We often talk about the negative effects of technology – inequity, job losses and implicit bias in algorithms. These are real issues that need to be discussed, but equally, we should not forget the positive effects technology is having on our lives. We need to look no further than biotechnology in this regard – covid vaccinations, for example, would not have been possible without the rapid advances in technology that have occurred over the last few decades. In this piece I want to talk first about collagen, an important supplement that has undergone some exciting research in the last few years.
Dryness has been linked to the acceleration of aging. Dryness increases the fragmentation of the dermal collagen network, which is what keeps our skin healthy, elastic, and wrinkle-free. When the collagen in our skin begins to break down, wrinkles form because there is not enough collagen to hold it taut. Taking an oral collagen complex has been shown to increase hydration, preventing dryness and slowing future aging. Collagen also improves elasticity in the skin, preventing wrinkles caused by small fluctuations in our face, such as “laugh lines” or “crows feet”.
Supplementing with a collagen complex has been shown in preclinical studies to improve collagen and hyaluronic acid production, two crucial components to skin hydration. Recently research has proven these preclinical thoughts. Taking an oral collagen complex was shown to significantly increase skin hydration after eight weeks.
The density of collagen in the dermis of the skin increased in this study, while fragmentation of the dermal collagen network decreased after four weeks. Long-term benefits were shown as effects persist after 12 weeks. Collagen supplements were also shown to produce collagen and glycosaminoglycan production, showing the pathway’s observed clinical outcomes.
Collagen Complexes Are Not Just for Wrinkles
The recent study says that not only does collagen aid in the repair of wrinkled skin, but that it can increase hydration, lower aging effects over time, and help heal damaged skin from the effects of hormonal imbalances and sun. This means that there is no better time to start taking a collagen complex than now! Adding this supplement to your diet will provide increased elasticity and hydration and help your skin heal from the effects of daily life, regardless of your age.
Another added benefit to collagen besides skin health is nail and hair health. Collagen is found in our nails and hair and has been shown to improve hair and nail growth and strengthening. So not only will you be doing your skin a favor, but you will also be helping your nails and hair, too!
Collagen is considered generally safe as it is a protein naturally produced by the body. Collagen supplements are simply just extra of a biological molecule found in humans. The only side effect seen in collagen products is the digestive effects of a full feeling or heartburn. After all, since collagen is a protein source, it would make sense that it will make you feel full like any other protein.
Marine collagen is sourced from wild-caught fish scales. A good marine collagen will blend beneficial ingredients together, creating a superfood of sorts. Make sure you know the ingredients in the collagen you’re taking—there shouldn’t be any dyes or artificial ingredients. You’re helping your body by taking collagen supplements, feed it right.
The Future of Biotech
We have already seen the positive effects of biotechnology in the field of health care, but there are other areas in which we can expect to see it shine. For example, we will likely see more research into how biotechnology can benefit our planet and the environment. One of the most pressing issues of our time, as we are all aware, is pollution. Biotechnology could be a key weapon in this fight.
The reason that biotechnology is so well suited for dealing with this problem is because it can be used to manipulate living organisms. There are many living organisms that can help us deal with pollution by eating it – for example, bacteria that can be used to digest waste or produce electricity as a result of their metabolisms are already being tested today. You can expect to see more of this kind of research in the future.
Another issue that biotechnology shows huge potential for is the issue of food security. People will always need to eat and biotechnology could be used to produce more food, and more nutritious food. For example, it is well known that plants can be genetically modified to be more nutritious. This is done by first identifying the genes responsible for things like protein content. Scientists then use CRISPR to isolate those genes. The genes are then inserted into the plant’s genome. This process can be used to make plants more nutritious, and this will likely prove to me a powerful weapon in the fight against world hunger as the global population grows in future.
There is also research into the use of biotechnology to make farming easier. For example, scientists have recently modified tobacco plants to produce more of a certain protein. The plants were then used to create a vaccine (unrelated to covid). This vaccine stimulated the immune system in animals to produce antibodies, and these antibodies could be used in the development of new drugs. This research is still in its very early stages, but it could prove to be very beneficial in the future.
Biotechnology is a really exciting field, and one that I think will have huge positive effects on the future provided it is managed and regulated appropriately. Whether it is in beneficial health supplements like collagen, or life-giving research into farming and food security, the effects will be profound.
One of the most useful skills I’ve learned at college so far is the ability to quickly estimate the value of a business, or at least to have some idea of whether a valuation is correct. This is important in just about all fields – if you work in the private sector, putting a number on your business or that of your competitors is obviously crucial. But in other fields, for example public policy (my passion), many important funding decisions depend on assumptions about business valuations.
The best method for valuing a business depends on a number of factors, including its age, size, whether it is publicly traded, and so forth. In this article, I want to discuss three simple methods in common use, and discuss their pros and cons. Each one will probably give you a different result – part of the art of company valuation is using your gut as well.
For large, publicly traded companies, you can start by looking at the company’s market capitalization. This is simply the current share price multiplied by the number of outstanding shares. Put another way, it is the theoretical price you would have to pay to buy all shares in the company (even though you can’t generally acquire a public company this way in practice). Market capitalization is a good place to start because it provides a quick snapshot of how much investors are willing to pay for the company. This is done by simply looking at the share price – there is no need to make any assumptions about how a company will perform in the future.
The assumption baked into this method is that the future prospects of the company, and any other relevant information, are already reflected in the share price. This may or may not be true of course (recent craziness of stock markets around the world have made this pretty clear), but it’s a very good starting point.
Look at Similar Companies
For non-public companies and companies where there is little or no liquidity in the shares, we can no longer look simply at the price the market assigns to the company stock. In this case, one trick we can use is to search for recent sales of similar companies. What do we mean by similar? It depends. For example, if you are valuing a technology company that has only $5 million in revenue, and you can find other companies operating in the same sector with similar revenue that are valued at $100 million, you might make the case that the company has a similar valuation (in this case, $100 million). The idea is that similar companies in similar sectors have, broadly speaking, similar growth prospects.
This method, however, should be used with caution. No two companies are the same, and even if they look the same now they are unlikely to have identical prospects for the future. Intangibles like brand play a major part of company valuation, and are hard to quantify. However looking at similar companies is often a great starting point to give you a ballpark idea of the valuation of a company.
Discounted Cash Flows
A more formal and technical method of valuing a company is by computing its Discounted Cash Flows (DCF). This assumes that the company will be able to produce cash flows into the future, and then discounts those future cash flows back to the present day using a discount rate. This method is best when valuing companies that have reasonably predictable future cash flows, or at least when future cash flows can be grounded in market assumptions that are defensible.
There are several ways to compute Discounted Cash Flows. For starters, you can use the sum of the first few years of projected free cash flows, and then discount those back to the present. Alternatively, you can use a more advanced method, such as the Gordon Growth Model, which uses a more complex formula to account for the fact that a company’s growth tends to slow down over time.
Whatever method you use, Discounted Cash Flows is a powerful tool for valuing businesses. The key is to make sure that you have a strong understanding of the input assumptions about future cash flows and the discount rate used to discount the cash flows to the present. This is tricky, of course, since you don’t know the future cash flows of the business! But combined with other methods, this one often forms the basis for formal company valuations.
If you have the data and want to get an even more accurate estimate, you can also use an automated business valuation calculator that will apply tried-and-true formulas using more factors than you can compute manually yourself.
Remember the Goal
If you’re valuing a company, the truth is you’re probably doing it for a very specific reason. With this in mind, you should ask yourself which model is most appropriate. If you are trying to make the case for a large valuation based on future growth, and you think you can justify a high growth rate, you might use a model based on DCF with this growth rate factored in. If alternatively you are acquiring a company and trying to argue for a low valuation, you might be able to argue that it’s not worth much if you can find a similar company that recently sold cheaply. Company valuation is as much an art as it is a science.
The Bottom Line
As you’ve seen, there are many different ways to value a business, but they all serve the same purpose. The important thing is not to get too bogged down in the details. The reality is that most valuation methods are based on assumptions. As long as you can justify your assumptions, you can come close to the actual value of the business. If you are interested in learning more about business valuation, I recommend reading “Business Valuation: The Ultimate Guide to Business Valuation for Beginners” by Greg Shields as a good introduction.
For the sake of simplifying our analysis, let’s divide the world into two halves: the trustworthy and the fraudsters. While it’s true that dividing the world cleanly in half is never accurate, it’s certainly a helpful lens to use when considering online news and online shopping: there’s a huge abundance of sources of news, and virtually unlimited online shops to choose from. There’s no need to be careful: if something gives off a bad vibe, don’t waste a second tossing that option out. At the same time, if there’s an online seller that you trust, you don’t need to constantly review them with vigilance: it’s fine to just purchase from them without extreme vigilance. There’s great safety in numbers, as we’ll see.
A base of scientific trust
There are plenty of extremely well studied, well understood and well accepted foods, dietary supplements, and over-the-counter medicines that are used by millions of people around the world. Take for example, creatine monohydrate: it’s one of the most studied substances in history, and has been shown to be purely beneficial in almost all cases, and is most popular with body builders and athletes who are focused on strength. In a similar vein, nitric oxide powder has been shown to be safe & effective, and readily available from many trusted sellers online. There’s simply no need to agonize over these substances: they’re produced reliably, at high quality, and are relatively affordable. This well-formed consensus has been built on the back of the scientific method, double-checked by the peer-review-process, and bolstered by the watchful eye of the FDA and other authorities, who frequently ban any would-be dangerous products from the market.
However, aside from these trusted products, there are certainly people in the world whose sole goal is to amass money, by any means necessary. They’ll sell you a pig in a poke, or it’s modern day equivalent: a pill that will not only cure you of cancer, arthritis and autism, but also promises to align your heart chakra, and banish evil spirits, at no additional cost. These “miracle” products that claim to cure everything are an outright scam. Identifying them can be hard, however. To an untrained eye, they can appear to be legitimate medicines. One tell-tale sign of danger, is the “cure-all” nature of their claims. Another is an excessively high price. You’ll notice that the most widely used and widely trusted supplements and medicines claim and aim to solve or assist with exactly one specific function or problem. Tylenol is used only for pain relief, and, importantly, it’s cheap. There are a number of other factors that should ring alarm bells for any would-be online shopper, but we won’t detail them here.
How we decide to trust certain products, and not others, is an interesting topic. Celebrity endorsements are common, because they bring a trusted face and a known (even, loved) character into association with a pharmaceutical company, or a supplement brand. One other source of recommendation that we all trust is the mainstream news. Up until recent years most people implicitly trusted the words of the news anchor and the stories they voiced. A similar (but lesser) trust has been placed in online articles, regardless of their source. But now, with the advent of fake news, and increasingly widespread awareness of fake news, people have turned away from their Facebook feed. Let’s take an example, the most recent and most pressing case being, of course, fake news about COVID-19 cures, and fake preventative medicine or supplement advice. With people all around the country desperate for some solution to the COVID problem, people are willing to suspend their disbelief and make a wild grab for any potential solution, however implausible. Recently, a Missouri man has faced charges for promoting content online that made unproven and misleading claims about certain supplements. Specifically, the unsubstantiated (and unproven) claim was that taking a certain mix of vitamin D and zinc supplements would prevent you from contracting or suffering from COVID-19. What motive could someone have for making such claims? Of course, the advertiser of these claims naturally sold the exact supplements mentioned in the promised solution, so we can safely assume that they were at least motivated by financial gain at the expense of vulnerable and fearful consumers at a moment when they needed real medical advice and real protective advice. You can of course, do your own research to find out the truth and debunk these claims.
Steps you can take
As mentioned earlier in the article, one highly effective method you can use to avoid being scammed, is simply to not buy any supplement or medicine unless you are already aware of it’s wide use, safety and justified cost. While that’s quite simple to follow and takes little effort or research, it is extremely limiting. That doesn’t cover all cases: most people don’t go to the gym, and so they don’t take popular and safe supplements like those two mentioned above. So you would miss out if you only applied this measure. You also need to be able to judge for yourself, and do a little bit of research. For supplements that are generally recognized as safe, you won’t have much difficulty finding peer-reviewed articles that confirm “no adverse side effects” are to be had. You can also ask your doctor, or a pharmacist, for advice about your specific needs.
In the past, specifically, before the advent of new technologies like the internet, people made a few big decisions in their life, and those decisions steered the course of their entire life, for decades. In this article, we look at how this trend is changing, and how technology has made the lives of undergrads today, into a continuous stream of small decisions, instead of a few big ones.
The big decisions
If you were an undergraduate woman in the 1950s, you had a few big choices to make. The big ones were: Who you were going to marry, how many children to have, and what kind of work you were going to do in the meantime. You might have been a typist, or you might have worked at a diner or other part time job while you studied. After university, you had a choice of career ahead of you, and whether jobs were plentiful or scarce, it was understood that sooner or later you would become a homemaker, and have children. Things were so different then. Can you imagine the stress and the pressure on that young woman, around the topic of how many children to have? And on the expectations of the parents that you stop studying to have children? And even further, that your career as a professional secretary should take a back seat to the demands of family raising. Back then, stay-at-home-dads were rare and often frowned upon. Those few big decisions completely changed the course of your life. And even more so, when you had a job, you kept it for years and years. Decades, even. Imagine if you had a horrible boss, or one of your co-workers had bad body odor? You’d be stuck with them for decades. And if it was bad enough that you wanted to quit, it would be a huge decision. You’d have to be really certain that you had another job that would take you on, and even then that would be a huge life choice, akin to a divorce or other life-altering event.
Since then, a lot has changed, to say the least. Primarily, technology has changed the way we live, and society has followed. Technology has meant that food and housing have become cheaper, meaning that there’s less need to marry early and have lots of kids, in order to tend the crops and animals. We’ve transitioned from a primarily rural country of farmers, where the family unit grew and ate its own produce, and sold the rest, to an advanced economy where adults work at companies: the job has become the main thing. So without the need for kids, and more importance placed on jobs, we’ve started marrying later and later, and studying more and more. People now often take on a PhD and take much longer to study. When they’re finished, they have less children than in the past, partly because there’s less need, but also because the mother of the children is expected to work in a job, more than they’re expected to stay at home and raise the children. Technology has enabled all of these changes.
From “a career” to “many jobs”
With this huge change in focus and importance from family raising to jobs, you might expect that choosing your career, choosing your job, would become an even more important decision. But actually, what has happened is the opposite. With more women in the workforce, and more access to international labor, companies have been able to hire and fire employees much faster. This means that it’s less important what job you take on, because you probably won’t be stuck there for 10 years. It’s more likely that you’ll have many jobs over your lifetime, and though you might spend a few years at each, you’ll move on.
Undergraduate students today are therefore faced with many choices, all coming up one after the other, in a continuous fashion. People decide what skills to learn and how to become an expert at an industry that didn’t even exist a few years ago. The undergraduate of the 1950s would have been tossing up “Should I become a metallurgist, or should I become a machinist?” There were fewer metallurgists needed, but they were paid better. Machinists were everywhere, but there was always demand for them, even though the pay was lower. This kind of decision wouldn’t be out of place today, but in the other direction, people of the 1950s would have no idea what young job seekers today are thinking about. For example, a marketing student might be asking themselves, at the start of a summer break, “Which is better for marketers to learn wordpress or drupal“? And I can guarantee that neither a machinist or metallurgist would have much familiarity with these decisions at all. So in this way, the speed of decisions required has gone up, but the importance of each decision has gone down. Ultimately, I think this means that there is less acute stress on people on a day-to-day basis, when they’re making their thousands of life choices. Which is a good thing for the world.