The Open Revolution: the vital struggle of open vs closed, free vs unfree

Rufus Pollock’s new book The Open Revolution: rewriting the rules of the information age, reimagines ownership in a digital age and its implications from the power of tech monopolies to control how we think and vote , to unaffordable medicines, to growing inequality. Get the book and find out more at openrevolution.net. - Cory

America: where rising productivity means longer working hours

In most countries, rising productivity means fewer working hours: but US workers, among the world's most productive, put longer hours than other rich-country workers, especially nordic workers -- if America's productivity/hours curve worked like it does in Denmark and Norway, American workers would get an additional 2.2 months of vacation every year. Read the rest

Big Tech has established a "kill zone" of business ideas that startups can't get funded to try

In 2014, the Economist described a "Cambrian explosion" of tech startups trying every conceivable idea in every conceivable variation, competing to find better ways to deliver better services at lower costs; today it laments the "kill-zone" of business ideas that are unfundable, either because Big Tech is already doing them, or because Big Tech might someday do them. Read the rest

Illinois votes to eliminate inmates' doctor visit co-pays, equivalent to one month's wages

Illinois lawmakers have want to end inmates' co-payments of $5 for each prison doctor visit -- the equivalent of a month's wages in the prison's $0.05/hour and under workshops; in Oregon, they're contemplating creating a $3-5/visit co-pay. Read the rest

Vermont offers remote workers a $10,000 subsidy to relocate to the state

If your boss is willing to let you work from home and you don't mind shoveling snow in the winter, Vermont wants you and will pay you $10K over two years to defray moving costs. The state boasts great outdoor recreation, a high standard of living and a rapidly aging, shrinking tax-base. (Thanks, Fipi Lele) (Image: Chinissai, CC-BY-SA) Read the rest

Oregon employers warn that the state has run out of workers who can pass a drug test

Oregon state economists Mark McMullen and Josh Lehner say that employers have told them that they can't fill vacancies because every qualified candidate fails their drug test, which is sometimes mandated by the companies' insurers. Read the rest

Germany's scientific texts were made free during and after WWII; analyzing them today shows the negative effect of paywalls on science

In 1942, the US Book Republication Program permitted American publishers to reprint "exact reproductions" of Germany's scientific texts without payment; seventy-five years later, the fate of this scientific knowledge forms the basis of a "natural experiment" analysed by Barbara Biasi and Petra Moser for The Center for Economic and Policy Research, who compare the fate of these texts to their contemporaries who didn't have this semi-public-domain existence. 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

A collaborative bibliography of "economic science fiction"

The Econ-SF wiki is a new, annotated collaborative bibliography of science fiction that delves into economic topics -- remember that Paul Krugman was inspired to get into economics after reading Asimov's "Foundation" novels, to say nothing of all the people whose brains were colonized by Atlas Shrugged. It's brand new and has some notable omissions, and could use your contributions. Read the rest

Chinese law professor: AI will end capitalism

Feng Xiang is a prominent Chinese legal scholar with an appointment at Tsinghua University; in a new Washington Post editorial adapted from his recent speech at the Berggruen Institute’s China Center workshop on artificial intelligence in Beijing, he argues that capitalism is incompatible with AI. Read the rest

George Mason economics department admits it sold hiring control to anonymous, super-rich donors

Universities -- especially public universities -- are never, ever supposed to cede their academic independence to their donors, who might otherwise use their departments as glorified think-tanks, laundering their ideology and giving it the veneer of objective, scholarly credibility. Read the rest

Forced prison labor put downward pressure on wages at American companies, worsening inequality

In Economic Consequences of the U.S. Convict Labor System, UCLA economist Michael Poyker uses data on prisons and their surrounding areas from 1850 to 1950 to examine the role that free/extremely low-waged forced convict labor had on wages. Read the rest

The Peltzman model: a way to understand the kind of regulation Facebook might face from Congress

Sam Peltzman proposed a model of regulation where the profitability of firms is in tension with their customers' desire for low prices and politicians' desire to get votes. Read the rest

Public goods are REALLY good: thousands of years later, the Roman roads are still paying dividends

Social scientists often promote the value of public provision of infrastructure as a sound, long-term investment in development and prosperity, pushing back against the neoliberal tendency to abandon public goods in favor of private development. Read the rest

Easter Island musical stone went from priceless to worthless

Pu o Hiro is a roadside rock in the Easter Islands, but at one time its value was so great that factions fought over its possession. The rock's natural holes allowed it to be played like an instrument. Rare Earth uses it as a starting point for discussing consensus value. Read the rest

Thinking in Bets: a poker-master's Jedi mind-trick for being less wrong

Annie Duke dropped out of a PhD in cognitive psychology to become a professional poker player; now she runs a nonprofit devoted to improving decision quality by merging the practical cognitive tools of the world's greatest poker players with the leading edge of cognitive psychology, a method she describes in an excellent and charming new book called Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts.

How to be better at being pissed off at Big Tech

My latest Locus column, "Let’s Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech," looks at how science fiction can make us better critics of technology by imagining how tech could be used in difference social and economic contexts than the one we live in today. Read the rest

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