Distributed service sector productivity – Noahpinion

https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/distributed-service-sector-productivity

Robert Gordon, the strongest proponent of the idea of technological stagnation, doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would be inclined to agree. But he does! Here’s what he had to say in a recent interview:

This shift to remote working has got to improve productivity because we’re getting the same amount of output without commuting, without office buildings, and without all the goods and services associated with that. We can produce output at home and transmit it to the rest of the economy electronically, whether it’s an insurance claim or medical consultation. We’re producing what people really care about with a lot less input of things like office buildings and transportation. In a profound sense, the movement to working from home is going to make everyone who is capable of working from home more productive…It’s very possible that the transition to working from home – once we get the rest of the economy sorted out – will give us a sizeable jump in the annual growth of productivity


Areas Noah “brainstorm some ways that production could be reorganized around remote work technologies like Zoom and Slack in ways that substantially increase productivity, especially in those difficult service industries.”

  1. Work-from-home
  2. Location arbitrage
  3. Task outsourcing
  4. Improved outsourcing managemnt
  5. Efficient time managment
  6. Telehealth and distance education

Noah interviews @pmarca

https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/interview-marc-andreessen-vc-and

Am not doing quote blocks on this one – it’s so long. Everything under is quoted from the interview. Recommended.

“M.A.: My “software eats the world” thesis plays out in business in three stages:

A product is transformed from non-software to (entirely or mainly) software. Music compact discs become MP3’s and then streams. An alarm clock goes from a physical device on your bedside table to an app on your phone. A car goes from bent metal and glass, to software wrapped in bent metal and glass.

The producers of these products are transformed from manufacturing or media or financial services companies to (entirely or mainly) software companies. Their core capability becomes creating and running software. This is, of course, a very different discipline and culture from what they used to do

As software redefines the product, and assuming a competitive market not protected by a monopoly position or regulatory capture, the nature of competition in the industry changes until the best software wins, which means the best software company wins. The best software company may be an incumbent or a startup, whoever makes the best software.


My partner Alex Rampell says that competition between an incumbent and a software-driven startup is “a race, where the startup is trying to get distribution before the incumbent gets innovation”. The incumbent starts with a giant advantage, which is the existing customer base, the existing brand. But the software startup also starts with a giant advantage, which is a culture built to create software from the start, with no need to adapt an older culture designed to bend metal, shuffle paper, or answer phones.

As time passes, I am increasingly skeptical that most incumbents can adapt. The culture shift is just too hard. Great software people tend to not want to work at an incumbent where the culture is not optimized to them, where they are not in charge. It is proving easier in many cases to just start a new company than try to retrofit an incumbent. I used to think time would ameliorate this, as the world adapts to software, but the pattern seems to be intensifying. A good test for how seriously an incumbent is taking software is the percent of the top 100 executives and managers with computer science degrees. For a typical tech startup, the answer might be 50-70%. For a typical incumbent, the answer may be more like 5-7%. This is a huge”

[…]the true productive potential of the internet is only getting started, and that the pandemic will end up having pushed us to develop more distributed systems of production — much like when electricity allowed factories to switch from a single drive train to multiple independently powered workstations a century ago.

Packy on remote work: Remote work worked under the extreme duress of a pandemic, with all of the human impact of lockdowns and children unable to go to school and people being unable to see their friends and extended families. It will work even better out of COVID.

I think they all miss a more fundamental point, which is that crypto represents an architectural shift in how technology works and therefore how the world works.That architectural shift is called distributed consensus — the ability for many untrusted participants in a network to establish consistency and trust. This is something the Internet has never had, but now it does, and I think it will take 30 years to work through all of the things we can do as a result. Money is the easiest application of this idea, but think more broadly — we can now, in theory, build Internet native contracts, loans, insurance, title to real world assets, unique digital goods (known as non-fungible tokens or NFTs), online corporate structures (such as digital autonomous organizations or DAOs), and on and on.

Peter Thiel has made the characteristically sweeping observation that AI is in some sense a left wing idea — centralized machines making top-down decisions — but crypto is a right wing idea — many distributed agents, humans and bots, making bottom-up decisions. I think there’s something to that. Historically the tech industry has been dominated by left wing politics, just like any creative field, which is why you see today’s big tech companies so intertwined with the Democratic Party. Crypto potentially represents the creation of a whole new category of technology, quite literally right wing tech that is far more aggressively decentralized and far more comfortable with entrepreneurialism and free voluntary exchange. If you believe, as I do, that the world needs far more technology, this is a very powerful idea, a step function increase in what the technology world can do.

In what ways did the dreams of the 1990s techies come true? And in what ways were they dashed on the rocks of reality? When we think back on the 90s, how should we remember that era, and what ideas from that era should we hold on to? M.A.: It worked! The dreams came true; it all worked. And now we’re the dog that caught the bus. What do we do with this damned bus? Think about what we’ve done. Five billion people are now carrying networked supercomputers in their pockets. Anyone in the world can create a website and publish anything they want, can communicate with anyone or everyone, can access virtually any information that has ever existed. People live, work, learn, and love almost entirely online. Virtually all of the constituent components of the vision of the 1990s have come literally true. And yet, and yet. As Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, once said, “I didn’t say you’re all going to be happy. You’ll be unhappy – but in new, exciting, and important ways.”

Economist William Nordhaus long ago showed that 98% of the economic surplus created by a new technology is captured not by its inventor but by the broader world

Status Anxiety as a Service – Noahpinion

https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/status-anxiety-as-a-service

[…] I think it leaves out something important — the status-conferring role of reply-tweets, and the social role of the people who write them. Reply-tweets very rarely go viral — they have almost zero chance of conferring the kind of clout Eugene describes — but people spend much of their time on Twitter replying to the things they read. Being able to reply to high-status people, whether they want you to or not, is a heady status-conferring experience. You can say mean shit to the most famous Hollywood movie star, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Or you can say something nice, and hopefully get a reply or a shout-out. This puts you on a plane of near-equality with people who otherwise tower over the social landscape.

*Near-*equality, but not equality! Chris Pratt may respond to you on Twitter, but at the end of the day he’s still Chris Pratt and you’re not. A 20-follower account might successfully dunk on a 200,000-follower account, but at the end of the day one has 200,000 followers and the other has 20.

This can be maddening. Twitter creates the instantaneous illusion of social equality between influencers and normal people, but then it periodically reminds you that it’s an illusion. When you’re in the replies, giving hell to a famous person who made a bad take or having a conversation with your hero, it seems like a radical leveling of human society. But as soon as the reply-thread is over, the high-status person simply sails back off into the high-status clouds, and you crash back down into the low-status muck.

[…] unspoken social rule seems driven by Twitter’s unique creation of momentary status-equality illusions. Low-follower folks want to preserve the feeling of sudden elevation they get from dunking on a big account; if the big guy returns fire, it’s a brutal reminder of how fake that moment of equality really was.

This week in podcasts #6

The Economist Asks – John McWhorter

https://overcast.fm/+J_yQQ1N2s

Good conversation on swearing and its impact. Lane Green from the Economist also joins.


The Ezra Klein Show – Sarah Schulman’s Radical Approach to Conflict, Communication and Change

https://overcast.fm/+oiPV5UjUA

The central argument is that we often mislabel conflict as abuse and view ourselves and act as victims of abuse without recognizing the power that we have in the situation, the way we may be part of and have a responsibility for ending a conflict.

They have a wide ranging talk where they talk LGBTQ, Israel vs Palestine, compassion, and other important subjects where communication needs to be productive.


The Dishcast – Jonathan Rauch On Dangers To Liberalism

https://overcast.fm/+lCkhIkh1g

In this episode we discuss his important new book, The Constitution of Knowledge, and get into some heated exchanges over Trump, the MSM, and Russiagate — Jon as the optimistic liberal and me as the pessimistic conservative.


Village Global’s Venture Stories – Education, The Great Stagnation, and Innovation with Noah Smith

https://overcast.fm/+a0Br3pRkY

Noah Smith, Bloomberg Opinion writer and author of the Noahpinion Substack, joins Erik to discuss:

– Why colleges should try to emulate the Cal State and CUNY systems, which Noah says provide the best value for dollars in education.

– Why the US should want to copy the Japanese and Korean healthcare systems, and the power that a national health insurance program has to drive cost down.

– Why the oil shock precipitated the great stagnation, and the evolution (and non-evolution) of energy sources over the years.

– What climate economics got wrong and why the revolution in green energy is will not only be about reducing carbon emissions but rather the abundance of cheap energy.

– What people get wrong about inflation and monetary policy and how the fed really works.

– What the US should do to increase innovation, and Noah’s take on whether science and commercialization of discoveries is slowing down or not.


Conversations with Tyler – Elijah Millgram on the Philosophical Life

https://overcast.fm/+TSJmAYDnQ

Elijah joined Tyler to discuss Newcomb’s paradox, the reason he doesn’t have an opinion about everything, the philosophy of Dave Barry, style and simulation theory, why philosophers aren’t often consulted about current events, his best stories from TA-ing for Robert Nozick, the sociological correlates of knowing formal logic, the question of whether people are more interested in truth or being interesting, philosophical cycles, what makes Nietzsche important today, the role that meaning can play in a person’s personality and life, Mill on Bentham, the idea of true philosophy as dialogue, the extent to which modern philosophers are truly philosophical, why he views aesthetics as critical to philosophy, and more.


Macro Musings with David Beckworth – Jason Furman on Overheating, Inflation, and Fiscal Policy in an Era of Low Interest Rates

https://overcast.fm/+PVA8IHBO4

The real takeaway here is how J-Fur talks about how he evaluates information and updates his models. Hint: always use more than one. All models are wrong. The Tetlock Superforcasting or Kahneman Noise approach is best.

Good reads of the week #4

https://annagat.substack.com/p/on-remembering

Anna Gat with a 11 sentence essay this time on remembering.


https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/the-darkness

We are now in one of those times. The news headlines from around the world give us a continual stream of dark portents. Concentration camps and forced mass sterilization of minorities in China. Millions rendered stateless by a new law in India amid a retreat of secularism. A coup attempt and election denial as a normalized political strategy in America. Rising authoritarianism in Turkey, in Hungary, in Brazil, in the Philippines, in Israel. Protesters massacred in Myanmar, massacred in Iran, suppressed in Belarus, suppressed in Hong Kong. Mass surveillance everywhere. Internet shutdowns. “Anti-terrorism” laws.

But headlines are just anecdotes. Unfortunately data tells the same story.

There is a Darkness creeping over our world.


https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/the-rise-and-fall-of-online-culture

The article as a whole is a deep dive into internet culture and what influences it. How it evolves and ebbs and flows.

Quentin Bell’s theory of fashion-as-signaling. Bell says: cool people keep trying to come up with some external signal they can use to identify themselves as cool. Uncool people keep trying to copy the signal so they can look cool too. After a while, so many uncool people are using the signal that it’s no longer a good identifier of coolness, and so cool people need to switch to a new signal. Thus the fashion cycle and its constant changes.

This only works when information propagates slowly. If the Coolness Czar went on national TV and announced that this year’s fashionable color was red, then everyone, cool or uncool, would be equally likely to wear red, and the signal would be useless. So fashion has to be vague and complicated and gradual. It has to start with a core of trendsetters who are super-cool but hard to identify in advance. It has to be the sort of thing that only a few people close to the trendsetters will notice and copy. And then it has to spread gradually along the social graph, from the super-cool trendsetters to their mostly-cool friends to their kind-of-cool friends and so on. It has to be the sort of thing where if a totally-uncool person with no social-graph-connection at all Googled “what is the current fashion” and then tried to ape it, they would get something wrong, or embarrass themselves, or look desperate and pathetic in the way immortalized by the “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme. This will at least buy the fashion a few years of lifespan as a vaguely-useful signal.


https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/i-will-not-eat-the-bugs

While we are on Scott Alexander

In order to produce a kilogram of bug-based food, you need about 10,000 bugs (mealworms weigh about 100 mg). On the one hand, bugs probably don’t matter much morally. On the other hand, 10,000 is a lot. If bugs had any moral value at all, factory-farming and killing 10,000 of them would be really bad.

Do bugs have moral value? Everyone will answer this question differently. I think of Shakespeare, who has his Jewish character Shylock argue for his own moral value like so:

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?

And don’t bugs have eyes, limbs, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, and passions? Don’t they eat the same food as us, especially if we forget to put it in the refrigerator? Aren’t they subject to the same diseases – malaria, Lyme, bubonic plague? Aren’t they healed by the same means? If you prick them, do they not bleed creepy black hemolymph? If you tickle them, do they not hiss? If you poison them, do they not die? And if you wrong them – say, by throwing a stone at a hornets’ nest – will they not revenge?

[…]all else being equal you should generally prefer getting the same quantity of meat by eating fewer larger animals (eg one cow) rather than many smaller animals (eg 100 chickens). Thinking about insect farming is useful to test this hypothesis at the limit and see if our moral intuitions hold up.


https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/sleep/

There is a global experiment conducted on over 1.5 billion people across 70 countries twice a year. You know of this experiment. It is called Daylight Saving Time. According to a study published in 2014 in the journal Open Heart that looked at more than 42,000 hospital admissions for heart attacks, in the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, there is a 24 percent increase in heart attacks the next day.

The second benefit of REM dreaming is creativity. Consider my fellow Liverpudlian, Paul McCartney. His hit songs Yesterday and Let It Be both came to him by way of REM-inspired creativity.

Not to be outdone, the iconic opening guitar riff from the Rolling Stones’ bestseller Satisfaction was also gifted to lead guitarist Keith Richards when he was asleep. We can even turn to profound scientific discoveries like the construction of the periodic table, which came to Dmitri Mendeleev during a dream.


https://www.theverge.com/22526502/himalaya-histudios-notorious-llc-podcast-audio-hype-house

This is just a crazy story from end to end. A hype house for podcasting with shady business practices. This story isn’t finished.

In another story recounted by two sources, Vincer allegedly walked up to a group of people at Podcast Movement, another industry conference, in 2018 while wearing a fanny pack. He then asked if anyone wanted drugs, which these people believed were in the bag strapped to his waist.

How Clubhouse might still win – Noahpinion

https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/how-clubhouse-might-still-win?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=copy

The key thing about Clubhouse is that it takes a tremendous amount of time. Each room typically lasts for an hour or more.

With Clubhouse, if I wander by a random room, it takes me at least five minutes just to understand what people are talking about, and at least ten to get any kind of useful point. Audio doesn’t scroll. And that means you don’t just have to commit large amounts of time to Clubhouse in aggregate; you have to block off a solid chunk of time. That’s a big ask.

Worth reading this whole thread. Was on the money when it came out. 

The exciting thing about Clubhouse, in the beginning, was the drop-by conversations. Like Robinhoods Vlad getting grilled by Elon Musk. This was new, this is interesting.

As Noah writes, Clubhouse has a future, but it’s difficult to see which one. It’s a lot of noise for small signals. Could Clubhouse be improved with text as Noah says but also with AI transcribing the conversations so it’s easier to catch up and for participants to edit their highlights into a less rambling format?