University of Minnesota economist David Levinson envisions a future in which per capita vehicle travels falls significantly, bringing traffic congestion down with it. The chief driver of this death of traffic is not the emergence of a new transportation technology, though technology certainly plays a role in Levinson’s scenario. Rather, it is the shrinking of the American workweek coupled with new business models which draw primarily on existing technologies. Though written in an understated style, it is quite entertaining. I recommend reading it in its entirety. A few aspects of his vision struck me as particularly notable:
1. Just as it was once standard for U.S. workers to work a six-day week, Levinson imagines that the workweek will continue to shrink. Every-other Friday off (the 5/4 schedule) becomes standard by 2015; by 2020, the standard schedule becomes a 9 hour day with four days a week in the office and 4 additional hours of checking in from home; by 2025, workers are taking every-other Monday off (the 4/3 schedule); and by 2030, the “flipped” office, like the “flipped” classroom, becomes the norm — i.e., workers do the bulk of their work at home, and they come to the office for “interactive collaboration days.”
2. But it’s not just the workweek that will change. The pattern of how we work over the life course will also change. Levinson envisions a world in which almost half the population doesn’t enter the paid workforce until age 30, as firms lose interest in financing training. Instead, most people go through an extended apprenticeship period that can last as long as a decade, combining unpaid internships and attending school online. And most people exit the workforce by age 60, as technological advances reduce the value of older workers.
3. The changing workweek causes the value of office buildings to plummet. As office buildings are converted to apartments, the least desirable of which become home to the 20-somethings toiling away at their unpaid internships (subsidized, presumably, by parents, or sustained by part-time work), residential constructions in the suburbs grinds to a halt, and suburban property values drift down, thus making suburban neighborhoods more attractive to low-income households. Large garages are transformed into stores, workshops, and accessory dwellings as families choose to maintain fewer automobiles. Car-sharing, meanwhile, grows more entrenched as a larger share of the population comes to reside in urban cores. (This has the effect of reducing per capita vehicle trips because while car-sharing eliminates many of the fixed costs associated with vehicle ownership, it increases the marginal cost per trip.)
4. Shopping, once a big contributor to vehicle trips, is transformed as people (and their autonomous agents) order online and have goods delivered; decentralized manufacturing and 3-D printing on-demand, in turn, shrink supply chains
There is more at the link…
Maybe not. In a new paper, “Who’s Naughty? Who’s Nice? Experiments on Whether Pro-Social Workers are Selected Out of Cutthroat Business Environments,” Mitchell Hoffman and John Morgan report:
Levitt and List (2007) conjecture that selection pressures among business people will reduce or eliminate pro-social choices. While recent work comparing students with various adult populations often fails to find that adults are less pro-social, this evidence is not necessarily at odds with the selection hypothesis, which may be most relevant for behavior in cutthroat competitive industries. To examine the selection hypothesis, we compare students with two adult populations deliberately selected from two cutthroat internet industries — domain trading and adult entertainment (pornography). Across a range of indicators, business people in these industries are more pro-social than students: they are more altruistic, trusting, trustworthy, and lying averse. They also respond differently to shame-based incentives. We offer a theory of reverse selection that can rationalize these findings.
Hat tip goes to Kevin Lewis.
The subtitle is Schooling Ain’t Learning, and it is excellent, as one might expect. Here is one excerpt:
In 1976, in Nicaragua, the government tried out broadcasting lessons over the radio. This innovation was evaluated using a randomized, controlled trial to scientifically test the learning gains of students exposed to the radio-based instruction versus those who were not. The study, published in 1981, proved conclusively that radio-based instruction was more effective in absolute terms than traditional classroom-based pedagogy and was wildly more cost-effective
So the end of the story was widespread adoption of broadcasted lessons, followed by improved average test scores in Nicaragua, followed by adoption and adaption for other places in the world, right? Wrong. Radio-based instruction did not meet the standard of isomorphic mimicry — it didn’t look cool.
You will find some of the underlying research papers on Nicaraguan radio education here.
In the past three weeks, Georgia Tech received nearly twice as many applications for a new low-cost online master’s program as its comparable residential program receives in a year. The degree—which uses Massive Open Online Course technology—is the first of its kind, and its popularity suggests a growing demand for online learning.
There is more here, by Douglas Belkin at The Wall Street Journal.
This spending, however, no longer yields rich returns. Going to university racks up tuition fees and keeps young people out of the job market for four years. After graduation it takes an average of 11 months to find a first job. Once found, the jobs remain better paid and more secure than the positions available to high-school graduates, but the gap is narrowing. The McKinsey Global Institute reckons that the lifetime value of a college graduate’s improved earnings no longer justifies the expense required to obtain the degree. The typical Korean would be better off attending a public secondary school and diving straight into work.
If the private costs are no longer worthwhile, the social costs are even greater. Much of South Korea’s discretionary spending on private tuition is socially wasteful. The better marks it buys do not make the student more useful to the economy. If one student spends more to improve his ranking, he may land a better job, but only at the expense of someone else.
Even in terms of a signaling model, it seems this spending has gone too far. And indeed this is showing up in the numbers:
The proportion of high-school graduates going on to higher education rose from 40% in the early 1990s to almost 84% in 2008. But since then, remarkably, the rate has declined (see chart 2). South Korea’s national obsession with ever higher levels of education appears to have reached a ceiling.
The article, from The Economist, is interesting throughout.
Here is one new report:
…the Wolfram Alpha team is launching a new service for learners, the Wolfram Problem Generator, that turns the “computational knowledge engine” on its head.
The Problem Generator – which is available to all Wolfram Alpha Pro subscribers now – creates random practice questions for students, and Wolfram Alpha then helps them find the answers step-by-step.
Right now, the Generator covers six subjects: arithmetic, number theory, algebra, calculus, linear algebra and statistics.
Here is a 2011 Kurt VanLehn paper (pdf) on human vs. computer systems of tutoring:
This article is a review of experiments comparing the effectiveness of human tutoring, computer tutoring, and no tutoring. “No tutoring” refers to instruction that teaches the same content without tutoring. The computer tutoring systems were divided by their granularity of the user interface interaction into answer-based, step-based, and substep-based tutoring systems. Most intelligent tutoring systems have step-based or substep-based granularities or interaction, whereas most other tutoring systems (often called CAI, CBT, or CAL systems) have answer-based user interfaces. It is widely believed as the granularity of tutoring decreases, the effectiveness increases. In particular, when compared to No tutoring, the effect sizes of answer-based tutoring systems, intelligent tutoring systems, and adult human tutors are believed to be d = 0.3, 1.0, and 2.0 respectively. This review did not confirm these beliefs. Instead, it found that the effect size of human tutoring was much lower: d = 0.79. Moreover, the effect size of intelligent tutoring systems was 0.76, so they are nearly as effective as human tutoring.
One more specific result found in this paper is simply that human tutors very often fail to take advantage of what are supposed to be the advantages of human tutoring, such as flexibility in deciding how to respond to student problems.
By the way, LaunchPad, the new e-portal for our Modern Principles text, contains an excellent adaptive tutoring system.
That is a new paper by Morgan Kelly, Joek Mokyr, and Cormac Ó Gráda, and the abstract is here:
Why was Britain the cradle of the Industrial Revolution? Answers vary: some focus on resource endowments, some on institutions, some on the role of empire. In this paper, we argue for the role of labour force quality or human capital. Instead of dwelling on mediocre schooling and literacy rates, we highlight instead the physical condition of the average British worker and his higher endowment of skills. These advantages meant that British workers were more productive and better paid than their Continental counterparts and better equipped to capitalize on the technological opportunities and challenges confronting them.
The British were fed better, they may have been smarter for nutritional reasons, and they also had a better system of apprenticeships.
George Mason University is branching out, adding an undergraduate program in Korea to supplement its Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William campuses.
Mason Korea will begin enrolling undergraduates in March 2014, offering economics and management degrees. Students on the Mason Korea campus will be joined by Fairfax students who will take general education and elective courses during the inaugural period…
There is more information here. There are pictures of Songdo here, and photos of Songdo Global University here.
That work fills up the latest issue of Econ Journal Watch.
This issue of Econ Journal Watch (download, .pdf) is given over to a special project that considers such changes as may have occurred among the 71 individuals who, through 2012, won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
Ideological profiles of all 71 laureates make up the bulk of the issue. The 71 profiles are bundled in a single large document that is equipped with handy links for internal navigation.
Ideological change is interpreted in terms of either growing more classical liberal or growing less classical liberal. Daniel Klein leads the project. In his overview essay he explains the investigation, its many limitations, and the findings.
…David Colander served as overseeing referee, and he reports on the project.
Twelve of the laureates replied to a questionnaire requesting that they discuss their ideological outlooks at different times in their lives. The twelve who replied are Kenneth Arrow, Ronald Coase, Peter Diamond, Eric Maskin, James Mirrlees, Roger Myerson, Edward Prescott, Thomas Schelling, William Sharpe, Vernon Smith, Robert Solow, and Michael Spence. Their responses are included in their profiles, and they are also collected in a standalone appendix.
This is path-breaking work in intellectual history, the best contribution to the history of modern economics in recent memory, fascinating as intellectual biography and autobiography, and it should be snapped up immediately by some enterprising publisher.
In a new NBER Working Paper, Thomas Dee and James Wyckoff report:
Teachers in the United States are compensated largely on the basis of fixed schedules that reward experience and credentials. However, there is a growing interest in whether performance-based incentives based on rigorous teacher evaluations can improve teacher retention and performance. The evidence available to date has been mixed at best. This study presents novel evidence on this topic based on IMPACT, the controversial teacher-evaluation system introduced in the District of Columbia Public Schools by then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee. IMPACT implemented uniquely high-powered incentives linked to multiple measures of teacher performance (i.e., several structured observational measures as well as test performance). We present regression-discontinuity (RD) estimates that compare the retention and performance outcomes among low-performing teachers whose ratings placed them near the threshold that implied a strong dismissal threat. We also compare outcomes among high-performing teachers whose rating placed them near a threshold that implied an unusually large financial incentive. Our RD results indicate that dismissal threats increased the voluntary attrition of low-performing teachers by 11 percentage points (i.e., more than 50 percent) and improved the performance of teachers who remained by 0.27 of a teacher-level standard deviation. We also find evidence that financial incentives further improved the performance of high-performing teachers (effect size = 0.24).
You will find the paper ungated here.
Let’s say a genetic test indicated a 90% chance that a child-to-come would be troubled with obsessions and unhappy and unsuccessful, and a ten percent chance that the child would grow up to be one of America’s leading entrepreneurs. Or more modestly, in the positive scenario the child would be comparable to a worker or a scientist who creates $5 million in social value a year. I believe most parents would feel uneasy about this genetic lottery, even though its expected social value is unambiguously high. Telling the parents that the expected value of the child for society would be high would not distract them very much from the costs of the risk.
As I see it, many upper middle class parents desire their child to be slightly more successful than they are, and in related but not identical fields and ways. They certainly would be happy if their child turned out to be the next Bill Gates (and more secure in their retirement), but not that much happier from a parental point of view. Parents qua parents can get only so happy, and if your kid turns out well by your standards you are already pretty close to that maximum.
Notice how children differ from money. Big dollar prizes induce risk-taking, at least from some entrepreneurs who have a strong desire for more and more money. But big “parental prizes,” such a siring a true genius, might not induce much risk-taking with the identities or natures of children.
This is one possible institutional failure if there were “market-based” eugenics, namely that parents would be too risk-averse a social point of view. We would end up with too much sameness, both across children and across the generations, and not enough monomaniacal creators.
From Down Under, one of the few countries to allow commercial drone deliveries:
Australian textbook rental startup Zookal will begin utilizing drones to make its deliveries in Australia next year, with ambitions of bringing the unique, unmanned delivery method to US customers by 2015. The company says this marks the first commercial use of fully automated drones worldwide. It will fulfill deliveries in Sydney using six drones to start, dropping off textbook purchases at an outdoor location of the customer’s choosing. To wipe away any potential privacy or surveillance fears, the drones aren’t equipped with cameras. Instead, built-in anti-collision technology keeps them clear of trees, buildings, birds, and other potential obstacles.
Both the location of the user and the drone’s GPS coordinates are transmitted via a smartphone app, and Zookal claims deliveries can be completed in as little as two to three minutes once a drone takes flight. You can track the drone’s progress from the app (which will only be available on Android at launch) and head outside once it’s getting close. The drone never fully lowers itself to ground level, but rather hovers overhead and lowers its textbook delivery with the tap of a button on your smartphone.
There is more here, via Michael Rosenwald.
Here’s a TV schedule from 1963. If you wanted to watch Hootenanny you needed to be in front of the television on Saturday night between 7:30 and 8:30 pm. Have something else to do that night? Too bad. No pause or rewind either.
Here’s a college class schedule from 2010 If you want to learn Accounting with Ms. Gettler you need to be in class on Mondays and Wednesdays between 11:25 am and 12:50 pm (bring your lunch). If you need another class that’s scheduled at the same time, too bad. No pause or rewind either.
A TV Guide looks quaint. Tivo has liberated us from the dictates of the networks. Today we can get entertainment on demand. Next up, education on demand.