Today teeth, tomorrow?
August 25, 2011
The United States has lots of beautiful monuments to political figures to, I suppose, pay our respects, inspire children, and signal our values. After the inevitable, I propose that we build a monument to Steve Jobs to show that business and technology matter to the well-being of the American people at least as much as politics does.
August 16, 2011
Alex Knapp writes that the rapid introduction of robots into China’s economy is going to result in rural and urban workers in China losing “jobs and opportunities.” While cheap robots will indeed eliminate some opportunities, overall Chinese citizens from all economic classes will likely benefit from robot laborers.
There are two broad reasons for using robots in production: (1) the robots can do things that human workers can’t, and (2) the robots are cheaper than human workers. Because China is such an extremely poor country it already has very cheap labor, making it much more likely that companies are using robots for (1) rather than (2).
If you’re going to use robots to replace people then you get the most benefit by replacing people who command relatively high wages. But you can only earn high wages if there’s lots of demand for your labor. Consequently, the type of worker who is most likely to lose his job to robots is the type of worker who has many other job opportunities.
China is an extremely poor country undergoing extraordinarily rapid economic growth. China achieves its high growth in large part by continually moving lots of workers away from inefficient low skilled farming to relatively more productive industrial and service industry work. China’s growth, consequently, is largely due to the destruction of low skilled jobs, and this growth has bestowed tremendous benefits on poor Chinese citizens. And almost certainly the number of Chinese jobs destroyed by factory robots will be trivial compared to the number of agricultural jobs that have already been destroyed by farm machinery and food imports.
Knapp quotes a New York Times article which claimed “It’s hard to believe that hundreds of millions of Chinese can move quickly up the economy’s ‘value chain’ to become tomorrow’s nurses and engineers.” But the easiest way to move up the value chain is to have your neighbors get richer so they will pay more for your production. The new Chinese robots will necessarily be increasing wealth creation in China or they will never be introduced. Much of this wealth will stay in China and will be used to pay for goods and services produced by Chinese workers.
Most of the increase in wealth that has come about since the Industrial Revolution has resulted from the introduction of labor saving/enhancing technologies, and overall these technologies have made all economic classes in industrialized nations much richer. It’s certainly true that this time might be different, but there should be an extremely high burden of proof for anyone claiming so.
August 16, 2011
Even among state representatives, even among Texas Aggies (graduates of this cute remedial school we have in Texas), Perry stood out for his modest intellectual gifts. Hell, he got a C in animal breeding. I have goats who got an A in that subject. But lack of brains has never been a hindrance in politics.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading about IQ and I find it almost inconceivable that Perry doesn’t possess a well above average intelligence because otherwise he would never have become an Air Force pilot. Since Perry did not come from a rich or politically influential family him becoming a captain in the US Air Force must have meant he did well on the aptitude tests the Air Force gave him, and these tests were almost certainly IQ tests, although probably not explicitly labeled as such.
The Atlantic columnist “Ta-Nehisi Coates” basically wrote that it’s okay if Perry is dumb because it’s more important for a president to be empathetic than intelligent. Since IQ is the best known predictor of job performance, I strongly disagree with Coates’ claim. My comment to this effect seems to have been deleted from his blog.
August 12, 2011
Because of the new study which uses genetic analysis to estimate that at least “40% of the variation in crystallized-type intelligence and 51% of the variation in fluid-type intelligence between individuals is accounted for by [genetics]” Charles Murray writes “Shelves of books and articles denying or minimizing the heritability of IQ have suddenly become obsolete. Those who continue to claim that IQ tests don’t measure anything real inside the brain also have their work cut out for them.”
It will be interesting to observe how professors who have ridiculed the importance of IQ will deal with genetic studies that undermine their previously held beliefs.
Note: nothing in the new study provides evidence for Murray’s “Bell Curve” theories.