September 27, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! Deep space, we will rock you… NASA successfully collected its first rock and dust samples from the 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid Bennu on Monday, with help from none other than Queen guitarist and astrophysicist, Sir Brian May. Today we're exploring:

  • AI high: The island of Anguilla is riding the AI wave.
  • Big families: Attitudes towards having more children are changing.
  • Huawei: The tech giant is hoping its new phone can revive sales.

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The dot-ai bubble

Countless people have benefitted from the AI boom, whether that’s been students struggling to hit the word count on a recent essay, tech journalists trying to fill out column inches, or chief executives attempting to impress investors on earnings calls.

However, perhaps one of the more unexpected beneficiaries of the artificial intelligence hype is Anguilla, a small British territory in the Caribbean. The island, which has an estimated population of ~16,000 people, now makes around $3 million per month from .ai — its unique internet domain suffix.

Domain demand

Companies paying to register their websites with domain suffixes that are, in theory, linked with nations where they don’t operate is hardly a new phenomenon. In 2011, for example, Colombia was already receiving 25% of the revenue from sales of the .co suffix: a cheaper (and shorter) alternative to the more common .com address that we ourselves at eschewed for aesthetic, and maybe some financial, reasons 4 years ago.

Indeed, as is to be expected with anything vaguely linked to artificial intelligence, registrations for .ai names have accelerated at an almost unparalleled rate — up 156% in May 2023 from a year earlier, compared to a paltry 27% increase for boring old .com domains. Searches on Google, which conveniently celebrates its 25th birthday today, also show .ai racing ahead of the competition, with more and more people looking to get those 2 headline-snatching vowels at the end of their website address.

Fuller house

They say two’s company, three’s a crowd… yet America’s preference for families with 3+ children is currently at its highest level since 1971. New data from a 2023 Gallup poll finds that 44% of US adults think having 2 children is ideal and 3% favor a single-child household, while 47% say that the ideal number of children for a family is 3 or more — substantially up on the 33% who felt the same in 2011.

Interestingly, the yearning for a bigger family is particularly pronounced in younger generations, with 52% of those aged 18-29 years idealizing a family of 3 or more kids, despite most not having any children (yet).

Family devalues

Of course, survey data always has to be taken with a pinch of salt — and actual birth rates in the US show little evidence of this “big family preference” coming to fruition. As we’ve charted before, America's birth rate has stagnated, contributing to the slowest US population growth in 2021 (just 0.1%) since the nation’s founding.

Historically speaking, an earth-altering event like the pandemic could have spurred on child-rearing: preferences for larger families peaked in 1945 following WW2, and a baby boom followed in due course. Support for big families, however, soon began to plummet in the late 1960s.

Taken together, the declining birth rate may have less to do with Americans not wanting children than them not feeling equipped for them: young people are generally waiting longer to start families, citing financial concerns and career goals as reasons for not settling down sooner.

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Missing phone

On Monday, Huawei held its own big product launch, just a few weeks after Apple debuted its latest iPhone range. The Chinese tech giant made a lot of noise about new $200+ earbuds, and even teased 2 new electric vehicles, but conversation around the company’s new 5G phone, the Mate 60 Pro, was much more muted — with no new information on the gadget that should be a flagship product.

Thousands of fans took to Chinese social media to voice their anger, as the launch event became the hottest topic on Weibo — garnering 6 billion views on 1.6 million related posts. However, even though the 36-year-old company wasn’t shouting about it, the new handset is reportedly powering a sales surge for Huawei after revenues slipped in the last 2 years.

Dialing down

But it wasn’t just Huawei superfans who were keen to hear more about the new phone. The Mate 60 smartphone series, which was quietly launched by the Chinese tech giant last month, reportedly comes with a highly advanced semiconductor chip — sparking concerns in Washington that Huawei has circumnavigated US sanctions aimed at curbing China’s access to advanced chipmaking tools.

Huawei’s efforts to shift focus to its cloud and automotive divisions have helped sales grow in its most recent quarters — but the tech giant is likely to remain at the center of the sensitive tit-for-tat trade wars between the US and China for some time to come.

More Data

• In a pickle: After a series of noise complaints, including lawsuits and 911 calls, USA Pickleball has announced plans to make the sport quieter — currently in the 70 decibel range, pickleball is about 2x as loud as tennis.

Meta has paid ~£150m ($181m) to break its lease on a London office space, as hybrid working becomes the norm for big tech companies.

Netflix is sending out the last iconic red envelope this week, as its DVD service officially shuts on Friday, ending a 25-year run where, at its peak, ~1.2 million discs were distributed per week.


• An eye for an eye: this chart ranks 90 animals by eyesight and how they compare to humans.

• Blunderscore: Rolling Stone reels back the 50 worst decisions in movie history.

Off the charts: An NFL star had a sudden surge in popularity this week, after a sighting at a football game confirmed dating rumors between him and which mega pop idol? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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