29 October, 2015

Plane reading, Oct 29 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. Xinhuanet, on Chinese exams and licensing for TV hosts
  2. Tyler Cowen, on characterizing China's growth as Solow catch-up (capital accumulation)
  3. Dallas Fed, "Long view of China suggests economic slowdown"
  4. QZ, on the possibility that failed China metals exchange Fanya was a Ponzi scheme, possibly supported/protected by government
  5. Tim Taylor, on China's growth's contribution to reducing global inequality (from Hellebrandt/Mauro)
  6. NBER, on China's apparent massive understatement of real unemployment 1998-present

Economics and Inequality

  1. Tim Harford, "The real benefits of migration."  Interesting framing of impact of ignoring benefits to migrants themselves
  2. Middle Class Economist, on a study claiming 90% of state subsidies go to large businesses
  3. Tim Taylor, on more research showing inequality partly driven by handful of outperforming firms: inter-firm pay, not intra-firm pay
    • This doesn't appear to be widely understood, as VoxEU reports on the "surprising" negative correlation to unionization and top earners' shares of income.  Seems to me that this is expected since outperforming firms are unlikely to be unionized (due more to type of work(ers) at leading-edge firms than impact of unions on manageability)
  4. Atlantic, on Frankfurt's new book On Equality suggesting inequality is a strawman for unfairness: "The poor suffer because they don't have enough, not because others have more, and some have far too much."
  5. A new Vanderbilt study on the impact of universal pre-K is a bit of a Rorschach test:

Economics and environment, including global warming

  1. VoxEU, on Europe's anti-dumping protections against Chinese solar panels overcorrecting and tilting the playing field in favor of European production
  2. Nature, on generalizing the likely overall negative impact of global warming on economic productivity
  3. CNN, on breakeven oil prices for Middle Eastern economies (based on budget/expenses)

Economics and Politics (aka public policy)

  1. Noah Smith, on financialization depth's potential as a form of the "resource curse"
  2. Mark Thoma, on Brad deLong's "Central banks are not agricultural marketing boards"
  3. Tyler Cowen, on Clinton's and Sanders' plans for reduced/free college tuition
  4. Economist, on perverse impact of Romania's plan to reduce jail time in exchange for research
  5. Spontaneous Finance, on negative deposit rates in Swiss banks
  6. Paul Krugman (via Mark Thoma) on a new paper examining the 30-year decline of "natural interest rates" - the rate of interest at which the economy is neither depressed and deflating nor overheated and inflating

Economics and business

  1. Alphaville, on "commodity financing as deflationary feedback loop of hell."  Interesting sidebar on backwardating self-driving POV into rental markets
  2. Alphaville, on the accounting impacts of Moody's updated guidance for capitalizing operational leases
  3. Alphaville, on deal multiples of PE firms vs strategic buyers
  4. SSRN, on the positive impact (financial and governance) of professors on corporate boards
  5. NBER, research suggesting Spotify is revenue neutral (displaced album sales offset by reduced piracy)
  6. Chad Jones, on Paul Romer's concept of the economics of ideas as nonrival goods and increasing returns to scale

Bitcoin, blockchain, and more general FinTech

  1. Alphaville, on Digital Currency Group - a bitcoin trading platform nee Genesis Trading
  2. Bloomberg, on McKinsey's new report "Two routes to digital success in capital markets" predicting that FinTech can increase revenue, cost cuts, and boost profit by 30%
  3. Dealbreaker agrees: "FinTech thinks that's a cute little job you've got there"
  4. Lawrence Uebel, on opportunity to use tech for anti-money laundering / know your customer compliance to gain tech/cost advantage
  5. Alphaville, on a blog analysis of SPECTRE (Bond villain) as an investment vehicle

Big Data, Machine learning, AI, etc.

  1. Chris House, on utility challenges of large datasets
    • Mark Thoma, on distinguishing between predictive and significant variables
  2. Alphaville, on the mainstreaming of technological abundance thinking

Education reform, MOOC, etc

  1. Alex Tabarrock, "Apple should buy a university"
  2. Slate, on textbook publishers getting into adaptive learning software
  3. New Yorker, "The rise and fall of for-profit colleges"

Business and Technology

  1. NYTimes, on Harvard's Law School Library's "Free the law" project - digitizing and making freely available case law (which is technically free, but expensively aggregated by Lexis/Nexis etc)
  2. Steve Randy Waldman, advice for Twitter
  3. Fred Wilson, "Software is the new oil" in terms of delayed operating leverage and cash flow
  4. NYTimes, on the economics and high automation of the used book market
  5. WashingtonPost, on Yelp's plan to integrate health & safety inspection data into restaurant listings
  6. Wired, on Apple Music's traction and likely eventual dominance
  7. BPS research digest, on research examining the link between personality traits and computer programming abilities (openness, not introversion or conscientiousness) 
  8. GigaOM, on AirBnB testing "Journeys" a full-service travel offering
  9. Digitopoly, a revised history of the quote "information wants to be free"
  10. Jason Lemkin, on Jet.com as "star-f*cking" not investing
  11. RT, on Grenoble's (France) literary short story vending machines
  12. Mother Jones, a longform piece on the failures of Electronic Medical Records
  13. Slate, on the origins of unpredictable behavior of Facebook recommendations
  14. Stratechery, on the NY Times / Amazon workplace scandal and response
  15. ManuKumar's take on Howard Mark's recent letter "It's not easy" and the value of second-level thinking


  1. AvWeb, on NASA's new x-plane distributed propulsion proof of concept
  2. NYTimes, on NASA probe Cassini diving through water vapor plumes on Saturn's moon Enceladus
  3. WSJ, on Germans' law-abiding nature intersecting bikes and pedestrian transit
  4. Futurity, on research showing that teeming ants function as both a liquid and a solid, not unlike ketchup
  5. Lifehacker, on an arduino/3d printer hack to open any combo master lock in under 30 seconds
  6. Charles Green, "Clients don't buy solutions they buy problem definitions"
  7. NYTimes, on Volkswagen's expanded inquiry into managers who knew about fraud but turned a blind eye
  8. Climateer, on Charlie Munger's positive view of expert generalists over specialists
  9. HBR, on research that suggests that empathy is harder if you've been in someone else's shoes
  10. Futurity, on connectivity/collaboration being good for data acquisition and bad for problem-solving and solution generation
  11. Gizmodo, on cold-weather-gear testing for US Navy Seals.  Great story, also interesting about ability of wicking microfiber layers to dry you from inside out
  12. DailyFinance, on startup alternatives to waiting on hold for customer service
  13. Corey Robin, attacking an op-ed that defends restaurant tipping customs
  14. Mark Mansen, on "Screw finding your passion"
  15. Tim Lawrence, on "Everything doesn't happen for a reason"
  16. Vanity Fair, on the divorce/sex scandal at Stanford's business school.  This hits close to home, not only on costly (and documented!) abuses of the legal system by people in power, but also on bystanders looking the other way in fear of losing their own jobs/livelihood.  This is a national problem.  "Marriage is an institution, divorce is big business."   Bystanders have a role in stopping bullying.

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

  1. Tyler Cowen, "Three counterintuitive scenarios for driverless vehicles."  This blog has been discussing #3 for several months now
  2. Cowen again, on peak consumer surplus for Uber riders
  3. Jason Lemkin, on Uber's IPO being 2Q2016 at earliest based on current capital raising implications
  4. DealBreaker, announcing reports Uber is looking to raise another $1 billion at a $60-70b valuation
  5. TechCrunch, on WalMart wanting in on drone delivery
  6. TechCrunch, Lyft beat Uber to Las Vegas airport
  7. CheapTalk, on last week's attempted (failed) Uber driver strike in Chicago
  8. NYTimes, on Uber's PR focus as alternative to drunk driving
  9. The Atlantic, on the true cost of roads (far more than drivers pay)
  10. Mike Shedlock, Amazon vs FedEx/UPS vs Uber
  11. WSJ, on Uber's systematic impact on taxi lenders (discussed by this blog several months ago)
  12. PointsGuy, on Uber partnering with airlines.  A broader version of this is among my upcoming recommendations for Uber
  13. TheVerge, on Domino's new bespoke pizza delivery cars
  14. TechInsider, on Oslo banning cars from city center by 2019
  15. WashingtonPost, on Navigant research framing of which auto companies are leading autonomy
  16. Dealbreaker, on Uber "entering the Balkans uninvited because that's never backfired on anyone before"
  17. DailyFinance, on Amazon Fresh subscription increase to $299/year (includes Prime)
  18. TechCrunch, on Amazon one-hour delivery launching in San Francisco
  19. Business Insider reports Uber accused (by rivals) of "using tax avoidance on massive scale" in Europe by issuing receipts from Netherlands to avoid VAT in most cities

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