Assorted links

1. Kevin Drum reviews TGS.  And Lane Kenworthy.  And Nick Schulz at Forbes: "It’s possible the most important non-fiction book this year won’t be published on paper."

2. Megan on the 1954 kitchen.  And "densifying" to get more low-hanging fruit, from Ryan Avent.  And more from Scott Sumner on the book: "Tyler Cowen’s book has been both a marketing coup and an intellectual game changer.  It has gotten people to focus on issues they intuitively knew were out there, but for which they lacked a framework for thinking about."

3. Eric Falkenstein on TGS.

4. "Mobile money," in Kenya.

5. Index method?  why not just read the thing?

6. Do "Best Actress" winners have shorter marriages?

7. More on Iceland vs. Ireland.


"But those sarcastic comments come from little people, envious of great men like Thomas Friedman."

Whoa there Kemosabe.

Envious? Why? Of stuff like this?

"any car company that gets taxpayer money must demonstrate a plan for transforming every vehicle in its fleet to a hybrid-electric engine with flex-fuel capability, so its entire fleet can also run on next generation cellulosic ethanol"

If not his views, then of his influence? Did that influence get us where we got?

If not his influence, then what? Does he get lots of 'tang? Not interested.

I think Scott Sumner makes the mistake of assuming everyone thinks like a climbing academic.

Quick, Scott. Name an engineer.

Sumner: "As soon as I saw Tyler Cowen compared to Thomas Friedman, I knew that his commenters would ridicule him mercilessly. And I was right."

Basically, the envious charge is going to sound sticky the elite ear (although I think he might not have understood the nature of the snark, noone was ridiculing Tyler, and if he was right, maybe he should trust his gut more), but really, nothing Thomas Friedman has would really help me with my life. Maybe the money, but if I'm going to be envious of someone for money I might as well pick Warren Buffett. Have you read what a disaster Warren Buffett's personal life is?

Tyler that very first link is incorrect.

pretty solid to suggest that it may be the most important non-fiction book of the year on February 1st...

Sumner's quote only furthers my belief that many academics, regardless of their degree of intelligence, view the world through an array of very narrow tubes.

(How did those predictions for China ruling the world in 2010 come along, Mr. Sumner?)

re: #2

I think that densifying successfully will require solving the problems of urban crime, public schooling with diverse populations, and successful ability of former suburbanites to restrict who lives in an area. Absent a solution to these political problems, no technological solution will work. Europe has tended to traditionally maintain better public schools -- at least with respect to preserving the prerogatives of the upper classes. Where this is breaking down (see parts of Paris and southern Europe) you also see movements towards private schooling or self segregation through high priced real estate. Crime and schooling are really big issues and if DC is an example there's no way you get a viable equilibrium in which middle class families with children will accept living in large urban areas.

Read the first chapter. With most american academics books is enough. After that , they repeat ad nauseam the same idea

And "densifying" to get more low-hanging fruit, from Ryan Avent.

I noticed that too and connected the idea of density with Steven Berlin Johnson's "adjacent possible," which he develops in Where Good Ideas Come From:

[O]ne unstated idea in The Great Stagnation is that by learning about the idea of stagnating industrial economies, we might learn how to get out of them. Cowen has one answer, which is to raise the social status of scientists (this is always a good idea but seems improbable to me: admiring athletes and celebrities seems like a nearly universe behavior). Once alerted to this large-scale danger, we might be able to take small-scale steps to get out of it. One might be to combine Cowen’s description of slowing technological change, which he explains thoroughly, to Steven Berlin Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From. . . .

If we’re going to get more people together in the dense clusters that might lead to the major innovative breakthroughs necessary to power the economy, the solution might be to find a system or systems to implement some of Johnson’s major ideas. Universities already do a reasonably good job of this, but there may be other ways. For example, I imagine that Johnson would favor the idea of cities without major height restrictions, which would allow more people to interact and exchange ideas while spending less commuting time.

Still, as I think about this more after reading Avent's post, I'm not sure this would qualify as "low-hanging fruit:" it would require a lot of public transportation investment, city code rewriting, and a fundamental reorientation of policy. This would be hard in real terms and political ones. I might call it "medium-hanging fruit," mostly because it would be very hard but is at least possible given what we have—meaning it doesn't require immediate technological breakthrough.

Are there any reviews from people actually involved in fields that innovate? An awful lot of writers and economists, few (no?) scientists or engineers.

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