Notes and Trends: Humans don’t breed in captivity, Anti-aging investments, crypto crime and high-speed rail
- February 1, 2022: Vol. 9, Number 2

Notes and Trends: Humans don’t breed in captivity, Anti-aging investments, crypto crime and high-speed rail

by Mike Consol

When blackouts struck New York City over the years, hospitals and demographers could count on a baby boomlet nine months later. So it would stand to reason the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing months-long self-quarantining and isolation would bring about a bona fide baby boom.

Not so.

Even in captivity the sex instinct failed to activate, or perhaps it was the procreative instinct left at bay, which is consistent with the declining birth rates around the world. The young and healthy have hardened in their resolve to either keep their families small or go childless altogether. Even China, where government leaders long ago repealed the one-child per family policy, is having difficulty ramping up childbirth, despite incentives. There are some things even a totalitarian state cannot control. This is why some economists say China will get old before it gets rich. That is not lost on China’s leaders, who fear nothing more than a slowing economy.

Far beyond China, however, declining birth rates has major implications for world economic growth going forward.

Silicon Valley’s midlife crisis: Billionaires Larry Ellison, Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have all been looking into and financing biotech startups that focus on anti-aging therapeutics. Bezos has invested in Unity Biotechnology and, reportedly, Altos Labs. Page and Brin helped launch their own longevity biotech, Calico. There’s even a startup focused on the longevity of dogs. An initiative being perused at Harvard restored sight to blind mice. (CNBC/Squawk Box)

Beware the burn: Employees who report being “burned out” are 63 percent more likely to take a sick day, and nearly three times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. (Gallup Organization)

Golden year: Despite gold having a down year in 2021, India, the second-
largest consumer of the yellow metal after China, reported spending a record $55.7 billion on gold imports in 2021. That’s more than double the amount from 2020 and surpasses the previous record high of $53.9 billion, set in 2011. In volume terms, Indians imported more than 1,050 tons of gold during 2021. (Forbes, Reuters)

Of crypto and criminology: The dollar amount collected through crypto-
currency-based  crime hit a record $14 billion during 2021, as the volume of crypto-
currency transactions overall grew into tens of trillions of dollars. However, the volume of illicit activities remains a small share of the total cryptocurrency transactions volume, as the volume of cryptocurrency transactions grew to $15.8 trillion in 2021, up 567 percent from 2020. (Chainalysis Inc., WSJ)

Oil barrels ahead: The International Energy Agency, a global forecaster, expects worldwide oil consumption to return to its pre-pandemic level of 100 million barrels a day in 2022. Even if it rose by no more than 1 percent a year after that, the natural rate of reservoir depletion means that 12 million to 17 million barrels per day of new supply must be added in the next five years to meet demand. Investors recognize this. As economies reopened during 2021 after the worst ravages of the pandemic and the oil price recovered (even flirting with a seven-year high of $85 per barrel), energy became the best performing sector in the S&P 500 index, ahead of technology and finance. (Alastair Syme of Citigroup, IEA)

Billions of greenbacks for green energy: The conglomerate led by Mukesh Ambani — chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, and Asia’s richest man — announced he will invest $76 billion in clean energy projects, dwarfing his earlier commitment of $10 billion. Ambani’s company has made its fortune in fossil fuels, among other products. (Bloomberg, Wealth-X)

Run out of town on a rail: Advanced high-speed rail systems are rapidly expanding the world over. It began operations in 1964 Japan and has rapidly expanded since, especially in the past decade with China leading the global expansion. China has more than 30 high-speed rail lines and 22,000 miles of state-of-the-art high-speed track in operation. Another 21,000 miles of track is under construction. (US High Speed Rail Association, World Bank)


Mike Consol ( is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter (@mikeconsol) and LinkedIn ( to read his latest postings.

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