Thinks 120

How a group of 20 people from diverse backgrounds created an affordable, world-class ventilator during the lockdown: from The Hindu. “It was late March 2020, and WHO had just declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. India needed ventilators — reliable and affordable. In the midst of the lockdown, a group of 20 people came together over Zoom and WhatsApp — young techies and seasoned medical professionals, entrepreneurs and academics — and pulled off the unimaginable: in just 90 days, the Nocca Robotics team (a start-up incubated at IIT Kanpur) created a world-class, cost-effective, life-saving ventilator, complete with clinical validation. In their book, The Ventilator Project, authors Srikant Sastri, mentor to start-ups and incubators across the country, and Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, professor in charge of the technology business incubator at IIT Kanpur, chronicle this story of collaboration that catalysed an engineering feat.”

Restoring India’s political middle ground: by Swati and Ramesh Ramanathan. “India’s political debate is stuck between a liberal anti-Modi network, which enjoys global intellectual power, and the Modi regime’s supporters, who enjoy domestic electoral power. Nuance and complexity are lost…India faces complex challenges on a variety of fronts. Each of these needs equally complex solutions that can only emerge from substantive, nuanced debates. These exchanges can be intense, even bare-knuckled, pitting one set of ideas against another. But this can only happen when India has a large and vibrant political middle.”

James Otteson: “The fact that a proposed course of action would lead to a good result is necessary but not by itself sufficient to justify doing it. We must show not only that the proposed course of action would lead to a good result but in addition that it would lead to a better result than the other available alternatives.” [via CafeHayek]

Thinks 119

A bright future for the world of work: An Economist special report. “Focusing on the 37 countries that are members of the OECD club of mostly rich countries, it argues that popular perceptions about the world of work are largely misleading. The labour market before covid-19 was far from perfect, but it was better than many critics were claiming—and it was getting better still. The pandemic has been a catastrophe for many, as this report will describe in detail. But its lasting legacy may be a better world of work, as it speeds changes that were already under way and highlights those places where further improvement is needed.”

More city for the buck: 15th Finance Commission support for urban local governments must deliver better, by giving them more autonomy: by Pushpa Pathak. The need for more devolution – the principle of subsidiarity.

What a Tiny Masterpiece Reveals About Power and Beauty: from the New York Times.”Shah Jahan commissioned this one right around the time he took the throne, at 36. It was painted by an artist called Chitarman…[in 1627-28].” Absolutely amazing visualisations.

Thinks 118

A Sixty-Year-Old Tool to Assess Capital Allocation Decisions: from BloombergQuint (Marcellus View). “The Ansoff Matrix helps to think of the sources of growth as coming either from new products or from new markets…Once growth opportunities are fully exploited in the core business, the natural progression for a company is to either take its products into newer markets (new customers) or expand its product portfolio while continuing to operate in the same market. This should be followed by achieving dominance in the new markets or new products, and so on and so forth.”

How to Answer the ‘Trap Question’: by Andy Kessler. “A business’s purpose is to increase profits? Change that to ‘find profitable solutions.’”

Donald Boudreaux: “A government that acts without rules, that consistently changes course in favor of exercising ever-more and longer-lasting power, and that now refuses to publicly state guidelines for ending its unprecedented assault on ordinary human liberties is tyrannical. I don’t see how this word fails to accurately describe today’s British government – as well as many other governments across the globe. All tyrants claim that their harsh exercise of arbitrary power is necessary to protect the people from terrible evil. Some tyrants, I’m sure, even make these claims sincerely. Further, all tyrants’ claims to rule in the interest of The People are widely believed by The People. Tyrants who are popularly understood to be tyrants never actually become tyrants because their support remains too narrow. In short, most victims of tyranny never recognize their fate until it’s too late.”

Thinks 117

The Man Who Made Online College Work: from WSJ. “Years before Covid, Zvi Galil launched Georgia Tech’s successful online master’s in computer science…What the Georgia Tech “experiment” has taught us, Mr. Galil says, is that there is “a very high, maybe even huge unmet demand for higher education right now” from people who haven’t been part of the traditional pool for campus recruitment. “These are working people, often without the ability to pay high fees, living sometimes a long way from any college.” Universities will find ways to address their needs, mostly through online instruction. But Mr. Galil believes there will always be a place for campus-based colleges.”

The passion economy and the Web’s hot new business model: by Jaspreet Bindra. “This concept, of enabling people with an online following to make money from sales, was initially popularized in China. Then came Twitch, which did this in gaming; Patreon, which enabled crowdfunding for artists; and then Substack, which helps writers monetize their blogs. The pioneer, though, was perhaps YouTube, with kids in the US three times more likely to want to become YouTubers than astronauts.”

How Pandemics Change the Course of History: from Bloomberg. “A look at centuries of scourges shows the unpredictable impacts that often take years to reveal themselves.

Thinks 116

Andrew Wilkinson Twitter thread:”This is a story about how I lost $10,000,000 by doing something stupid. Ten. Million. Dollars. Literally up in smoke. Money bonfire. That’s enough to retire with $250,000+ in annual income. Here’s what happened…”

Ariyh: An excellent Substack on marketing tips based on research.

The Ordoliberal Quest for a Privilege-Free Order: “The ordoliberal concept of the competitive order contains insights on two levels: the economic and the political. In the economy, competition must be unleashed, following Böhm’s motto that “competition as the most ingenious disempowerment instrument in history.”..In the political order, the goal was to find governance forms which would prohibit the 1920s from happening again, especially the fierce competition for rents by special interests. The key ordoliberal notion of policy is captured in the difficult-to-translate term “Ordnungspolitik,” which bases legislation as often as possible on general rules and as seldom as possible on privilege and discrimination.”


Thinks 115

A DNA Sequencing Revolution Helped Us Fight Covid. What Else Can It Do?: from NYTimes. “Once the [SARS-CoV-2] sequence was in the public realm, Moderna, an obscure biotech company in Cambridge, Mass., immediately began working with the National Institutes of Health on a plan. “They never had the virus on site at all; they really just used the sequence, and they viewed it as a software problem,” Francis deSouza, the chief executive of Illumina, which makes the sequencer that Zhang used, told me with some amazement last summer, six months before the Moderna vaccine received an emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.

China Creates Its Own Digital Currency, a First for Major Economy: from WSJ. “A cyber yuan stands to give Beijing power to track spending in real time, plus money that isn’t linked to the dollar-dominated global financial system.”

How I Became a Libertarian: by Meir Kohn. “I did not become a libertarian because I was persuaded by philosophical arguments — those of Ayn Rand or F. A. Hayek, for example. Rather, I became a libertarian because I was persuaded by my own experiences and observations of reality…The consequences of intervention are rarely what we expect or desire.”

Thinks 114

A Private Tech City Opens for Business in Honduras: from Bloomberg. “Próspera is the first project to gain approval from Honduras to start a privately governed charter city, under a national program started in 2013. It has its own constitution of sorts and a 3,500-page legal code with frameworks for political representation and the resolution of legal disputes, as well as minimum wage (higher than Honduras’s) and income taxes (lower in most cases). After nearly half a decade of development, the settlement will announce next week that it will begin considering applications from potential residents this summer. The first colonists will be e-residents.”

Rathin Roy: “Putting India back on the growth track demands a robust analytical framework to address the structural downturn in the economy caused by Covid-19.”

James Otteson: “An objective look at the limitation of our knowledge – how difficult is it to know whether we are making good decisions even in our own lives, let alone in those of anyone else? – reveals that in fact we are typically in no position to judge what is good for others. We do not possess the detailed, personal, contextualized, historical information that is required to know what constitute good choices for others….” [via CafeHayek]

Thinks 113

Jamin Ball on SaaS valuations: 6-25X NTM (next twelve months) revenue, based on growth.

Bryan Caplan: “What motivates businesspeople?  While the full answer is complex, the basic answer is clear: Money.  People run businesses to get richer – and ideally, to get rich.  And whenever I get a small taste of the challenges businesspeople overcome, not to mention the disrespect they endure in our society, I have to say that businesspeople earn every penny.  As someone who definitely does not want your job, entrepreneurs of the world, I thank you.”

Milton and Rose Friedman: “Another fallacy seldom contradicted is that exports are good, imports bad. The truth is very different. We cannot eat, wear, or enjoy the goods we send abroad. We eat bananas from Central America, wear Italian shoes, drive German automobiles, and enjoy programs on our Japanese TV sets. Our gain from foreign trade is what we import. Exports are the price we pay to get imports. As Adam Smith saw so clearly, the citizens of a nation benefit from getting as large a volume of imports as possible in return for its exports, or equivalently, from exporting as little as possible to pay for its imports.” [via CafeHayek.]

Thinks 112

Microsoft report on Hybrid as the future of work: “Employees want the best of both worlds: over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, 66 percent of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.”

Time to undo the RTE bias against private non-minority institutions: By Aankhi Ghosh. “Not only has RTE unreasonably differentiated between minority and non-minority schools without any explicable basis, there is also no rational nexus between the object of universal education it seeks to achieve and the exclusion of minority schools from its purview.”

Will Durant: “People spend too much time on the last 24 hours and not enough time on the last 6,000 years.”

Thinks 111

Andrew Ng in Technology review on AI: “A very frequent mistake I see CEOs and CIOs make: they say to me something like “Hey, Andrew, we don’t have that much data—my data’s a mess. So give me two years to build a great IT infrastructure. Then we’ll have all this great data on which to build AI.” I always say, “That’s a mistake. Don’t do that.” First, I don’t think any company on the planet today—maybe not even the tech giants—thinks their data is completely clean and perfect. It’s a journey. Spending two or three years to build a beautiful data infrastructure means that you’re lacking feedback from the AI team to help prioritize what IT infrastructure to build.”

The top 150 intellectuals, selected competitively: by Arnold Kling, as part of Fantasy Intellectual Teams. Top 5: Joe Rogan, Tyler Cowen, Joel Kotkin, Scott Alexander (pseudonym), Russ Roberts.

Which famous economist are you most similar to?