrated.

ORGANIZED

More importantly, it was not a nostalgic attempt at regurgitating old revolutionary slogans.

What enraged me is how co-opted the whole collection felt. How all those efforts and sacrifices, how all that energy and suffering from past revolutionaries, has been assimilated by the system.

From the ® Registered slogans to the “no photographs” signs at the entrance (to which I, OF COURSE, paid no attention to whatsoever):

® slogan!

To the texts denouncing powerful corporations and states controlling Western media making it difficult to broadcast alternative opinions. You don’t say??!! How about adding “even museums”?

You don't say??!!

Of course, the whole thing had a watered down flavor, “ready for the masses to consume it” (at over£17 or over $20 per ticket). Not just because of the large dedicated-store (“Exit through the gift store” as Banksy brilliantly highlighted), where many appealing objects were for sale for nostalgics and revolutionary wannabes.

Interesting mash up poster

But also for the paternalistic tone of the whole exhibition, surgically isolating issues (identity, sexuality, peace, music, fashion…), even (correctly) including the new contemporary totemic theological substitute: technology.

Origins of Personal Computers

I was very happy and proud to tell my son that his grandmother was in Paris throwing cobblestones to the police in the student revolts of 1969; that his grandfather took me, when I was a little kid, to see a forbidden theater play during Spain’s democratic transition, fearing the secret police repression; that I participated as a kid in discussions with adults about anarchism and communism, when both were outlawed in Spain; and that I have participated in some of the revolutions and protests that came in the decades after that.

I’m not angry because they took “my” revolutions and repackaged them for easy digestion by accommodating masses. That was foreseeable, and an obvious result of the reigning empire of consumerist capitalism.

I’m not even nostalgically refusing to accept that times have changed.

What really annoyed me and made me angry was the lack of reference to a combative present, to the continuation of the struggle.

The fact that they showed, at the end of the exhibition “How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today” but completely left out “and think about the future” is what enraged me. Particularly as Trump is president in the USA, May PM in GB, the PP rule Spain, the far right advances in France…

We need to remember that the fight is not over, that fascism is not only back, but stronger and more powerful than ever. We, all of us, and the institutions that serve us, including museums, have a duty to promote thoughtful debate around ethics and values, and fiercely protest and fight through self-organisation, unity, and collaboration. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to those who fought for us in the past, we owe it to those who will come after us.

If the urban bourgeoisie wants to be the first to fall under the boot of the oppressors again, so be it. If proto and pseudo-intellectuals endlessly self-delude themselves into thinking that our democracies and institutions will save us from authoritarian demagogues, fascist megalomaniacs, and our own blind pursuit of endless consumerism, so be it. In the meantime, I will be teaching my children about the struggle and participating in the smartest and most effective way I can.

When your son falls into a frozen lake

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A few days ago I took a stroll through Wimbledon Commons with my son, as my wife was traveling.It was a typical London day: 3 seasons in a day. When we decided to leave the apartment it was sunny and felt kind of warm. When we arrived at the forest, it was gloomy and chilly. And by the time we made it back home, it was already night time and really cold. The whole ordeal took just one hour, but it felt much much longer.

It was a typical London day: 3 seasons in a day. When we decided to leave the apartment it was sunny and felt kind of warm. When we arrived at the forest, it was gloomy and chilly. And by the time e made it back home, it was already night time and really cold. The whole ordeal took just one hour, but it felt much much longer.

Unlike in our usual (although a lot less frequent than I would like) routine, instead of walking into the forest, we accessed the Commons through the main entrance, and went straight to the small lake where swan, geese and ducks were really happy to see us and our bag of oats. I guess in the cold weather a lot less people come by to feed them.

We love to talk to them, and admire their beauty. Not just the amazing Mandarin ducks, but all of them. We try to distribute the oats as much as possible so ‘bullies’ don’t get away with their aggressive behavior. And there is always something else that we enjoy, wether it is a dog diving into the water, a flower in an unexpected place, or trying a new “plant recognizing app”.

This time my son was fascinated with the layers of ice forming all over the lake. So he approached the edge, with a stick, standing on a small piece of wood, to test how thick they were. Then he started picking them up and playing with them: using them as photo props against a tree bark, stacking them, and breaking them on my head as if it was an action movie and I had just gone through a window head first (which brought me some bad childhood memories, that all of a sudden were not as bad because I was with my son).

Throughout his ‘ice fishing’ activity, I remained firmly grounded on shore, holding onto his jacket making sure he would not loose his balance and fall.

At one point he seemed to lose interest, and it was getting really cold, so I asked him to stop, and I started walking away. A few steps later I heard a loud splash. Before I could even process the sound, I was by the edge of the lake, ready to kick my shoes and jacket off and jump into the ice to rescue him.

Fortunately he did not sink and I saw him standing in the water. The bottom of the lake is quite irregular, and was able to step onto a platform, and from that jump back to the shore.

He was smiling, I guess a nervous reaction to an extreme unexpected event. Or perhaps because a dog, seeing him plunge, decided to join him and jumped in too (although not to rescue him, since he jumped off into a patch of unfrozen water, chasing ducks)!

I was not angry or panicked, but rather I reacted as I always do in those circumstances, as I was told by my mother: like a machine. I assessed the situation and proceeded with executive efficiency to minimize damage. First I asked him if anything was broken, if anything hurt. Then I checked his garments: all soaking wet except his waterproof jacket, which for some lucky angle in the fall had remained dry. So the first thing we did was to squeeze all the water our of his socks and pants (I even considered giving him my clothes, but his clothes don’t fit me, and his jacket was very warm and dry).

Then I quickly calculated how long it would take to get home, and if that was the best option (as the temperatures were below zero), or if it was better to head in other direction (seek the closest home or business, call a cab, etc). We decided to head home fast, but not running, to avoid slipping and falling, or getting exhausted and having to stop to catch breath.

But, funny enough, all that cold-headed reaction can’t prevent the confusion the shock causes, and I started rushing us through the wrong path. Luckily he noticed soon enough and we corrected course.

Once we made it home he went straight into a warm long shower that felt like forever. When he came out, I made sure there were no purple tissues, specially lips, toes, fingers… he was fine and as we later found out, even his phone, which was inside the jacket pocket, survived the frozen waters!

Lessons learned:

  • Life happens
  • He now knows better the dangers of standing on a small piece of wood by a frozen lake, and that should make him assess general risks better, but hopefully not to the point of total risk aversion
  • Even if you want to be there all the time to protect them at all times, sometimes you will not be there. And some day you will not be at all
  • In an emergency, keep your cool… but be aware that you are more likely to make stupid mistakes
  • Always remember that frustration and anger come from fear. Focus on love instead
  • All is good that ends good. Now he has a cool anecdote to tell his friends. Life leaves scars and marks, avoid them, but wear them with pride, son.

My non-commissioned art installation at the Contemporary Art Museum in Santiago, Chile

The exhibition titled “Le Corbusier and South America”, in the main hall of the Contemporary Art Museum in Santiago (Chile), shows for the first time in Chile a collection of Le Corbusier’s original plans and drawings for 12 projects he created in South America (although, of all of those, only the Curutchet house in Argentina was actually built).

As part of the exhibition, Chilean curator Maximiano Atria has arranged all around the central part of the hall location-specific installations by a number of artists. And I’m proud to be one of them.

My piece,”Restricted Realities”, is a 25x45x65cm installation, created with hand cut polychromatic geometric wood pieces.

Obviously it started as an homage to Le Corbusier, but I wanted to go beyond his obvious legacy of form and shape, of approach and history, to explore the man behind the legend.

Le Corbusier did not receive a formal regulated architectural education, yet, after some art school and several years working in architects’ studios, he ended up not only having his own studio, but also teaching and inspiring architects worldwide. As the father of XX century architecture, he was a lot more interested in the concept of a building, of a space, than about the formal aspects of it.

In ”Restricted Realities” I built the model for a space design to both host and reflect the mind. It’s a house for the mind. But not just one mind, as that house can be inhabited by several, or even all, minds. What naturally stems from it is a structure that has both impossible angles and open spaces, restricted areas and open areas. Even the colors seem to struggle to work together.

It’s a solid and stable structure that permeates with tension from every angle. Just like it happens when we try to accommodate more than one mind in a single shared experience. As a matter of fact, it often happens within a single mind.

So they are ‘realities’, but they are ‘restricted’. And it is in that ‘restriction’ that they are constructed as realities. The walls are norms, agreements, arrangements, expectations, and any other result of interaction. The colors on the walls are culture, expression, language, art itself and any other communication of the aforementioned interactions.

With those two simple elements, the interactions between individuals and groups, and their communication, we construct our realities, realities that we try to inhabit, to conform, and to share. But that construction is subjective, and that subjectivity is what gives rise to tensions, idealized here as angles.

As a last and subtle detail, I added a floor platform to only part of the whole structure. Because we need an inclusive world, an inclusive view. Not all individuals, not all realities, are the same, have the same ground and basis, enjoy or suffer the same constraints and circumstances. And that’s the first level to be taken into account, to be built.

Build baby, build your reality.

Santiago Museums

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Tuesday 13 I had the rare opportunity of spending a few hours doing what I like most during a business trip: visiting art museums. I went to the Fine Arts National Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Visual Arts Museum, and the Telefonica Foundation Art Gallery.

Without a doubt, the two museums I enjoyed the most were the Fine Arts National Museum, and the Contemporary Art Museum.

The installation in the lobby of the Fine Arts National Museum is amazing, and the building itself (with a dome designed by Eiffel) is quite impressive. But the Contemporary Art Museum was really good. I was completely taken by the Israeli artist and industrial engineer Shay Frisch’s exhibition in the basement titled “Campo 47283_B/N” (which is part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome). The “Cruces Sonoros. Mundos Posibles” exhibition is quite enjoyable too.

5 days in Chile

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This week I have spent 5 days in Santiago de Chile.

A bad coordination with my partners IBM and the customer forced me to change my tickets 3 times. The problem is that with each time we approached the Christmas vacation and therefore flight availability decreased considerably. So in the end I had to fly via Toronto, and stay a day longer than it would have normally been necessary. But you can’t always (ever?) control the circumstances around business trips.

As soon as I arrived on Sunday, my distributor and friend Germán took me to have lunch at Donde Augusto, inside the Central Market, where I had Locos and Chirimoya juice (Custard Apple). We talked for a while, and he took me to my hotel, where I worked for a while and went to sleep early. I would have loved to swim but the hotel’s pool was quite small.

At 22:40 there was an earthquake magnitude 5 in the Richter scale, which basically ranks between the explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But it was not my first earthquake (I have experienced quite a few, in California, Japan, Chile…). It felt like the rocking a small cruise ship makes you feel, something I quite enjoy. An awesome feeling to go to sleep to. Besides, there is no reason to worry: Chile has the most strict anti-seismic building regulation in the world.

The next day we spent it completely with IBM, preparing the presentation to be done on Wednesday. At least we were on the 10th floor with great views of the Andes. For lunch we went to Juan y Medio, where I had pastel de choclo. Since by the time we were done all the museums were closed, I took a walk through the park.

On Tuesday we spent the whole day with IBM again, but there was not much more left for us to do. They took us to a Peruvian restaurant called Olan, where I had quinoa and potato mousse with octopus. After that I had the evening free, so I decided to visit some of the Santiago Museums (about which I have written a specific post). In the evening I had dinner with Germán and a business partner at PF Chang’s, a Chinese restaurant in Santiago’s most luxurious shopping mall, all decorated following a pop culture rendition of a Christmas theme. Which is particularly funny in Chile, given that the only snow you see in Christmas is on the very top of the Andes mountain range.

Wednesday was the big day. I had to do a live demo of our software in front of 20 people, including Chief Medical Doctors and Chiefs of Radiology from several hospitals in a very nice auditorium in one of the largest hospitals in Santiago. We met at IBM where we had lunch in their cafeteria (they call it Casino), and five of us left for the meeting as a team.

The hospital was in front of IBM, on the other side of the river. It was just a 10 minute walk. But at over 100ºF (38ºC) wearing a suit (good thing I decided years ago that I do not want to wear a tie), it was “the walk of death”. It was so hot, everybody was irritable. We even saw a fight between two pedestrians on a bridge, where one of them was trying to push the other one down into the river. By the time I approached to intervene, some other guys had broken up the fight. At least the presentation went very well.

The following day Germán and I went to meet with an important customer, and then he took me to a typical Chilean restaurant called Doña Tina, where I had humitas and mote con huesillo for desert.

After that we navigated a huge traffic jam to make it to the airport on time for my flight to Toronto. I took off at 100ºF (38ºC) and landed at -10ºF (-23ºC). Besides the difficulty of packing for such a trip only carrying a carry-on, I’m sure that can’t be good for the body.

Invited to the UK-China Hi! Technology event in London

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For reasons beyond the scope of this post I was invited to participate in the UK-China Hi! Technology event in London.

The event was well attended by a large number of entrepreneurs, funds and investors from the UK and China.

The highlight of the event, for me, other than a couple of really interesting contacts, was to see all these suited-up people lining up to try the VR sets (HTC, Oculus, Hololens, etc). The clear winner was Robot Recall for the Oculus platform.

Spare time fun: protein structure analysis of mutations causing inheritable diseases

Most people I know would not consider protein structure analysis of mutations causing inheritable diseases “spare time fun”. Then again, most people I know don’t think I am like most people they know.

This week I’m a “single-dad”, since my wife is traveling. So my spare time right now is almost non existent. Nevertheless, the thought of mutating a Proline into a Glycine at position 22 intrigued me, so I spent a few minutes simulating it. Here is what I found out:

Method

The 3D-structure of my protein of interest was obtained from the UniProt database using Reprof. The structural information was obtained from the analysis of PDB: 3NIR. Annotations were obtained from UniProt entry CRAM_CRAAB.

Amino Acids

I was interested in the mutation of a Proline into a Glycine at position 22.

The figure below shows the schematic structures of the original (left) and the mutant (right) amino acid. The backbone, which is the same for each amino acid, is colored red. The side chain, unique for each amino acid, is colored black.

 mutates into 

Each amino acid has its own specific size, charge, and hydrophobicity-value. The original wild-type residue and newly introduced mutant residue differ in these properties: the mutant residue is smaller than the wild-type residue, while the wild-type residue is more hydrophobic than the mutant residue.

Variants

A mutation to “S” was found at this position, which differs from the mutation I was simulating. The effect of this variant is annotated as: In isoform SI.

Conservation

The wild-type residue is not conserved at this position. Another residue type was observed more often at this position in other homologous sequences. This means that other homologous proteins exist with that other residue type than with the wild-type residue in my protein sequence, but the other residue type is not similar to my mutant residue. Therefore, the mutation is possibly damaging.

Domains

This residue is part of an interpro domain named: Thionin IPR001010

The mutated residue is located on the surface of a domain with unknown function. The residue was not found to be in contact with other domains of which the function is known within the used structure. However, contact with other molecules or domains is still possible and might be affected by this mutation.

Amino Acid Properties

The wild-type and mutant amino acids differ in size. The mutant residue is smaller than the wild-type residue. This will cause a possible loss of external interactions.

The hydrophobicity of the wild-type and mutant residue differs. The mutation might cause loss of hydrophobic interactions with other molecules on the surface of the protein.

Images

Overview of the protein in ribbon-presentation. The protein is coloured by element; α-helix=blue, β-strand = red, turn=green, and random coil=cyan.

Overview of the protein in ribbon-presentation. The protein is coloured grey, the side chain of the mutated residue is coloured magenta and shown as small balls.

Close-up of the mutation. The protein is coloured grey, the side chains of both the wild-type and the mutant residue are shown and coloured green and red respectively.

Close-up of the mutation (seen from a slightly different angle). The protein is coloured grey, the side chains of both the wild-type and the mutant residue are shown and coloured green and red (not show from this angle) respectively.

Close-up of the mutation (seen from a slightly different angle). The protein is coloured grey, the side chains of both the wild-type and the mutant residue are shown and coloured green and red respectively.

Movies

Close-up of the mutation. Both the wild-type and mutant side chain are shown in green and red respectively. The rest of the protein is show in grey.

Close-up of the mutation, same colours as animation 1. The animation shows alternating the wild-type side chain and the mutant side chain.

Citation

Protein structure analysis of mutations causing inheritable diseases. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-11-548. PubMed: 21059217.