14 October, 2015

Plane reading, Oct 14 2015

Expert takes worth reading on economics, technology, and other interesting topics from the last week.  Plus recent news on Uber and on-demand/autonomous vehicles:

Economics and business in emerging markets

  1. Alphaville, on the topic of SOE "reform" in China under reduced need for infrastructure
  2. TheVerge, on a Pepsi-branded android phone in China
  3. Alphaville, on the prevalence of petrodollars in Sovereign Wealth Funds, the impact on emerging market capital inflows, and the impact of lower oil prices on both.  Also causes dumping of US-denominated assets.  Which isn't really the problem some people fear.  Somewhere I've seen a breakdown of OPEC country budgets, many were based on oil prices at/above $75/bb hence liquidation of SWF
  4. VOX, on ISIS business model being unsustainable (revenue is 50% extortion, 25% taxes, 25% oil/gas)
  5. Noah Smith, on why free trade is no longer seen as no-brainer by economists

Economics and Inequality

  1. Angus Deaton was awarded the 2015 Economic Nobel for his work in structural analysis of consumption and human welfare. 
    • Overview of his work here (layman), here (technical)
    • Autobiographical essay
    • David Warsh
    • Justin Wolfers
    • Chris Blattman
    • Binyamin Applebaum
    • New Yorker
    • Kevin Brian.   I wonder if a lack of underlying theory often holds "big data" back more generally in business contexts.  Part of Deaton's work showed that
      • "Past development practice is seen as a succession of fads, with one supposed magic bullet replacing another—from planning to infrastructure to human capital to structural adjustment to health and social capital to the environment and back to infrastructure—a process that seems not to be guided by progressive learning."
    • "Short list" of possible winners highlights selection is intersection of past work with current perception of hot topics
  2. FiveThirtyEight, on the rising persistence of "temporary" minimum wage jobs
  3. Alphaville, a transcript of the "Economics of abundance" panel from ComiCon (Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Felix Salmon, Manu Saadia (Trekonomics), et al)
  4. VOXEU, on a modern "resource curse" - sudden increases in foreign capital inflow causing weaker productivity growth
  5. Alex Tabarrok, on the growing gap in productivity improvements of frontier firms - not a lack of innovation, but diffusion.  Tyler Cowen extending the idea as possibly equivalent to the limited adoption of globalization and top firms' ability to assemble "O-rings of talent"
  6. Guardian, on global tax avoidance.  Certainly a biased framing, but an interesting read
  7. VOXEU, on "missing women"
  8. Alan Krueger, on the cost/benefit limits of minimum wage increases.  Peter Dorman in response.
  9. Washington Post, on an analysis of "natural experiment" examining impact on low-income kids of giving their parents extra money (limited cognitive improvements, sustained impact on emotional/behavioral/personality).  Paper here.
  10. Tim Taylor, on the state of unions in US.  TL;DR unions still exist, mostly in government, still enjoy up to 25% wage premium. Taylor is skeptical of Council of Economic Advisor's conclusion that "unions always have a positive effect on firms"
  11. Bryce Covert, on framing effects in politics of "free stuff from government"

Economics and environment, including global warming

  1. VOXEU, on equitable allocation of global carbon budget
  2. MITNews, on fuel economy regulations being a relatively expensive way to impact global climate change compared to alternatives (mostly electric generation, some manufacturing), particularly in emerging markets
  3. NYTimes, on oft-discredited environmental consultant ChemRisk (e.g. Erin Brokovich) now suing environmental activist detractors.  "...people with nothing to lose rarely do"

Economics and Politics (aka public policy)

  1. NYTimes, on ~1.8m drop in enrollment (15%) in ACA health insurance plans from end of Feb to end of June, and the impact on financial viability of the plan
  2. MarkThoma, on increasingly public disagreement within Fed leadership.  Interesting to compare the politics of this to DNC chair "disinviting" DNC vice-chair (from the first presidential candidate debate) after she called for more debates
  3. WashingtonPost, on politicians not getting along because of median voter from parties drifting apart.  Nice infographic from Pew
  4. Bill McBride, on a recent Goldman Sachs research piece exploring the limits of labor force participation and its likely impact on unemployment rates
  5. NYTimes, on 158 families providing ~50% of presidential campaign financing to date, mostly to republicans
  6. James Hamilton, on JP Morgan study of impact of gas prices on consumer behavior (including consumption spending "luxury" substitution.  Also, total VMT has recently begun rising again in context of lower gas prices)
  7. Luigi Zingales, on limitations of reputational incentives to counter monetary influences.  There was a great paper on this topic a while ago re. Enron and its auditors that I can't find.  Other papers here, here, and here.  
    • TL;DR Ronen/NYU "An old German proverb holds: “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”"
  8. CEPR, on Eduardo Porter in NYT discussing the importance of independent evaluations of government programs (self-evaluations tend to inflate impact)
  9. Matthew Yglesias, on Hillary Clinton's unique potential as an effective leader
  10. EPI on "Cadillac tax" for expensive healthcare plans being essentially a cut in after-tax pay for workers, particularly unionized ones
  11. Mark Thoma excerpts Larry Summers' post on risks from "secular stagnation - the inability of the industrial world to grow at satisfactory rates even with very loose monetary policies"

Economics and business

  1. VOXEU, on research demonstrating expert financial advice recommends products that benefit advisor at expense of customer, if advisor is also the distribution channel for those products
  2. VOXEU, on vertically integrated firms not necessarily engaging in as much intra-firm trading as would be expected.  Is this partly a real option (hedging) question?

Bitcoin, blockchain, and more general FinTech

  1. Antony Lewis, "A gentle introduction to blockchain technology."  BitsOnBlocks blog looks like nice balance between highly technical and mainstream press, h/t Paul Seamon
  2. FinancialBrand, on McKinsey's 2015 global banking annual review "Fight for the customer"
  3. Alphaville, on "shadow convexity risk" paper by Artemis Capital, Volatility and the allegory of the Prisoner's dillemma
  4. Fed Reserve NY, on the "liquidity mirage" of High Frequency Trading
  5. Kosha Gada (AT Kearney), on Bitcoin branding efforts by "itself" (autonomous collective)
  6. Julien Noziet, on the inherent contradiction in bank regulation, aka optimal opacity
  7. VOXEU, on European capital markets regulatory unification
  8. TechCrunch, on A16Z-backed bitcoin hardware startup 21

Education reform, MOOC, etc

  1. BigThink, on MIT free "micro-credit" for online learning in Master's of Supply Chain.  From a sales perspective, this looks like win/win pre-qualification
  2. Slate, on US Dept of Defense disallowing veteran education benefits at University of Phoenix.  Because this counted towards the 10 of the 90/10 requirement for non-federal-loan revenue sources, it will have a highly leveraged effect... and resulted in an immediate 10% drop of holding company Apollo Education Group's stock
  3. NYTimes, on former head of Chicago Public Schools pleading guilty to fraud
  4. Levitt (Freakonomics) and Lin, on algorithms to detect cheating (exam copying) by incidence of same incorrect answers... in at least 10% of general science course at top university

Business and Technology

  1. SBInsights, a unicorn list
  2. Pando, on AngelList founder Ravikant "the most patient man in silicon valley." h/t Ned Renzi
  3. HBR, "Competing on customer journeys."  Interesting piece by two McKinsey leaders, h/t Stacey Haas
  4. HBR, "The best performing CEOs of the world."  80% stock market returns (adjusted for country, industry, market cap factors), 20% ESG (Environmental, Social, Government)
  5. TechCrunch, on Stockpile - gift cards for stock in a traded company
  6. TechCrunch, on Alibaba rival JD.com opening a silicon valley office.  Continued upward competition for top tech talent likely
  7. TechCrunch, on Oyster ("Netflix for books") shutdown/acquihire by google
  8. Barry Ritholtz, on the (loading time) cost of mobile ads across 50 sites.  Clear why adblockers are having a renaissance
  9. Scott Raney, on AWS as possibly "the most important enterprise company."  Also, AWS now has an IoT platform
  10. TechCrunch, on PayItForward - Tinder for networking entrepreneurs
  11. Wired, on the limitations of Google Ngram (aka the map is not the territory)
  12. NYTimes, on "superrecognizer" outperforming facial recognition software by 180x in the aftermath of London riots
  13. Seth Godin, on whether we've hit "Peak Mac"
  14. Rick Zullo, a VC perspective of Chicago vs Silicon Valley
  15. Wired, on an update to the view on limits of computation
  16. TWIS, an interview of Jeffrey Pfeffer re his book "Leadership BS"
  17. Wired, on the surprisingly small performance penalties to VW's "cheat mode."  Hard to disagree that dealers are among the worst directly affected by this scandal
  18. Dan Saks (CEO App Direct) on SaaS sales strategies
  19. TechCrunch, on Segement - an abstraction layer to unify APIs for event tracking among different services
  20. Wired, on DraftKings/FanDuel scandal
  21. NYTimes, on Handmade at Amazon's challenge to Etsy


  1. Paul Romer, on "Clear writing produces clearer thoughts."
  2. Playbill, on "the emotions and subtext behind the music" in Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  3. Futurity, on a Stanford study recommending framing political arguments in terms of opponent's values if objective is to persuade them (not inflame your base).  Good sales tactic too, vis-a-vis customer values particularly in large bureaucracies
  4. BoingBoing, "A study from the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms reports that Dictyophora, a mushroom that grows on lava flows, induces spontaneous orgasms in about 1/3 of the woman who sniff it."
  5. Engadget, on research for a pill to replicate physiological effects of exercise
  6. Futurity, on demonstrations of rerouting nerves to restore limited functionality to quadriplegics
  7. BigThink, on upcoming PBS documentary on neuroscience confirming parts of Freudian theory that subjective subconscious impact on "objective" experience of reality
  8. Ken Eisold, on Jimmy Carter's observation that the US has become "an oligarchy, not a democracy"
  9. Guardian, on Argentina trend for fake weddings as paid social events
  10. VeloNews commentary, on anti-doping tech being unaffordable in context of women's racing... with predictable results
  11. SlateStarCodex, on Bryan Caplan's 2006 paper that "economic theory casts doubt on the consensus view of psychiatric disease."  Focus less on content and tone, more on structure of limits of economic analysis (by both sides)
  12. Brain Pickings, on intelligent dissent and effective criticism
  13. Understanding Society, on destabilizing social forces that promote intra- and inter-group conflict
  14. DealBreaker, on VC who was caught embezzling $65m from his fund only after being indicted for insider trading.  Now on the lam after escaping the country using an expired passport... since his current US and India passports had been confiscated.  This guy likes to double down.
  15. Aeon, how rivalry propels creativity

Uber, on-demand rides, ridesharing, parking, vehicle autonomy etc.

  1. Dealbreaker, on Uber's head of corporate development alleged lack of character, respect for women or even basic human rights.  And he's married to AirBnB's head of global operations.
  2. CNN, on Waze leading woman to death in Brazilian favella with mistaken address
  3. TechCrunch, on India's proposed country-wide regulations for Uber, Ola, etc to put closer to level playing field with taxis (branded cars, meters, etc)
  4. NDTV, on Delhi transit launching rickshaw-hailing app
  5. TechCrunch, on increased China regulations for Uber, Didi Kuadi
  6. TechCrunch, on UberRush soft launch in Chicago, NYC, and SF.  Competes with Postmates, etc.  For my take on Uber as a logistics platform see Uber (Part 5).
  7. NYTimes, a halfhearted post-mortem on the failure of LEAP (upscale commuting bus)
  8. Gizmodo, five cities that have autonomous buses (ahead of upcoming SF)
  9. CNET, on Maryland robbery suspect (unsuccessfully) using Uber as getaway car
  10. Wired, on Uber's quest to create the "ultimate app for drivers."
  11. TechCrunch, on Lyft's quest to become the "ultimate company for drivers."
  12. MoneyAndBanking, "Making driving safe" on using the statistical value of human life to price autonomy.  Appears consistent with my comments in Uber (Part 4c) that auto liability insurance may disappear under autonomy, with residual risk transferred to product liability (hence priced into product).  This would reduce fleet "penalty" relative to POV somewhat.
  13. TechCrunch, on Ola testing affinity group carpooling (friends, FoF, alumni, etc) in Bangalore
  14. TechCrunch, on Fixed getting blocked from fixing erroneous parking tickets.  I think the next ten years will be very destabilizing for local politics as tech disrupts graft
  15. Daphne Carmeli (Deliv), on one-size-doesn't-fit-all in the delivery market
  16. LifeHacker, Uber vs. Lyft
  17. Forbes, on the problem with Uber's auto insurance in Las Vegas (drivers lying to insurance co's due to idiosyncratic regulations)
  18. Austin Monitor, on proposed new regulations for Uber and Lyft in Austin, Texas
  19. Columbus Dispatch, on "Uber in for a bumpy ride" as attempt to expand driver base from 2,500 to 5,500
  20. DealBreaker, on irony that Uber, Lyft, and NY TLC now occupy same office in NYC
  21. TechCrunch, on "UberSelect" launching in SF (nicer cars, higher price point than UberX)
  22. Wired, on Lyft partnering with Hertz to help customers rent off-airport cars
  23. TechCrunch, on Delivery Hero / Valk fleet logistics delivery company in Europe
  24. TechCrunch, on Singapore experiments with mail delivery drones
  25. TechCrunch, on GoogleTransit's arrival in Delhi, India

No comments:

Post a Comment

Focused, topical critiques are welcome though my responses may be limited. Off-topic comments, trolling, spam, or anything not pulling its weight will be deleted.