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Robert Shiller on Risk

Economist Robert Shiller speaks at Google, 3/15/2005What a nice place to work. Monday, I attended a talk by Colin Powell. Today, Yale economist Robert Shiller (author of _Irrational Exuberance_) came to talk about risk. He made the point that in modern society, we have both greater risks, and greater ability to deal with those risks. An example of the former is that we are living longer, and income inequality tends to increase with age. Another is that replication technology leads to more "winner-take-all" professions, ie there are far fewer local singers now, because we listen to the best in the world via cheap, high-fidelity digital copies. This benefits listeners, because they can hear the best, but it does increase the risk of getting involved in the profession. I've discussed earlier how the digital world affects our self-esteem, but this downside was new to me.

On the other hand, financial devices for spreading risk are also easy to copy, and he wants to help bring the world of available methods more in line with the world of potential good methods implied by modern financial theory. He proposed a number of interesting suggestions for (mostly private-market) ways to spread risk. This is a description of and disagreement with parts of an hour long talk, so its a bit long and lacking in detail, but fascinating if you are interested in such things: Read more »


Robert Shiller talk

Economist Robert Shiller speaks at Google, 3/15/2005What a nice place to work. Monday, I attended a talk by Colin Powell. Today, Yale economist Robert Shiller (author of _Irrational Exuberance_) came to talk about risk. He made the point that in modern society, we have both greater risks, and greater ability to deal with those risks. An example of the former is that we are living longer, and income inequality tends to increase with age. Another is that replication technology leads to more "winner-take-all" professions, ie there are far fewer local singers now, because we listen to the best in the world via cheap, high-fidelity digital copies. This benefits listeners, because they can hear the best, but it does increase the risk of getting involved in the profession. I've discussed earlier how the digital world affects our self-esteem, but this downside was new to me.

On the other hand, financial devices for spreading risk are also easy to copy, and he wants to help bring the world of available methods more in line with the world of potential good methods implied by modern financial theory. He proposed a number of interesting suggestions for (mostly private-market) ways to spread risk. This is a description of and disagreement with parts of an hour long talk, so its a bit long and lacking in detail, but fascinating if you are interested in such things: Read more »


WSJ on the decline in US education

A nice WSJ opinion piece (reported by Mahalonobis) about the policy mistakes that have led to the decline in American education:


What America has done, these past 50 years, is invest in more teachers rather than better ones, even as countless appealing and lucrative options have opened up for the able women who once poured into public schooling.

Read more »


Colin Powell + Groucho Marx = Problem With Democracy

Colin Powell mediumColin Powell stopped by work today, and I listened to him speak, along with a few hundred fellow Googlers. He's the only person in the administration I have any respect for, and so I was unsurprised to find many of his comments sensible. The first two audience questions yielded interesting results:

First was something like "there are different views on truth. What should Google's role be in filtering out inaccurate information?" Read more »


Buy American = Buy White

Steve Landsburg has an excellent article in Forbes pointing out that the policy to "buy American" should be as repugnant as former policies to "buy white": Read more »


When to pay for IP


Captains of Industry Ruthlessly Profit By Reducing Hours

Ah, those long ago Captains of Industry. How they cruelly exploited the workers, making them work longer and longer shifts, until the glorious workers movement came along, unionizing, and forcing shorter hours. Read more »


Reality-Based Evaluation Of Faith-Based Measures

It occured to me this morning that being "Reality-Based" does not mean dismissing "Faith-Based" measures out of hand. Quite the opposite, in fact, since to do so would be a faith-based action. Rather than arguing against, say, religious programs to fight poverty, teenage pregnancy, drugs, and STDs, we should simply call for *all* programs to go through empirical testing. If a religiously-based program proves effective, then great, that's what matters. Those programs that don't work, regardless of their basis, should be tossed. Read more »


Arbitrary Value Counters

Daniel Negreanu thinking at the table

One of the world's top poker players, Daniel Negreanu, wrote in a recent blog entry: Read more »


Public information wants to be free?

So says this FT article, linked to by Marginal Revolution.

Take publicly generated data, the huge and hugely important flow of information produced by government-funded activities - from ordnance survey maps and weather data, to state-produced texts, traffic studies and scientific information. How is this flow of information distributed? The norm turns out to be very different in the US and in Europe.


A brief point about IP

I think there is a subtle but interesting dichotomy in intellectual property that sometimes gets missed, and that is the distinction between copying a work and claiming that you produced it. In conventional terms, "theft" and "fraud". I think these two are very different with regard to IP. Read more »


Student Installs Device On Teacher\'s Computer To Sell Tests

This kid gets props for using the hardware keystroke monitor, but he seems to have missed the boat on anonymous remailers, paypal account money laundering, and the other similar skills necessary for his chosen venture. As Alexander Pope says:

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing


The Brave New World of Blogs

From the Washington Post via Arnold Kling comes this table on Newspaper readership:

Age Group 1967 readership rate 2004 readership rate
18-24 70.8 39.0
25-34 72.7 38.8
35-54 81.0 53.0
55+ 75.5 67.4

Web form inefficiency?

The economic perspective leads one to look for efficiencies and inefficiencies everywhere, and to doubt one's judgement when the latter appear widespread. For example, there is a particularly common and error in HTML forms for addresses, which seems to me like such a stupid design choice that perhaps I'm missing some good reason for its existence. Read more »


The Broken Window - Fallacy, or Psychological Defense Mechanism?

As I quickly scanned through my backblog tonight, I encountered yet another cogent post protesting against the infamous Broken Window Fallacy. I had my own little mental conversation with someone on the other side, pictured saying "Suppose you're the governer of a state. A trustworthy eccentric offers to pay to move everyone out of the state, bomb a few cities, and move them back. Do you think this would make your state on net better off?" Read more »