Top of Mind

The Robot Economy

Are computers taking our jobs? The authors of Race Against the Machine have argued that since 2000 the link between employment and economic growth has broken because of productivity increases resulting from technology.

Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, responds in the MIT Technology Review that “Historically, the income-generating effects of new technologies have proved more powerful than the labor-displacing effects: technological progress has been accompanied not only by higher output and productivity, but also by higher overall employment.”

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Mining and Sustainability

What does sustainability mean to the mining industry? Solutions Journal looks at one closed Canadian mine that must create artificial permafrost to lock 237,000 tons of toxic arsenic trioxide underground in perpetuity.
 
Another approach to sustainability can be seen in Papua New Guinea, where the mining town of Tabubil is using current profits to prepare the community for the time when its natural resources run out.

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Shifting Healthcare Markets

The shift in healthcare from fee-for-service to paying for value should discourage unnecessary care, but, by putting the risk on providers, it is encouraging consolidation. Peter Orszag, writing for Bloomberg View, notes that “policy makers will need to watch for excessive local hospital concentration and markups and to stay alert to any violations of antitrust laws.”

Robert Galvin talked with Yale Insights about the impacts of Obamacare on cost and innovation.

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Counterterrorism through queueing theory

Queueing theory, a tool for assessing the resources required to provide a service, is commonly used for predicting waiting times for call centers. Yale’s Edward Kaplan used it to analyze terror plots and found there are an average of three jihadi terror plots in the works at any time in the U.S. and at least 80% are stopped before anyone is hurt. "The reality is that we’re far safer than we often feel," Kaplan writes in the Boston Globe Magazine. The odds of dying from a terrorist attack: 1 in 20 million. The risk of being killed by lightning: 1 in 126,000; dying in a firearm assault: 1 in 340; succumbing to heart disease or cancer: 1 in 7.

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The Geography of Business

Many observers have tried to identify the qualities that have allowed some tech clusters to thrive while others sputter out. The MIT Technology Review offers a take on the history of Silicon Valley and the keys to its unparalleled 50 years as an innovation hub.

Yale's Olav Sorensen has carried out an extended research project on the geography of business. In one paper, he found that startups survive longer and generate more profits if they are based in entrepreneurs’ home region. The results showed the effect is as powerful as previous experience in the industry.

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Fake It Till You Make It

Copying is bad, right? Typically, knockoffs are seen as a drag on innovation, but is there a more complex dynamic at work both for brands and economies? Writing in Foreign Affairs, Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman argue for a nuanced view, using examples from contemporary China and from the United States during its own period as an emerging economy.

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How big data shapes hiring at Google

What's the role of Big Data in managing a company? Laszlo Bock '99, senior vice president for people operations at Google, explains how data has shaped the company's process for hiring and managing people. "One of the applications of Big Data is giving people the facts, and getting them to understand that their own decision-making is not perfect. And that in itself causes them to change their behavior," Bock told the New York Times.

Laszlo Bock talked with Yale Insights about the importance of continuous learning, self-awareness, and humility.

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Saving energy is great. But how much is actually possible?

The Washington Post's Wonkblog looks at how efforts to increase energy efficiency can run into complex challenges in the real world. "One recent study of Mexico, for instance, found that a government program to help people to upgrade their refrigerators with energy-saving models really did curtail electricity use. However, a similar program for air conditioners had the opposite effect—when people got sleeker A/C units, they used them more often, and energy use went up." In a recent

Classroom Insights video, Yale Law Professor Douglas Kysar emphasized the importance of building institutions "commensurate with the scale of the problem" to fight climate change—rather than relying on individuals to make different choices.

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Rock and Roll, Economics, and Rebuilding the Middle Class

Alan Krueger, chairman of the council of economic advisers, used a speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to show how pervasive the "winner-take-all" economy has become—in both the music business and the broader society. He noted that "the share of concert revenue taken home by the top 1% of performers has more than doubled, rising from 26 percent in 1982 to 56% in 2003. The top 5% take home almost 90% of all concert revenues." Krueger went on to argue for an economy that grows from the middle out, not the top down.

More on the economic consequences of inequality: "Is economic inequality too big a risk?" with Yale's Robert Shiller and Jacob Hacker.

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Could one Walmart's low wages cost taxpayers $900,000 per year?

Responding to "One Walmart's Low Wages Could Cost Taxpayers $900,000 Per Year, House Dems Find" in the Huffington Post, Senior Associate Dean David Bach noted, "Walmart is rightfully held up in strategy classes as an example of 'cost leadership' but there is a question whether society pays a high price for Walmart's low prices in terms of externalities. Healthcare costs borne by the public are Exhibit A in this respect."

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