Top of Mind

Shipping News

Understanding bubbles in maritime shipping. New research from HBS professors shows despite the boom-and-bust cycles, the industry offers long-term predictability and rewards a contrarian approach.

Insights talked with one of the small group of bankers that handle all the financing for ships that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.



Commercial Space

Hauling cargo into space is becoming a viable commercial venture. Wired notes two milestones on September 29. SpaceX successfully launched version 1.1 of their Falcon rocket. And Orbital Sciences docked its Cygnus space capsule with the International Space Station delivering 1,300 pounds of supplies. That demonstration mission triggered Orbital’s $1.9 billion contract with NASA for eight more flights.

Yale Insights looked at the business of private space flight and talked with Orbital’s Bill Claybaugh ’83 about the “high risk, low return” industry.


Five Years On

Five years after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008, the financial sector has largely recovered, corporate profits are up, and median American income is down. The Washington Post’s Wonkbook charts what’s happened since Lehman.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.