ROW: Links for 31st July, 2019

  1. “There are things government could do if it were bold enough. How about a series of state-specific visas to foreigners, designed to encourage them to settle in Alaska and other underpopulated states? Alaska’s population could well rise to more than a million, and then the benefits of a good state university system would be more obvious, including for cultural assimilation. In fact, how about a plan to boost the population of Alaska to two or three million people? What would it take to get there?”
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    Especially read together with the last paragraph, this article is an excellent example of straight thinking – and one wonders where this might apply in India’s case?
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  2. I’m breaking one of my own rules (but hey, that’s kind of the point of owning this blog), but here’s a short video about a tyre scultpure out of Nigeria.
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  3. “Nonetheless, reading the testaments of people who’d come through a period of great uncertainty in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with the liberal order seemingly spent, it’s hard not to hear faint echoes in our current plight. As they do now, people then craved simple, emotional answers to complex economic and political problems.”
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    Learning more about the lives of ordinary people in the past is something I want to do more of. Germany and Germans when they realized the Russians were coming.
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  4. “The official history of China’s economic reforms is rather more sanitized, but the memoirs of Gu Mu (谷牧), who was vice premier in the 1980s and in charge of foreign trade, do help show how export discipline was applied in the Communist bureaucratic system (see this post for some more interesting tidbits from Gu’s memoir).”
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    If there is one book that I would want a student of modern Asia to read, it would be Joe Studwell’s “How Asia Works”. This article begins by tipping its hat to that book, and speaks about how China instilled a sense of export discipline.
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  5. A very long, mostly depressing article on an intellectual purge in Turkey.
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Tech: Links for 30th July, 2019

  1. “In an ever-changing work environment, ‘AQ’, rather than IQ, might become an increasingly significant marker of success.”
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    I’m never sure that lists are a good idea, but I enjoyed scanning this one. 101 people, ideas and things that are changing the way we work today.
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  2. “Developer Chris Wetherell built Twitter’s retweet button. And he regrets what he did to this day.“We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,” Wetherell recalled thinking as he watched the first Twitter mob use the tool he created. “That’s what I think we actually did.””
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    A lament for the creation of the retweet button. I disagree though – I continue to maintain that Twitter (and by extension the retweet button) are net positives. The article is interesting throughout, and some of the suggestions for “curing” the retweet problem are fascinating – and perhaps overdue.
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  3. “In this so-called golden age of television, some critics have pointed out that the best of the form is equivalent to the most enriching novels. And high-quality programming for children can be educational. But the latest evidence also suggests there can be negative consequences to our abundant watching, particularly when the shows are mostly entertainment.”
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    You are shaped by influences around you – relevant to Twitter (see above) and also TV.
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  4. “WeWork was born as a co-working space based partly on the idea that it should be easier for entrepreneurs like Neumann to get their ideas, good or bad, off the ground. Its core business is simple: lease offices from landlords — the company owns hardly any real estate — slice them up, and rent them out in smaller portions with an upcharge for cool design, regular happy hours, and a more flexible short-term lease. There are hundreds of co-working companies around the world, but what has long distinguished WeWork is Neumann’s insistence that his is something bigger. In 2017, Neumann declared that WeWork’s “valuation and size today are much more based on our energy and spirituality than it is on a multiple of revenue.””
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    A very long profile of WeWork and its founder.
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  5. “Our reporting finds that Alphabet is already generating several billion dollars annually from Google Maps, an amount that isn’t yet material to the company’s financial results. But although officials state they are taking a leisurely approach to monetizing Google Maps, which is a core part of Alphabet’s search business, revenue is picking up at a healthy pace as Google experiments with new local ad formats within Google Maps. As Google Maps gets around to targeting more verticals, the only thing that might stand in its way from becoming a ubiquitous superapp may be users’ mobile behavior and regulators looking to break up big tech.”
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    The app that underpins a lot more than you think: Google Maps.

India: Links for 29th July, 2019

Five links from the time of India’s independence, to help me remind myself of what was going on then. This series will get more structured over the coming weeks…

 

  1. What made India India in terms of its rules? An article that sheds some light on the Constituent Assembly.
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  2. And in the same vein, a short history of the men who made it possible. By the way, if any of you have any articles about this topic that you could send my way, I would be most grateful.
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  3. When Bengal burned.
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  4. Operation Polo, or how Hyderabad became a part of India.
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  5. What India’s economic policies might have looked like.

Video for 28th July, 2019

Do read the book too!

Tweets for 27th July, 2019

 

 

Etc: Links for 26th July, 2019

  1. “Novak Djokovic has a way of winning even when he’s losing. He has a way of patiently absorbing his opponent’s most devastating play, doing just enough to stay alive, and choosing precisely the right moment to strike back. He’ll lose a spectacular rally and then, while the commentators are still gushing about the other player, unspectacularly win the next point. You’ll think he’s getting run off the court, and then he’ll absolutely maul a couple of forehand winners, and suddenly you realize that he’s about to win the set. Tennis is a game of moments hidden inside a game of runs. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player who knows how to exploit that duality better than Djokovic.”
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    Brian Philips on the phenomenon that is Novak Djokovic.
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  2. “Let’s make copies of these videos and send them to schools, to young athletes, coaches, administrators, parents, teams. Youngsters need to appreciate every part of sport, especially this, the professionalism of showing up and looking the questioner in the eye. The strength that it requires to be honest, to let people glimpse your despair and also witness your conviction. On their worst days, the great athlete is only beaten, not broken.”
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    Rohit Brijnath on the phenomena that are Kane Williamson and Roger Federer. As I said on this Sunday – sports has a lot to teach us.
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  3. “The idea of a power law is fundamental to under­standing the music market as well as the superstar phenomenon. The distributions of streamed songs, album sales and concert revenue are all closely approximated by a power law. And so are the numbers of Twitter followers, YouTube subscrib­ers and Facebook likes that musicians attract.”
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    I have a sneaking suspicion that I linked to this when Alan Krueger passed away, but still – worth reading again. On the economics of Rihanna’s stardom.
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  4. “However, while physicists have studied the physics of mixing concrete, fewer have taken a close look at the forces at work in chocolate conching, as the process is called. Now a team of physicists, funded in part by Mars, the confectionary company, published a paper last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing just what happens as the ingredients of chocolate are given a stir on their way to becoming a delicious treat.”
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    My word for the day: conching.
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  5. “On the other hand, the fish are huge—Bolbometopon muricatum can reach up to 4.5 feet long, and 165 pounds or so—and fairly funky-looking. Their foreheads are almost comically bulbous, like they’ve just been clonked on the head. Their mouths, with 1,000 strong, sharp teeth that demolish coral, algae, and squishy polyps, make them look like perpetually startled horses. And then there’s the reason scientists were in the water to begin with: to collect their prodigious amounts of poop.”
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    Fish, poop, science and research. This piece markets itself.

EC101: Links for 25th July, 2019

Five economic theorems you may not have heard of. They are somewhat abstruse, but all are truly interesting. All Wikipedia articles too – like Twitter, grossly underrated.

 

  1. “In game theory, Aumann’s agreement theorem is a theorem which demonstrates that rational agents with common knowledge of each other’s beliefs cannot agree to disagree. It was first formulated in the 1976 paper titled “Agreeing to Disagree” by Robert Aumann, after whom the theorem is named.”
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  2. “The Alchian–Allen effect was described in 1964 by Armen Alchian and William R Allen in the book University Economics (now called Exchange and Production [1]). It states that when the prices of two substitute goods, such as high and low grades of the same product, are both increased by a fixed per-unit amount such as a transportation cost or a lump-sum tax, consumption will shift toward the higher-grade product. This is true because the added per-unit amount decreases the relative price of the higher-grade product.”
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  3. Revenue equivalence is a concept in auction theory that states that given certain conditions, any mechanism that results in the same outcomes (i.e. allocates items to the same bidders) also has the same expected revenue.”
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    Unless you are an avid student of math and economics (and, not or), feel free to Ctrl-F the word “Implication” and skip straight to that section.
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  4. Mandeville’s paradox is named after Bernard Mandeville, who posits that actions which may be qualified as vicious with regard to individuals have benefits for society as a whole. This is alluded to in the subtitle of his most famous work, The Fable of The Bees: ‘Private Vices, Public Benefits’. He states that “Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live; Whilst we the Benefits receive.”) ”
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    This is a painfully short article – I have set myself a target of using only Wikipedia links in today’s set, but I am breaking my own rule.
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  5. “In law and economics, the Coase theorem describes the economic efficiency of an economic allocation or outcome in the presence of externalities. The theorem states that if trade in an externality is possible and there are sufficiently low transaction costs, bargaining will lead to a Pareto efficient outcome regardless of the initial allocation of property. In practice, obstacles to bargaining or poorly defined property rights can prevent Coasean bargaining. This ‘theorem’ is commonly attributed to Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Ronald Coase during his tenure at the London School of Economics, SUNY at Buffalo, University of Virginia, and University of Chicago.”
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    Perhaps the most important, and certainly the most misunderstood of all the theorems above – and I probably misunderstand it myself!