by Tyler Cowen
on January 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm
1. The foolproof sector.
2. Why everyone films at the same NYC Chinese restaurant.
3. Close interpersonal relationships in amnesic patients.
4. Irish beef products have more horse DNA than you might be expecting.
5. Ionarts classical CD recommendations.
6. Tim Harford has a new radio series (self-recommending).
#1) The O-Ring sector vs the foolproof sector is an interesting idea.
Indeed. A few instances come to mind that illustrate what he said. A friend did automatic transmission repair for years. He saw his industry change from less than 20 transmission models to 3 different models in each vehicle per model year. He said that it changed from a tough one every week or so, the rest being routine rebuilds, to every single repair requiring fixing a manufacturing or engineering fault, not only fixing but figuring it out. Few mechanics were interested or capable of that type of challenge, so the industry now is mostly swapping components with a bit of repair work.
Microsoft is another example. A bug that crashed your Windows 3.1 was annoying but automatic saving alleviated most of the pain. A bug that crashes your server will shut down your operation when it is networked. The classic Microsoft market heft was someone came out with a good idea, Microsoft threw some people at it and came out with a buggy and bad first version that dried up sales and financing for the competitor, and by version 3 something useful was produced. Then came the internet, and that buggy version 1 or 2 now meant that your machine was used by the russian mob to steal credit card numbers from somewhere. The fool proof processes that had driven their success for years now became a barrier, an impediment to maintaining a market. Has anyone here even seen Windows 8?
Another interesting story from another time. An old german gentleman, now gone, told me he was in the German air force during WW2 as an aircraft mechanic. He worked on the jet fighter that they had developed. He got somewhat intoxicated one evening and did a rather bad imitation of the Fuhrer and found himself on a train to the eastern front the next morning. 3 weeks later he was back in France because the jets started crashing. He had the skill and ability to keep them flying. They weren’t foolproof, he was the O ring.
Usually an economy will work around these sticky points because the skills will be scarce and expensive. But anyone in any technical endeavor will tell you that the learning curve gets steeper all the time. Often the limit to renumeration is not scarcity or ability, but what the market can bear. In my industry frozen food is only worth so much, so if the equipment is so complex that either you can’t find someone to fix it or the price is very high, good ideas end up fading away until the process becomes foolproof. Or fool proof ish.
I’ve “upgraded” to Windows 8. Don’t do it. If you don’t believe me, read Mossberg’s comments in WSJ.
I’m perfectly happy with 8. It allows for a little customization. The criticisms are that 8 isn’t 7. 8 is a change, and http://www.dilbert.com/2013-01-16/
3. “Memory may be crucial for establishing and/or maintaining social bonds.”
But maybe not!
#6: Tim’s losing his hair.
2. The title doesn’t really match the text. There is no restaurant they film at.
3. Does anyone know of a reliable cheval supplier or importer here in the US?
4) You have besmirched the good name of Irish beef. Contaminated products came from imported meat. And its not just Ireland that has this problem with contaminated imports: David Cameron made a statement about it in the British parliament
#4 Good Professor Cowen often catches grief for his gnomish, cipherish phrasing, so I want to loudly applaud the devilishly funny (and no doubt deliberate) phrase: than you might be expecting..
Agreed. It raised a chuckle or two here.
As for the over-the-top decor, there are actually several San Francisco Chinatown restaurants which would fit the bill. Monterey Park in LA has a few also, although the decor is more modern – and typically black laquor with gold trim, although it has plenty of cavernous dimsum halls.
In SF, a conscious decision was made after the 1906 Earthquake to use Chinese-themed decor on the streets and such to attract business to the area.
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