There are at least two systems of achieving productivity growth: path dependence and disruption. What if there is a third way? This post unpacks that paragraph and explores ways through. It will start with explaining lock in and path dependence. We’ll cover the application narrow machine intelligence in a very narrow industry. It will end with a small scenario and a few what ifs. Lock In Consider banner advertising. This is a relatively old industry. Its roots predate the Internet by at least a couple hundred years. It may have started thousands of years ago. It starts out with a person with a problem. They need to get the word out about their product or service. Reframed, they need to[…]

Torben Iversen and Anne Wren wrote (1998) “Equality, Employment, and Budgetary Restraint: The Trilemma of the Service Economy” and published it in World Politics, (50), 4, pp. 507-546. And it’s a good read. And you could read it for yourself right here. Here’s a summary in one image: What It Means What causes the Trilemma itself? It’s the idea that productivity doesn’t really grow in a pure local services economy. A restaurant can only serve so many meals, barber cut so many heads, a teacher so many students, a surgeon so many people, a police officer so many arrests. It’s far harder to get compounded year on year growth in productivity in services. As I’ll argue below, it isn’t impossible.[…]

There are many calls to break up tech. Break up what, exactly? Regulate tech? Regulate what? There’s a lot of polarization about what to do about Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google. That polarization is in part driven by anger. Dig a bit deeper and see fear. Maybe you’re feeling it. Here’s how I see it. The Assumptions People are heterogenous. Peoples’ beliefs are heterogenous. Peoples’ willingness to believe are heterogenous. Peoples’ inventiveness and imagination are heterogenous. Peoples’ willingness to tell or repeat stories are heterogenous. Peoples’ susceptibility to stories, and to storytellers, are heterogenous. Peoples’ need to belong are heterogenous. People form networks because they need to belong. Information (Gossip, facts, stories) is transmitted along those networks. These variables (information,[…]

“A study at Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research last year found that trade accounted for just 13 percent of America’s lost factory jobs. The vast majority of the lost jobs — 88 percent — were taken by robots and other homegrown factors that reduce factories’ need for human labor.” – AP Canada’s labour force is around 19.6 million people, of which 18.2 million people are employed. Together, they worked something like 2.4 billion hours that month. In December 2016, something like 1.7 million Canadians worked about 240 million hours in manufacturing.  Roughly. Because of seasonal adjustments and different data at different times. And error. In terms of our working lives in Canada, collectively, manufacturing is about 10% of[…]

This series originally appeared in Eyes on Analytics on April 16, 2012 The City of Edmonton posted a pretty interesting position last month. The description is so good that it bears repeating in this space. Bolding is my emphasis. Traffic Safety Predictive Analyst Put your superior analytical skills to work in North America’s first and only municipal Office of Traffic Safety. You will be joining the rapidly growing field of urban traffic safety where the application of statistics and predictive analysis is becoming a vital decision support tool in reducing motor vehicle collisions.  Your responsibilities will be: Provide short, medium, and long-term predictions of collisions and/or speeding by considering current and historical traffic safety related data as well as other[…]

One application of social technology to a transportation problem caught my eye today: social flights. There are two civilian air travel economies – the public and the private. Private air travel, on private jets from quasi-public air fields, is a completely different experience. For one, there is no invasive security. Delays are fewer. Service is better. The drawback is the cost. Very few people can afford a private flight. Enter the what if. What if the coordination problems among a large group of people could be reconciled? What then? Why, you’d be able to take a private jet with a number of like minded people, at a coordinated time, without delays and harassment – and probably do it for less[…]

There’s been a some talk about education bubbles as of late. Some of the evidence is compelling. A Frontline documentary on the quality and liability of for-profit post secondary education for instance. A general lamentation of the volume and cost of MBA’s being produced. And, many gripes about the affordability / accessibility of post secondary education in the US and Canada. When demand exceeds supply, the price for that supply rises. There’s a period of lag between demand shocks and supply responses. Frequently, suppliers either overestimate demand shocks, or, more likely, increases in supply follow a step function, which in turn eventually causes a price collapse. It’s this dance between supply and demand that generates the pseudo-random price of a[…]

“Here is a people of two distinct races, speaking different languages, with religions and social and municipal and educational institutions totally different; with sectional hostilities of such character as to render government for many years well-nigh impossible; with a constitution so unjust in the view of one section as to justify any resort to enforce a remedy. And yet, sir, here we sit, patiently and temperately discussing how these great evils and hostilities may justly and amicably be swept away forever. (Hear, Hear). We are endeavoring to adjust harmoniously greater difficulties than have plunged other countries into all the horrors of civil war. We are striving to do peacefully and satisfactorily what Holland and Belgium, after years of strife, were[…]