Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Efficiency’s Promise: Too Good to Be True" "More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People"

An invisible thread connects David Owen's The Conundrum ("Efficiency’s Promise: Too Good to Be True") and Erik Brynjolfsson's and Andrew McAfee's Race Against the Machine ("More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People"). Both books address real -- and very important -- problems but they both arrive at false conclusions.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"I wish I hadn't worked so hard."

Top five regrets of the dying:
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

A Statistical Science Fiction: further thoughts on the use of machines

Imagine a six-hour day and a three-day week with six months annual vacation. Now consider that such a condition could be projected from trends that appeared relatively stable in the 1960s and 70s. And if the projection of those trends seems preposterous, recall that GDP and productivity growth over the last half-century exceeded levels that could have made such a transition feasible.

We could be enjoying a better standard of living -- the same material prosperity but with more free time to spend it in -- less congestion, less pollution and 30 percent less energy consumption. What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Subtle But Very Important Point

U.S. Department of Energy:
At the level of the aggregate economy (or even at the level of an end-use sector) energy efficiency is not a meaningful concept because of the heterogeneous nature of the output. The production of a huge number of goods, the mixing of the transport of freight and people, and the variety of housing and climates makes an aggregate energy intensity number based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a number that disguises rather than illuminates. A simple intensity measure can be calculated (as Energy/GDP), but this number has little information content without the underlying sector detail.