Immigration and scarce resources

From The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford:

New workers are good for people who have assets that become relatively scarcer. In fact the people who are most harmed by new immigration are the previous group of immigrants who find their wages nailed to the floor.

Skilled immigrants lower the wages of skilled natives and unskilled immigrants lower the wages of unskilled natives.

Allowing lots of skilled immigrants will help control the gap between skilled and unskilled wages while allowing unskilled immigrants will do the reverse.

[Link] The Hollywood work model

What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work. Illustration by Andrew Rae – NY Times Magazine

A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands.
This short-­term, project-­based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-­term, open-­ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime.
It’s also distinct from the Uber-­style “gig economy,” which is designed to take care of extremely short-­term tasks, manageable by one person.
With the Hollywood model, ad hoc teams carry out projects that are large and complex, requiring many different people with complementary skills. The Hollywood model is now used to build bridges, design apps or start restaurants.
Our economy is in the midst of a grand shift toward the Hollywood model.

Read the rest – what is good and what is less good in the Hollywood model – in this New York Times Magazine article.

[Link] The internet explained

A funny flowchart from Fast Company called explain the internet to a 19th century british street urchin by Doogie Horner.

Your time machine lands in 1835 and you end up trying to explain what internet is to a 12 years old match sticks seller, using metaphors as a series of tubes, a road system and a door to the world.

The urchin picks a scab off his elbow and says: “Instead of walking over to someone’s house to say hi to them , you can just talk though the internet?”.
“Yes”, you reply.
“And instead of walking to the store, you can just buy things from the internet?”
“And instead of crouching outside a pub’s window and listening to music, breathing the cold night air and smelling roasting lamb inside, you can just stay in your house and listen to music on the internet?”.
“Yes”, you say delighted.
“Then it doesn’t sound like the internet connects people, it sounds like it isolates them.”

The urchin folds up his rickety table of match sticks, gives you a long hug, then walks away.

You came here to teach the urchin something, but he’s the one who’s taught you an important lesson about the  shallowness of modern life. You are simultaneously embarrassed by your hubris and humbled by his simple wisdom.

Suddenly you realize that the waif stole your wallet.

The Fundamental Laws of Human Stupidity

Carlo Maria Cipolla, an italian economist, wrote in 1976 a small essay titled The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity (later collected in his 1988 book Happy but not too much), where he listed these five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process.
  2. The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person.
  3. Always and inevitably each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at any time anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person there is.

He also created a graph to graphically show where the stupids relate to other people :

Damages to self Benefits to self
Benefits to others Naive Intelligents
Damages to others Stupids Bandits


The chess master and the computer

In this article in the New York Review of Books Garry Kasparov, a former chess grandmaster, writes about his experience playing against chess computers, that started in 1985 when he was able to defeat 32 computers in 32 different games played simultaneously and arrived through 1997 when he was defeated by the IBM machine Deep Blue and until 2005 when he experimented playing with the help of a computer against another team human+computer.

The most interesting piece is when Kasparov analyses the current status of the chess software.
Originally it started as an artificial intelligence problem, with the goal “to develop a program that played chess by thinking like a human, perhaps even by learning the game as a human does.”
And it ended with chess programs all based on the same basic programming concepts for just picking a move by searching through millions of possibilities, a pure brute force approach.

In his words:

Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.

I am a big fan of the small steps and gradually progressing a product but this piece left me thinking: are we exchanging the big dreams and visions for the saferand lower hanging fruits?