"Humans need not apply"

Been seeing the following video floating around on the internet for the last week or so and it seems to more or less sum up my views on the topic of automation:

i.e. It seems relatively clear to me that a lot of jobs currently done by humans are likely to disappear. The inevitability of that is what this video focuses on. At the same point there doesn't seem to be an easy way to deal with the political or economic implications of this - but that's where the video seems to leave things - roughly the same rut in which my mind is stuck looking for solutions.

Random links

Academic urban legends
Spinach may not be as healthy as you think: "a decimal point error appears to have misled millions into believing that spinach is a good nutritional source of iron. Through this example, I demonstrate how an academic urban legend can be conceived and born, and can continue to grow and reproduce within academia and beyond."
When to go to war
"How can we tell a necessary from an unnecessary war? It’s not easy, but here’s one test. If they say you should fight to make the world a better place, decline. If they say you should fight to prevent the world from becoming worse, consider it."
Women Are Underrepresented In Politics, But It's Not For The Reason You Think
One reason to be cautious in listening to feminist tales: they might make things worse for women. "Women are very likely to believe that when they run for office, they don’t do as well as men. There’s no empirical evidence to support that ... When women run, they actually perform just as well on Election Day, they’re able to raise just as much money, and generally speaking, their media coverage looks very much the same. But what we found was that women who are well-situated to run for office don’t know that and don’t think that. So they believe they’re not qualified because they think women have to be twice as good to get half as far."
This Is The One Area Where Women Earn More Than Men
"At the lowest end of part-time positions — people who work only one to four hours per week — men earn 14.3% more than women. Then, as weekly hours increase, women consistently make more than men until hitting the 40-hour-a-week mark. From there on up, their median weekly earnings taper off in comparison to men."

Ebola: what would you expect pharmaceutical companies to do?

I'm not sure if you've been following the ebola outbreak in Africa that's killed close to a thousand people at this point, but one interesting element is that a couple of Americans were treated with an experimental drug which seems to have improved their prognosis quite dramatically. The Telegraph asserted that:

... health workers said drugs that could fight Ebola are not particularly complicated but pharmaceutical firms see no economic reason to invest in making them because the virus’ few victims are poor Africans. ... A lot of that has to do with what Prof John Ashton, Britain’s leading public health doctor, termed the “moral bankruptcy” of profit-driven drugs developers.

I've read through a number of articles on the ebola outbreak, but the pointer to the particular article above came via Alex Tabarrok. There he made a point that seems worth repeating:

The logic of profit-driven drug developers is no different than the logic of profit driving automobile manufactures. It isn’t profitable to make cars for people who can’t afford them but the auto firms are rarely called morally bankrupt for not giving cars away to the poor. Moreover, it’s not at all obvious why the burden of producing unprofitable drugs should fall on the drug manufacturers. To the extent that there is an ethical case for developing drugs for the poor it’s a burden that falls on all of us.

It's unclear to me why we should require companies in certain industries to operate as charities if such standards aren't applied to other sectors. It does seem to me a good case for (a) private charity be it by drug companies or any other person or corporation willing to supply funds, (b) some level of government involvement, and (c) the possibility of reducing testing standards such that investing in this area becomes more promising - i.e. per the linked blog post, FDA testing standards for new drugs seem to be resulting in more ebola deaths at present rather than fewer.

"The Everything Bubble"

See this July 7th piece. The New York Times there sounds almost as cynical as me when it comes to investment opportunities:

Welcome to the Everything Boom — and, quite possibly, the Everything Bubble. Around the world, nearly every asset class is expensive by historical standards. Stocks and bonds; emerging markets and advanced economies; urban office towers and Iowa farmland; you name it, and it is trading at prices that are high by historical standards relative to fundamentals. The inverse of that is relatively low returns for investors.

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