Afternoon Coffee: Cyber Monday sets online shopping record; DeepMind reaches scientific breakthrough; Work from home threatens big cities

Sasajo/Adobe Stock

Holiday shoppers participating in “Cyber Monday” deals spent $10.8 billion online yesterday, Adobe Analytics data showed, according to CNBC.

This was the single largest US online shopping day ever. Cyber Monday spending rose 15.1% year-over-year (YoY). Retailers have already seen a major shift to online shopping from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday also set records for online shopping, the article said. Online shopping rose nearly 22% YoY to $5.1 billion on Thanksgiving and counted around the same jump to a total of $9 billion on Black Friday.

The Cyber Monday record came right before the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted on Tuesday that the world economy will bounce back to the pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year, according to the Associated Press. It predicted the global economy will shrink 4.2% this year, rebound by the same rate in 2021 and then grow 3.7% the following year.

DeepMind develops AI technology that predicts protein folding

DeepMind, an AI technology company owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, reached a significant breakthrough in AI-based protein structure prediction that has puzzled the scientific community for 50 years, according to Tech Crunch.

DeepMind’s AlphaFold system can use AI to correctly predict the structure of proteins and how they fold in days — a complex task that is crucial in figuring out questions like how diseases should be treated, how they are transmitted, among other key problems. By understanding the folding process, scientists can alter it — halting an infection’s progress mid-stride or correcting mistakes in folding, for example.

This technological leap can make accurately predicting folds a less time- and resource-consuming process, which can change the pace at which our understanding of diseases and therapeutics progresses, the article said. This can help address major global threats by predicting protein structures earlier.

Work from home threatens economic recovery for big US cities

US employees started heading back to offices in greater numbers after Labor Day, but that pace is stalling now, threatening another blow to the economic recovery in many big cities, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some momentum was building for workers to return to offices, but the recent surges in COVID-19 cases led to an uptick in work from home. About one-quarter of employees had returned to work as of mid-November, according to Kastle Systems data. That rate is up from the April low of less than 15%, the article reported.

However, floors of empty office buildings are a headache for landlords that invested money and resources into making safer protocols. It also hurts the greater city economy like restaurants that are used to employees commuting.

“There’s a huge headwind against company executives to strongly push their employee bases to come back to work,” Douglas Linde, president of big office owner Boston Properties Inc., told the WSJ.

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