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.
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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
Joe Posner sez, "A month ago Marketplace told me they're doing a weeklong special called "Robots Ate My Job" this week and asked if I could make videos to go with it. Where to start? "Even though we don't see them with anthropomorphic features and two arms and legs walking down the streets, there are robots all around you," say Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAffee, authors of "Race Against the Machine." Here is one of the two short films we made for them, about the hard work, now robotic, that invisibly surrounds us. It's called "Robota" rather than "Robots" for a particular reason ... (hint) -- Enjoy!"
Here's the other video.
Joe and Ian McAlpin had a harrowing time shooting the footage of the toll-booths here, with authorities first demanding a $15,000 fee and then saying they wouldn't permit filming at all ("security," natch, as if protracted toll-booth waits don't give attackers ample opportunity to study the high-stakes target that is a tollbooth; and as if a bad guy would have a hard time sneaking a video camera onto a car). He eventually just shot it on the d/l.
Invisible Robota Read the rest