Brynjolfsson

Davos audience erupts in uneasy laughter at mention of AOC's proposal for a 70% tax on income over $10,000,000

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Michael Dell was asked about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's wildly popular proposal to tax income over $10,000,000 at 70%, but before he could answer ("I’m not supportive...And I do not think it will help the growth of the US economy") the audience erupted into laughter, according to CNN. MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson (previously), a co-panelist, was more bullish: "There’s actually a lot of economics that it's not necessarily going to hurt growth and I think we have to examine it more closely." (Image: AOC) Read the rest

Facebook is worth much less to its users than search and email, but it keeps a larger share of the value

Economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Felix Eggers and Avinash Gannamaneni have published an NBER paper (Sci-Hub mirror) detailing an experiment where they offered Americans varying sums to give up Facebook, and then used a less-rigorous means to estimate much much Americans valued other kinds of online services: maps, webmail, search, etc. Read the rest

GDP misses out the value of stuff the net makes free

In the New Yorker, James Surowiecki looks to Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee's forthcoming book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies for a discussion of one of the major problems with using GDP as a means of assessing the economic health of a nation. Because GDP uses the dollar-value of all transactions as a proxy for economic vibrancy, it discounts to zero any productivity improvements that result in expensive things becoming free. For example, if every technology company has to license a Microsoft operating system for every one of its servers and products, that's great for GDP: it adds billions to the national bottom line. But when GNU/Linux comes along and zeros out the cost of operating systems for your data-center and embedded systems, GDP drops.

But the impact on the nation is a net positive: first, because existing products get cheaper as they no longer include a Microsoft tax; second, because new products and services emerge that would not have been profitable/possible with the Microsoft tax included. It's not great for Microsoft, its employees, suppliers, and shareholders, but their pain -- which is real and terrible -- is dwarfed by the wider benefit. Read the rest

Robots are taking your job and mine: deal with it

Two striking articles on the roboticization of the workforce: first is Kevin Kelly in Wired, with "Better Than Human", an optimistic and practical-minded look at the way that robots change the jobs landscape, with some advice on how to survive the automation of your gig: Read the rest

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