Non-Technologists Agree: It’s the Technology
MARCH 12, 2014
Two papers came out last year that examined important issues around jobs and wages. Both are in top journals. Both were written by first-rate researchers, none of whom specialize in studying the impact of technology.
Even Sweatshops are Getting Automated. So What’s Left?
MAY 22, 2014
Comparison of Nike’s successive sustainability reports reveals that the company used 106,000 fewer contract employees around the world in 2013 than 2012 (a greater than 9% drop), even as both profits and revenues increased by 16% and 5%, respectively.
Technology Spending Is On Its Way Down. Or It Isn’t. Or It Doesn’t Matter.
SEPTEMBER 3, 2014
My MIT colleague David Autor delivered a wonderful paper at the recent Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium about American job and wage patterns in recent decades, and their link to the computerization of the economy.
If There Was Already an Ocean of Data in 2007, How Much is there Now?
JUNE 2, 2014
I’ve been trying to figure out how to convey the scale of the ‘ Big Data ‘ phenomenon — the recent worldwide explosion of the volume of data encoded in digital form. Inspiration came from Randall Munroe’s fantastic “ What if ?”
Technology’s Real Benefits (Hint: They’re Not Economic)
MAY 3, 2013
A couple recent articles, one in the WSJ by Dennis Berman and one in the NYT by Eduardo Porter , have raised the question of why all the amazing technologies we have these days aren’t showing up more strongly in the productivity and GDP growth statistics.
The Clearest Trend in the American Workforce Is Not an Encouraging One
AUGUST 14, 2014
It’s been a while since I posted data on US employment trends, so here’s a chart created with FRED’s snazzy new graphing interface.
To Understand Where We’re Headed, Read This Essay Written 64 Years Ago
MAY 23, 2013
Norbert Wiener was at MIT legend. He taught at the Institute for a long time (after getting his PhD from Harvard at age 17), where he epitomized the absent-minded professor.
The New Millennium’s Downward Ramp of Jobs
JUNE 13, 2014
Recent research continues to shed light on the big trends in the US labor market. Unfortunately, many if not most of them are bad news.
Big Data Reveal Three Surprising Facts About Chinese Censorship
NOVEMBER 26, 2013
I went to a stellar presentation last week by Gary King , a political scientist at Harvard and director of the school’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science.
The Virtuous Cycle of Existing Theory and Big Data
OCTOBER 3, 2013
In recent decades a ton of research has led to the conclusion that while some aspects of our personalities change over time, others are remarkably stable.
The Path to Better Decisions, in One Cute Graph
MAY 30, 2013
As I was getting ready for a panel discussion on big data a little while ago I tried to think of a concise (i.e. panel-friendly) way to explain why I thought the current data explosion was such a big deal for business world.
The Myth of the Myth of Technological Unemployment
JANUARY 23, 2013
Over at Slate, Matt Yglesias has a post titled ‘ The Myth of Technological Unemployment ‘ accompanied by a graph showing that hours worked in the US have been rising and falling in lockstep with output. He writes.
Even If Grandma Embraces Her Robot, Should We Fear It?
JULY 29, 2014
Zeynep Tufekci ‘s recent piece “Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma” has been getting some attention.
A Data Scientist You’ve Never Heard of Is Now the Master of Your Domain
MARCH 2, 2012
You’d imagine that Allstate is pretty good by now at predicting which kinds of cars are most likely to get into accidents, wouldn’t you? After all, this is kind of what they do for a living, and they’ve got over 80 years of experience doing it.
In Memoriam: Chris Argyris
NOVEMBER 19, 2013
“When a sage dies all are his kin and should mourn the passing.” ” – The Talmud. One day in about 2007, Chris Argyris walked into my office at Harvard Business School, where I was teaching at the time.
Why Should We Care About Rising Inequality?
MARCH 6, 2013
I’ve been asked this question by a few people recently, none of them hardhearted let-them-eat-cakers.
Pirates Play Databall, Purge Postseason Drought
SEPTEMBER 27, 2013
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in baseball’s playoffs for the first time since 1992.
Big Data: Running out of Metric System…
OCTOBER 31, 2012
I recently came across two very different pieces of evidence showing how big a deal big data is. The first is the great thirst mainstream organizations have for analytic talent. A friend who works at PWC called me up a little while ago to ask if I knew of any data jocks who were looking for work.
Technological Unemployment: Not Just for the US
SEPTEMBER 10, 2012
In a talk I attended the other night, Larry Summers mentioned that manufacturing employment in China peaked in 1996. I found this hard to believe, so did a little Googling. Lesson #1: don’t doubt Larry Summers’s command of the facts.
One More Industry Where Employment is Dropping as Output Rises
APRIL 24, 2013
Why My Next Car Needs to be LESS Digital
NOVEMBER 26, 2012
Am I right that carmakers today have a serious technology problem with their customer-facing digital technologies? I took my car in to the dealer today. While it was being worked on I wandered around the showroom looking at all the latest models.
The Pathetic Pundit Playbook
NOVEMBER 9, 2012
In 2008, Nate Silver correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states in the US presidential election. Based on this impressive track record the New York Times hosted his fivethirtyeight blog this year.
I Have Seen the Future of Retail…
DECEMBER 27, 2011
… and it looks like this: This is the main checkout area at the Walgreens at the corner of North Avenue and Wells St. in Chicago.
Tim O’Reilly on Putting Labor Back Into the Economy
MARCH 14, 2012
I had the great pleasure of talking with tech titan Tim O’Reilly on stage yesterday in one of the featured sessions of the SXSW Interactive festival. Under the title “ Create More Value Than you Capture ” he shared his insights on a wide range of topics with the audience.
Waze to Acquire Knowledge
SEPTEMBER 4, 2012
In 2008 CNET UK pitted a London cab driver against a driver equipped with TomTom 520 satellite navigation device (the Brits call them ‘sat-navs;’ we Americans call them GPSs, for ‘global positioning systems’). The cabbie won handily. In 2010 Prof.
Go Where the Data Take You, Even If It’s to New Jersey…
AUGUST 15, 2013
How to Talk to Your Keynote Speaker
NOVEMBER 15, 2013
I do a lot of speaking at conferences these days. A common format is a 45 minute presentation, followed by 15 minutes of questions from the audience, followed by a break. With this flow, it’s natural for the speaker to come offstage and talk to people during the break.
The Modern Mantra: “Instrument, Analyze, Tune”
MAY 17, 2013
An interesting article by James R.
Let’s Stop Kidding Ourselves and Start Innovating in Education
OCTOBER 23, 2013
A new study is out from the OECD about worker skills in many countries, and it ain’t pretty for the US. It examined literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills among adults.
Free and Cheaper: The World’s Best News
APRIL 17, 2012
The speed with which our economies and societies are digitizing continues to astonish. I think Marc Andreesen was only about one third right when he wrote recently that “software is eating the world.” ” Data and devices are, too.
Google+ and the Unsettled World of Social Media
JULY 13, 2011
Like apparently all other tech geeks, I’ve been playing with Google Plus for the past week. And like a lot of us, I’m finding a lot to like.
The One Big Story, and the Next One
JUNE 1, 2011
What have been the biggest stories since human civilization began? We domesticated animals, learned to farm, and founded cities. We suffered from plagues and climate changes. We explored other lands, bringing guns, germs, and steel along with new foods, customs, and genes.
How Much are Free Goods Worth? A LOT.
NOVEMBER 12, 2012
Here’s the money slide from Erik’s Brynjolfsson’s presentation earlier today at the Techonomy 2012 conference. His talk was titled “How the GDP Statistics Ignore Free Goods and Why it Matters.” ” It’s based on research he conducted with post-doc Joo Hee Oh.
The Second Machine Age and the Velvet Underground
DECEMBER 12, 2014
Today we got the happy news that The Second Machine Age was named one of the best books of the year by Bloomberg. Their methodology for putting together their list was interesting: they just asked a lot of heavy hitters in finance, industry, and public affairs what their favorite books were.
The Costs of the Cloud: Double-Check Me on This, Would You?
OCTOBER 5, 2012
For the past few months, I’ve been working with Google and Analysis Group on a project to understand the comparative costs of cloud vs. on-premise computing.
Recent Trends in Labor Intensity. Or, the History (and Future?) of Steady Work in the US
JANUARY 17, 2012
When I’m trying to understand something, I start drawing graphs using whatever data’s available; pictures help me more than tables of numbers or regression coefficients.
I Have Glimpsed the Future of Commercial Aviation. There Were Fewer Workers There.
FEBRUARY 26, 2014
Even though it seems Lufthansa has had its ‘Quick Boarding’ gates up and running since 2003, today was the first time I experienced one. In order to board my flight from Munich to Warsaw I scanned the two-dimensional bar code on my boarding pass (which I’d printed out at home).
New Jobs Data, Same Old Story…
MAY 9, 2013
A couple months back I drew a graph of the employment rate, workforce participation rate, and employment-to-population ratio and argued that the unemployment rate was going down not because people were going back to work in huge numbers, but instead because they were dropping out of the labor force.
The Shrinking Lump of Labor
AUGUST 20, 2012
John Markoff has a fascinating long article in Sunday’s New York Times about the ever-greater capabilities of today’s industrial robots (and I don’t just say nice things about the piece because Markoff quotes from Race Against the Machine ).
My Scariest Graph
NOVEMBER 17, 2011
Everyone has their own candidate for ‘scariest graph of recent economic news.’ ’ Here’s mine. It comes from the excellent recent McKinsey Global Institute report “ An economy that works : Job creation and America’s future.”