1. Conventional wisdom says wearing the red shirt in Star Trek will get you killed. Not so fast. Statistical analysis in Significance Magazine disagrees. (Keep your redshirt on: a Bayesian exploration)
"... In spite of wearing a redshirt, there is only an 8.6% chance of a member of the operations or engineering departments becoming a casualty. These personnel should ensure that their life insurance plans are based on their departments and not their uniform color.
Although Enterprise crew members in redshirts suffer many more casualties than crew members in other uniforms, they suffer fewer casualties than crew members in gold uniforms when the entire population size is considered. Only 10% of the entire redshirt population was lost during the three year run of Star Trek. This is less than the 13.4% of goldshirts, but more than the 5.1% of blueshirts. What is truly hazardous is not wearing a redshirt, but being a member of the security department. The red-shirted members of security were only 20.9% of the entire crew, but there is a 61.9% chance that the next casualty is in a redshirt and 64.5% chance this red-shirted victim is a member of the security department. The remaining redshirts, operations and engineering make up the largest single population, but only have an 8.6% chance of being a casualty.
Red uniform shirts are safe, as long as the wearer is not in the security department."
2. Interesting piece on automation in the Economist: Robocolleague
Robots are getting more powerful. That need not be bad news for workers. ...
... Historically, technological advances have been relatively benign for workers. Labour-market trends through the 19th and 20th centuries show surprising continuity, according to Lawrence Katz of Harvard University and Robert Margo of Boston University. In recent decades, for example, computerisation and automation have displaced “middle-skilled” workers at the same time as employment among high- and low-skilled workers has increased. This “hollowing out” is not new, Messrs Katz and Margo note. Early industrialisation had similar effects. Middle-skilled artisans, like trained weavers, were put out of work by industrial textile production, but the fortunes of less-skilled factory workers and white-collar factory managers steadily improved. Mechanisation’s insatiable appetite for routine work of all types has yet to create mass unemployment. Quite the opposite.
The worry is that technology now has its sights set on non-routine tasks as well as mundane ones. Yet Mr Autor notes that just because a skilled job can be automated does not mean it will be. The number of workers used to build Nissan vehicles varies a lot between Japan, where labour is expensive, and India, where it is abundant and cheap. The relative cost of different types of workers matters for firms as they choose how to deploy new technologies. ...
3. Speaking of technology and its impact on industries Technology Upends Another Industry: Homebuilding
4. Businessweek has a piece about Indie Capitalism
Indie Capitalism has three foundational principles:
• Creativity generates economic value. Creativity is the source of profit. Yes, efficiency can squeeze more out of what exists, but creativity gives us originality, which translates into a market advantage and big margins.
• Creativity drives capitalism. These past few years we have been victimized by the disastrous results of “creativity” applied to the financial sector (mortgage-backed securities, for starters). What we lost sight of is that the scaling of creativity to actually make things of value sold in the marketplace is the true heart of our economic system. It is the true generator of net new jobs, wealth, and tax revenue.
• Creative destruction is crucial to economic growth. Crony capitalism, which relies on monopoly and political power, is antithetical to entrepreneurial capitalism. A faster cycle of birth, growth, and death of companies boosts creativity, economic value, and growth.
5. Business Insider reports on Why Manufacturing Jobs Are Returning To America For The First Time In Decades
The bottom line: For the first time in decades, several key economic drivers have created a competitive advantage for the U.S. that will encourage corporate strategic decisions on capital allocation and acquisitions for generations to come.
1. Cheap and abundant natural gas. ...
2. Innovation. Despite talk of a brain drain, the U.S. remains the global innovation leader, maintaining a position enjoyed for 50 years. ...
3. Rule of law. Without the means to protect intellectual property, it cannot be exploited for competitive advantage. ...
4. Human capital. The wage gap between the U.S. and China has been shrinking. ...
5. De-complexity. Western multinationals continue to struggle with management of operations in developing countries. ...
6. Public policy and abundance. The federal government appears to be seizing the opportunity to promote job growth at home.
7. Credit, currency and the coming wave of mergers and acquisitions.
"Picture an assembly line not that isn’t made up of robotic arms spewing sparks to weld heavy steel, but a warehouse of plastic-spraying printers producing light, cheap and highly efficient automobiles.
If Jim Kor’s dream is realized, that’s exactly how the next generation of urban runabouts will be produced. His creation is called the Urbee 2 and it could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating a cottage industry of small-batch automakers intent on challenging the status quo. ..."
7. And more about 3-D Printing. 3D Printing On The Frontlines — Army Deploying $2.8M Mobile Fabrication Labs.
Throughout history, war and innovation have gone hand in hand, whether it’s breakthroughs out of heavily funded R&D programs or makeshift contraptions thrown together with spare parts. Soldiers are trained to use the technology on hand to get the job done, one way or the other.
But how would military operations change if soldiers on the battlefield could have the best of both worlds: access to expert engineers able to fabricate custom-designed fixes right on-the-spot and in very little time? ...
8. And how about 4-D printing? 4D Printing Is The Future Of 3D Printing And It’s Already Here
"It may sound strange and far out, but it’s actually quite simple. 4D printing is being billed as a process where synthetic objects can change and adapt themselves to the environment. In a recent TED interview, Tibbits compared the process of 4D printing to the process of natural adaptation:
Natural systems obviously have this built in — the ability to have a desire. Plants, for example, generally have the desire to grow towards light and they generate energy from the translation of photosynthesis, carbon dioxide to oxygen, and so on. This is extremely difficult to build into synthetic systems — the ability to “want” or need something and know how to change itself in order to acquire it, or the ability to generate its own energy source. If we combine the processes that natural systems offer intrinsically (genetic instructions, energy production, error correction) with those artificial or synthetic (programmability for design and scaffold, structure, mechanisms) we can potentially have extremely large-scale quasi-biological and quasi-synthetic architectural organisms."
7. The New York Times reports that Music Industry Sales Rise, and Digital Revenue Gets the Credit
The music industry, the first media business to be consumed by the digital revolution, said on Tuesday that its global sales rose last year for the first time since 1999, raising hopes that a long-sought recovery might have begun.
The increase, of 0.3 percent, was tiny, and the total revenue, $16.5 billion, was a far cry from the $38 billion that the industry took in at its peak more than a decade ago. Still, even if it is not time for the record companies to party like it’s 1999, the figures, reported Tuesday by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, provide significant encouragement.
The Economist also posted this chart this week:
8. Teleworking: The myth of working from home from the BBC. "Yahoo has banned its staff from "remote" working. After years of many predicting working from home as the future for everybody, why is it not the norm?"
"Reasons for high unemployment among the young include ineffective education systems (the share of early school dropouts is 20% in Italy and 30% in Spain) and dual labour markets with highly protected jobs for older employees. The good performance of Germany is not least a result of the German apprenticeship system, which facilitates labour market access for school leavers by lowering the company’s costs for employing them. The OECD’s latest “Going for Growth” report recommends reforms to strengthen the vocational training systems as one of the most effective ways to fight structural youth unemployment. This would also be a reasonable starting point for the EU’s youth employment programme."
10. Benjamin Wright - Book Review: God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Vieth, Jr.
11. Rough Type: Students to e-textbooks: no thanks
"What’s most revealing about this study is that, like earlier research, it suggests that students’ preference for printed textbooks is reflects the real pedagogical advantages they experience in using the format: fewer distractions, deeper engagement, better comprehension and retention, and greater flexibility to accommodating idiosyncratic study habits. Electronic textbooks will certainly get better, and will certainly have advantages of their own, but they won’t replicate the particular advantages inherent to the tangible form of the printed book."
14. ABC reports that Young Hispanics Leaving Catholic Church for Protestant Faith
The Catholic Church has struggled to bring in young members in the United States. Less than half of U.S. Hispanics between 18 and 29 identify as Catholic, compared with the 60+ percent of Hispanics older than 50.
15. Robert Jones says Don't write off mainline Protestants
The narrative of decline in the mainline church underestimates the continuing influence of its members, says a religion researcher.
16.Some interesting observations by NYU psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He says we tend to process our social world through three lenses: Social distance, hierarchy, and disgust. Conservatives tend to have a lower threshold of revulsion while liberals, and praticularly libertarians, have a higher threshold.
17. Bruce Fieler has an interesting piece in the Atlantic. Want to Give Your Family Value and Purpose? Write a Mission Statement