Tag Archives: vox

A great primer on self driving trucks that everyone should read. (Really!)

This piece, 1.8 million American truck drivers could lose their jobs to robots. What then? (Vox) is a great primer on self driving trucks and how they are going to have a major impact sooner than later.

If you are interested in IT, AI or robots, it really shows one of the places where this technology is going to have a significant impact.

If you are interested in economics, politics, or sociology, then the effect of robots replacing all these truck drivers is definitely something you want to be aware of.

If you drive on highways, you definitely want to know about it.

In any case, it’s a good piece by David Roberts. That is his beat and I find he always does a great job of breaking down a topic like this and making it easier to understand and relevant to me. I recommend any of his pieces.

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The rich stay richer and the poor stay poorer (now with data to back this up)

I was impressed by this study of economic mobility over many generations in Florence: What’s your (sur)name? Intergenerational mobility over six centuries | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal. They make a good case that the richer families stay richer and the poorer families stay poorer regardless of the many other changes that occur in an area.To add to this, VOX reviews it and also references a study done in Sweden that finds something similar (Today’s rich families in Florence, Italy, were rich 700 years ago – Vox).

It’s depressing, but not surprising to me. I suspect that while individuals may rise and fall in terms of economic mobility, specific families work to insure that the wealth acquired is maintained through marriage and inheritance. Worse, conditions for poorer families are such that they can never acquire enough wealth to move them from the lower percentile to a higher one.

Are you in terrible shape? Not so terrible but bad enough shape? Do you need help? Here you go

Like most people — for instance, me — , you may need to get in better shape. In doing some research on it, I came across the following links that I found interesting, inspiring, and useful. I hope you do too:

Why you should not buy insurance for rental cars, toys or video games

Sales people asking you if you want insurance at a counter leans on your anxiety and often leads you to end up buying it. Should you? Well, if it is rental car insurance, Vox says no and does so persuasively, here: Why rental car insurance is usually a rip-off – Vox.

Two other places I see people wasting money on insurance is toys and video games. Toys R Us used to push insurance on me all the time. Before you buy it, consider how your child plays with a toy. Chances are, the insurance doesn’t buy you anything. If it is the only toy you are going to buy your child and the only one they will play with for a long time, then sure. But most children will play intently with a toy for awhile and then the interest drops.

Likewise with video games. Perhaps your child will play with it for a year and it will be their favorite game. Most times, I’ll bet they play intently for awhile, and then the interest drops.  During that time, the chance of damage is very slight.

The insurance for toys and video games is low, but it buys you next to nothing. If the store said: do you mind if we charge you an extra 5-10% on this item, you would laugh and say “no!”. Yet that is what they are doing with insurance.

Skip it and use the few bucks to treat your child to a sweet or yourself to a coffee or give it to someone in need.

Here’s what Vox and others miss when it comes to multitasking

Over at Vox is your typical article critiquing multitasking: Multitasking is inefficient. Here are 6 tips for a more productive workday. – Vox.

If you do a search on the word multitasking, you will find similar articles. Like the Vox piece, they are all reasonable, and they all offer good advice.

What they all miss is why we multitask.  I think there are three key reasons why we do, and they go hand in hand:

  1. We have too much to do in the little time you have.
  2. The tools we use are not responsive and/or support multitasking.
  3. You will be penalized for not appearing busy.

To give you an example of what I mean, consider your day. You likely have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Now let’s look at the tool you have at hand in an office. First, you have a computer and you use software like email and your browser. With email, you can start a number of tasks, but you cannot complete them. With your browser, you ask for information, then you wait for a response. If you are using a mobile device, a similar lag in request and response occurs. Now, you could just sit there and wait for a response to complete your task, but remember, you have too much to do and not enough time. As a result, you start other tasks. You are ….multitasking. You are maximizing your idle time while you wait for tasks to complete. Now you could just sit there, look out the window or go for a walk, but that would be ignoring the third point, which is that you will be penalized for not appearing busy.

If you are fortunate, you can focus on one task, complete it, and then move on to the next one. If you are like most of us, you have to multitask for the reasons above.

 

Obama’s moneyball approach to diplomacy

This Vox piece on how Obama does diplomacy is good. While it focuses on Iran, it’s a much broader and more thoughtful analysis of how Obama approaches foreign affairs. Key quote:

Obama’s “undoctrine” starts from the position that there is no need to find a universal foreign policy framework. It’s enough to find specific wins, he believes, and minimize losses.

In his view, foreign policy isn’t a matter of showing strength or trying to make sure that every US action furthers its interests around the entire world. It’s a moneyball approach to foreign affairs: Don’t focus on playing a beautiful game, focus on racking up points at the lowest possible cost. To Obama, that’s how you win.

Obama plays to win, so this shouldn’t surprise people.

A good Vox piece.

Why aren’t we becoming more productive with all this new technology?

Vox raises that question here: All this digital technology isn’t making us more productive – Vox, and it implies that because people are slacking off on the Internet. I think that is incorrect, and here’s why.

The chart that Vox piece has shows big producitivity gains from 1998-2003 and smaller gains after that.

From 1998-2003 was the peak adoption of the Internet by companies. In the early 1990s, companies started to adopt email. In the later 1990s companies started adopting the Web. To me it is not surprising that companies would become more productive and they shifted away from snail mail and faxes to email. And then companies shifted further and started offering services over the Web, I imagine they became much more productive.

Slacking off on the Internet has been a problem since the Web came along. I know, because I used to monitor web server traffic.  I don’t think that is the issue.

I think it is more likely that companies grabbed the big productivity gains from the Internet at the beginning, and then those gains slowed down after.

So what about smartphones? Have they made people more productive? I think they have, but I also think that the gains in being able to access information remotely may have been overtaken by the sheer amount of information to deal with. Being able to deal with email remotely makes you productive. Having to deal with way more email than you ever had to in the 1990s because now everyone has it makes you unproductive.

Furthermore, many of the features on smartphones are aimed at personal use, not professional use. I think smartphones make us more productive personally,  but less so professionall.y