By David Victor and Kassia Yanosek – The technology revolution has transformed one industry after another, from retail to manufacturing to transportation. Its most far-reaching effects, however, may be playing out in the unlikeliest of places: the traditional industries of oil, gas, and electricity.
Today, smarter management of complex systems, data analytics, and automation are remaking the industry once again, boosting the productivity and flexibility of energy companies. These changes have begun to transform not only the industries that produce commodities such as oil and gas but also the ways in which companies generate and deliver electric power. A new electricity industry is emerging—one that is more decentralized and consumer-friendly, and able to integrate many different sources of power into highly reliable power grids. In the coming years, these trends are likely to keep energy cheap and plentiful, responsive to market conditions, and more efficient than ever.
But this transition will not be straightforward. It could destabilize countries whose economies depend on revenue from traditional energy sources, such as Russia, the big producers of the Persian Gulf, and Venezuela. It could hurt lower-skilled workers, whose jobs are vulnerable to automation. And cheap fossil fuels will make it harder to achieve the deep cuts in emissions needed to halt global warming. more> https://goo.gl/YB2Yry
Posted in Business, Economic development, Economy, Energy & emissions, History, Nature, Technology
Tagged Climate change, Energy industry, Oil producers, Smarter management, Technology revolution
By Livia Gershon – The truth is, only a tiny percentage of people in the post-industrial world will ever end up working in software engineering, biotechnology or advanced manufacturing. Just as the behemoth machines of the industrial revolution made physical strength less necessary for humans, the information revolution frees us to complement, rather than compete with, the technical competence of computers.
Many of the most important jobs of the future will require soft skills, not advanced algebra.
Back in 1983, the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term ‘emotional labor’ to describe the processes involved in managing the emotional demands of work. She explored the techniques that flight attendants used to maintain the friendly demeanors their airline demanded in the face of abusive customers: taking deep breaths, silently reminding themselves to stay cool, or building empathy for the nasty passenger.
A growing real-world demand for workers with empathy and a talent for making other people feel at ease requires a serious shift in perspective. It means moving away from our singular focus on academic performance as the road to success. It means giving more respect, and better pay, to workers too often generically dismissed as ‘unskilled labor’. And, it means valuing skills more often found among working-class women than highly educated men. more> https://goo.gl/hghbQM
Posted in Book review, Business, Economy, Education, Healthcare, History, Leadership, Media, Net, Technology
Tagged Automation, Emotional labor, Empathy, Healthcare, Skills
By Vanessa Bates Ramirez – “Our assumptions about how economies function no longer seem to hold true entirely because of exponential technology.”
This claim came from entrepreneur and Singularity University faculty member, Amin Toufani.
In what he calls exponential economics or “exonomics,” Toufani breaks the tech-driven changes happening in the modern economy into seven pillars: people, property, production, price, power, policy, and prosperity.
Toufani pointed out that exonomics’ ultimate goal is to connect people and prosperity.
“Technology is empowering all of us, and people seem to be doing what companies used to do and companies seem to be doing what governments used to do,” Toufani said.
The democratizing effect of information technology is enabling small teams to have an outsized impact. He showed a graph of collaboration app Slack’s user growth, and it’s practically a vertical line. A few years old, Slack reaches millions of users, many of whom pay for the service, and was recently valued upwards of $9 billion.
The kicker? Slack was created by a team of 12 software developers. And it’s far from the only such example. more> https://goo.gl/wpBRPz
Posted in Banking, Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, Energy, Net, Technology
Tagged Exonomics, Gig Economy, Inequality, Price, Production, Productivity, Prosperity
By Natalie Shure – This groundswell of public enthusiasm has given rise to multiple initiatives to construct single-payer systems at the state-level, in places where local politics are more amenable to leftward reform than Washington’s.
California’s bill advanced on the heels of a similar one in May that made it through the New York Assembly. Last week, Nevada’s legislature voted to allow anyone to buy into Medicaid coverage—a move that would effectually create a so-called “public option” that some argue could be a gateway toward single-payer.
The overwhelming majority of proponents of state-level single-payer cite a unified national program as their endgame, and state-based overhauls may indeed by the most feasible route there.
In many ways, California seems better poised for a single-payer coup than any other state. A Democratic supermajority controls both houses of the California legislature, which has already passed similar bills in 2006 and 2008 (albeit arguably underdeveloped ones, which were subsequently vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger). more> https://goo.gl/S4PKsc
By Harry J. Holzer – Automation eliminates the number of workers needed per unit of good or service produced. By reducing unit costs it raises productivity and, in a competitive market, product prices should decline. All else equal, this will raise consumer demand for the good or service in question.
Whether or not this rise in product demand is sufficiently large to raise overall employment for the product depends on whether the fall in workers needed per unit of production is proportionately lesser or greater than the rise in the numbers of units demanded; if lesser, than product demand will rise.
Labor economists believe that workers mostly pay for general skill development (often in the form of lower wages, when the training occurs on the job), while employers are willing to share more in the costs of developing worker skills more specific to their needs.6 A shift away from specific towards more general skill training will thus involve a shift of the costs of training away from employers towards workers (or the public), and less sharing of any risks involved in whether the market rewards those skills over time.
Some workers whose tasks can mostly be performed by machines will be displaced, while demand is enhanced for others who can work along with the new machines—perhaps as technicians or engineers but also in a range of newer tasks that the machines cannot perform, including more complex analysis or social interactions with customers and coworkers. more> https://goo.gl/pveH2W
Posted in Book review, Broadband, Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, Technology
Tagged Automation, Jobs, Productivity, robots, Training, Unemployment
By Kenneth T. Walsh – President Donald Trump’s decision to give the Pentagon the authority to make policy in Afghanistan is one of his most important, far-reaching and dangerous choices as commander in chief so far.
In the near term, it will almost certainly mean an escalation of the conflict with the addition of thousands of U.S. troops to the war zone. The fighting in Afghanistan has already lasted for 16 years and is America’s longest sustained war, extending over the tenure of three presidents of both major parties – George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Only the U.S. commitment to Vietnam came close to this mark, and it was a very polarizing, detested venture and ended in a defeat that Americans want to avoid repeating.
Over the long term, it means more U.S. entanglements in a region that few Americans understand, that U.S. policy makers often misjudge, and that has been the graveyard for potential occupiers and conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. more> https://goo.gl/pmjecw
By Seth Miller – The Keystone XL closed thanks to a confluence of technologies that came together faster than anyone in the oil and gas industry had ever seen. It’s hard to blame them — the transformation of the transportation sector over the last several years has been the biggest, fastest change in the history of human civilization, causing the bankruptcy of blue chip companies like Exxon Mobil and General Motors, and directly impacting over $10 trillion in economic output.
And blame for it can be traced to a beguilingly simple, yet fatal problem: the internal combustion engine has too many moving parts. more> https://goo.gl/dqLJW9
By Mark Muro – After a good run, warning lights are flashing in the auto industry—and that’s not good for the broader manufacturing sector, for heartland metropolitan areas, or for President Trump.
Here’s the problem: after seven years of strong growth following the 2008 economic crisis and federal bailouts of both General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, auto sector output and employment growth have slowed markedly from record levels. Years of catch-up purchases by car buyers have finally plateaued. Likewise, automakers must economize to invest billions in developing the electric and self-driving cars of tomorrow.
And so the layoffs have begun. more> https://goo.gl/sazWoc
By Anders Åslund – In the early days of his presidency, the French public is behind him; recent polling puts his approval rating at 62%. Yet goodwill can dissipate quickly, which is why Emmanuel Macron must move to capitalize on his early mandate by implementing reforms of fiscal policy, taxation, the labor market, and education, to name but a few areas where change is long overdue.
France’s most immediate problems are anemic growth and inadequate job creation. For the last 12 years, France’s GDP has increased by barely 1% a year, less than the mediocre uptick in the European Union as a whole, while unemployment currently hovers just above 10%.
Only five EU countries – Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Spain, and Greece – have higher unemployment rates.
Part of the unemployment challenge is tied to hidden costs. France has some of the highest labor costs for hourly employees in the EU, and a natural consequence is tepid hiring. With inequality also growing, many French are rightly upset that labor is taxed much more than capital gains. Indeed, France’s payroll taxes amount to 19% of GDP – far exceeding the EU average of 13%.
Likewise, government spending, at 57% of GDP – is the highest in the EU, where the average is 47%. This burden is excessive, and significantly hinders economic growth. more> https://goo.gl/jxchXt