Calculating inflation, earning power, social progress, equality and inequality -- they all depend on being able to compare what used to be happening in our economy to what's happening now, and the way we do that is with money.
But money sucks for this. Comparing the cost of (say), the median smartphone today to the median smartphone ten years ago tells you something, but it obscures as much as it illuminates. The median 2018 smartphone is much faster and more powerful than the ten-year-ago version, so how do you (or do you?) discount that earlier phone in your comparisons?
As Rasmus Fleischer describes in his opening keynote for this year's Transmediale, the assumptions we use when we compare the past, present and future are manifestly broken, easily manipulated, and distort our ability to measure whether things are getting better and, as a consequence, what we should do.
Today, even mainstream economists are questioning the official price index. But they question it on the grounds that it should be even more optimistic. They think that the digital revolution brings so much more utility to us, that is not yet captured in numbers.
So may it be. But you could just as well adjust the numbers in the opposite direction.
Right now, we see how the critique of social media is becoming mainstream.
If this critique reaches all the way into the statistics office, they would have to adjust the whole price index, affecting all statistics that rely on it. That could actually throw the world economy in a much darker light.
Here follows a brief talk that I held yesterday at the opening of Transmediale. [Rasmus Fleischer/Nettime]
3.8m workers signed on for the first time last week, bringing America’s unemployed headcount to 30m. The number of new filers was down from 4.4m last week, a slow dropoff that suggests layoffs will continue at an unprecedented scale for weeks to come. Roughly 30.3 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the […]
I’m a huge fan of GiveDirectly, who does tremendous work with direct cash transfers for people in poverty — essentially, micro-scale experiments in Universal Basic Income, with long-term data impact studies. As they describe themselves: GiveDirectly is the first — and largest — nonprofit that lets donors like you send money directly to the world’s poorest. […]
I have, several times, heard the reasonable-sounding theory that America’s at work pooping minimized the need for THAT MUCH retail toilet paper. Purportedly there are tons and tons of business-grade TP piling up unused. What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage There’s another, entirely logical explanation for why stores have run out of […]
When you think of the single program that seems to absolutely epitomize business in all its forms, you probably think of Microsoft Excel. It’s been around for three decades, it’s the cornerstone of the ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite and that neat, ordered grid of a spreadsheet is synonymous with 21st-century commerce. While many have Excel […]
You’d think the biggest complaint that can be leveled about a pair of earbuds is that they just don’t sound all that great. Granted, there are plenty of cut-rate headphones that fall under that category, but we’d wager the pet peeve that makes most users throw away earbuds in frustration is when they just don’t […]
Father’s Day is June 21st, otherwise known as the roughest shopping day of the year. Don’t get us wrong, Dad deserves an awesome gift for all the great things he gave you. But let’s be honest — buying for your father is often a chore. Your gift has to take into account what he already […]