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August 28, 2006
An Economics Mashup

I've read two books this year that really resonate. The first was Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, and just completed over the weekend - David Warsh's Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations.

In Singularity, Kurzweil makes the core point that the speed at which new knowledge development is occurring is exponential and close or equal to Moore's Law. Warsh makes the point that economist Paul Romer fundamentally changed the study of economics by explaining how the speed of the growth of knowledge is the prime determiner of the growth of wealth in a nation and in the process explaining why some first mover advantages seem to endure while others do not.

Read together, one sees things like the exponential decrease in the cost of lighting a room over time in Knowledge and compares that chart to its inverse in the exponential growth of most any other technology in Singularity.

I understand why we humans are bad at seeing exponential growth, and I've certainly learned firsthand that people have a poor understanding of profitability as compared to revenue - which is really the difference between efficiency and work. People are good at measuring total work, but have a hard time understanding the non zero sum, and non intuitive concept of efficiency. What still surprises me is that more people aren't questioning the orthodoxy of what we think we know about how macro and micro economics works.

Here is an example. Is the concept of inflation now just an effect based on expectations? Price deflation across the spectrum of commodities, goods, and services is the rule. Will we reach a tipping point where inflation is fully undermined by price deflation (in a beneficial way?)

Posted by hoffmang at 08:04 PM

August 10, 2006
9/11 Junior

On the morning that the next 9/11 looks like it was foiled, I got my first Taliban comment from Pakistan. I made a somewhat snarky counter comment before flipping to the news, but I pretty much hold the same thoughts.

One of my oddest occurrences? Last night I caught someone using one of my credit cards to purchase travel on EZ Jet in the UK and a whole bunch of Air France travel. Wonder if I've gotten on the radar screen somewhere? Its at least one of those odd coincidences.

Update 10:35AM: The comment in question came from an IP in Pakistan.

Posted by hoffmang at 09:07 AM

August 07, 2006
Aha! on Trade

For quite a while there is one macro economic indicator which has never made sense to me and that is the US Trade Deficit or the US Current Account Deficit. The fact that we always run a deficit has never passed my sniff test and this sniffer has delved into all sorts of FASB accounting silliness as a policy minded former pubco CEO. In fact, I had asked Steve Conover who runs The Skeptical Optimist (conveniently linked over there at the right) to opine on why this indicator didn't make sense. Now I see that he happened upon an article that lead him to write this column about a paper from Harvard explaining why the traditional accounting just doesn't really state the true facts of the wealth creation and transfer. As Steve likes to say, remember that accountants count what is easy to count (which still makes me wonder why we're expensing stock options, but I guess they think Black-Scholes counts something other than MS Excel revenue...)

This is one of the more important pieces of academic work I've seen so far this year. It has that key insight that makes you smack your forehead and go "of course we use risk capital overseas which leads to capital gains instead of low risk income that foreigners seek here..."

Posted by hoffmang at 09:01 PM

August 01, 2006
A Quiet Success

I realize this is a proud Poppa post, but I do admit some pride in creation. EMusic has a nice story on Techdirt this week.

Posted by hoffmang at 12:54 PM

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