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August 31, 2017

Pessimistic Are Best Prepared for Bad News

(p. A13) In a study published in the journal "Emotion" in February, 2016, Dr. Sweeny and colleagues at the University of California, Riverside, showed that people resort to a number of coping strategies to manage their discomfort while waiting for an outcome. Dr. Sweeny calls this "misery management."

. . .

None of these coping mechanisms worked, according to the study. They failed to reduce the participants' distress--and some even made it worse. . . .

A better way to wait, the researchers found, is when participants agonized through their waiting period, ruminating and feeling anxious and pessimistic rather than attempting to minimize their anxiety and worry. Those who did this responded more productively to bad news and more joyfully to good news than participants who suffered little during the wait. This is "waiting well."

For the full commentary, see:

Elizabeth Bernstein. "When a Little Agonizing Helps." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 23, 2017): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 22, 2017, and has the title "How to Manage a Long Wait for News.")

The paper co-authored by Sweeney, and mentioned above, is:

Sweeny, Kate, Chandra A. Reynolds, Angelica Falkenstein, Sara E. Andrews, and Michael D. Dooley. "Two Definitions of Waiting Well." Emotion 16, no. 1 (Feb. 2016): 129-43.

August 30, 2017

Higher-Paid Finance Jobs Moving from NYC and San Francisco to Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Dallas

FinanceJobsMigrateFromNYCandSF2017-08-15.pngSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) Traditional finance hubs have yet to recover all the jobs lost during the recession, but the industry is booming in places like Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Dallas. The migration has accelerated as investment firms face declining profitability and soaring real estate costs.

. . .

"San Francisco is a wonderful place, but unfortunately it's an expensive place from a real estate standpoint," said Brian McDonald, a senior vice president for Schwab. "So we had to identify other places where we could make things work."

While the finance industry has been relocating entry-level jobs since the late 1980s, today's moves are claiming higher-paid jobs in human resources, compliance and asset management, chipping away at New York City's middle class, said (p. B2) Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit that represents the city's business leadership.

"This industry isn't just a bunch of rich Wall Street guys," Ms. Wylde said. "It's a big source of employment that's disappearing from New York."

For the full story, see:

Asjylyn Loder. "Wall Street's New Frontier." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., JULY 27, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 26, 2017, and has the title "Passive Migration: Denver Wins Big as Financial Firms Relocate to Cut Costs.")

August 29, 2017

Seattle Increase in Minimum Wage Results in Fewer Hours Worked, and Lower Incomes

(p. A13) By now you have read 15 articles on the Seattle minimum-wage fiasco. Since the city boosted its local minimum from $9.47 in 2014 to $13 last year (on its way to $15), a detailed investigation by University of Washington economists finds that beneficiaries actually saw their incomes fall by a net $125 a month because employers cut their hours.

. . .

The impetus came from people who don't actually earn the minimum wage--labor-union leaders and think-tankers and activist organizations.

. . .

Organizers look fondly to Denmark, where a McDonald's line worker receives $41,000 a year and five weeks of paid vacation. As the Atlantic put it two years ago, "Unionizing workers at McDonald's and other fast-food chains might be a long shot, but if it succeeds, it might help lift a million or more workers into the middle class (or at least into the lower middle class) and create a model for low-wage workers in other industries."

This sounds pretty but is misleading in a fundamental way. The workers a McDonald's franchise would hire at $15 an hour are different from those it would hire at $8.29, the average earned by a fast-food worker today.

Costs would go up. The industry would likely shrink, it would likely replace workers with automation, but it would still create jobs at $15 an hour for people whose productivity can justify $15 an hour. The people who work at McDonald's today, typically, would already be earning $15 an hour somewhere else if their productivity could justify $15 an hour.

Everybody needs to start somewhere, including the unskilled and those who lack a work history. Some need a job that doesn't demand much of them. They have other obligations. They accept less pay to maximize flexibility and freedom from responsibility. They don't plan to make a career of it. The fast-food industry in America is built on such people.

For the full commentary, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. "Seattle Aims at McDonald's, Hits Workers." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 1, 2017): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 30, 2017.)

The Seattle minimum wage paper, mentioned above, is:

Jardim, Ekaterina, Mark C. Long, Robert Plotnick, Emma van Inwegen, Jacob Vigdor, and Hilary Wething. "Minimum Wage Increases, Wages, and Low-Wage Employment: Evidence from Seattle." National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series, # 23532, June 2017.

August 28, 2017

"Splendid Tutorial" of Bitcoin, Distributed Ledgers, and Smart Contracts

(p. A13) 'The future is already here--it's just not very evenly distributed." The aphorism coined by novelist William Gibson explains why Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson's tour of the technologies that are shaping the future of business, "Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future," contains sights that are already familiar and others that are not. This is a book for managers whose companies sit well back from the edge and who would like a digestible introduction to technology trends that may not have reached their doorstep--yet.

. . .

In the penultimate chapter, the authors present a splendid tutorial on things that are too new for most civilians to have gained a good understanding of--cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, distributed ledgers, and smart contracts. The authors present the theoretical possibility that conventional contracts and the human handling of disputes could be rendered obsolete by dense networks of sensors in the physical world and extremely detailed contracts anticipating all contingencies so that machines alone can handle enforcement. But they show that computing power, however much it grows, seems unlikely to replace the human component for dispute resolution.

For the full review, see:

Randall Stross. "BOOKSHELF; The Future On Fast Forward; GE used 'crowdfunding' to gauge interest in a new ice maker. McDonald's has begun adding self-service ordering in all its U.S. locations.." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., July 6, 2017): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 5, 2017.)

The book under review, is:

McAfee, Andrew, and Erik Brynjolfsson. Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.

August 27, 2017

Some New Jobs Require Same Skills as Old Jobs Did

(p. B1) . . . many of the skills needed to do fading jobs are applicable to growing jobs.

. . .

(p. B2) A New York Times review of the activities and skills that jobs entail, based on the Labor Department's O*Net database, shows how much overlap there is between many seemingly dissimilar occupations. Service industry jobs, for example, require social skills and experience working with customers -- which also apply to sales and office jobs.

. . .

. . . , employers hire based on credentials that job applicants can't change -- a college degree or previous job title -- rather than assessing the skills an applicant has developed, said Mr. Auguste, who was an economic adviser in the Obama administration. He said the approach should instead be, "If you learned it at Harvard or Cal State Northridge or on the job as a secretary or in the Navy or as a volunteer, awesome."

For the full commentary, see:

CLAIRE CAIN MILLER and QUOCTRUNG BUI. "The Upshot; Old Skills, New Career." The New York Times (Fri., JULY 28, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 27, 2017, and has the title "The Upshot; Switching Careers Doesn't Have to Be Hard: Charting Jobs That Are Similar to Yours.")

August 26, 2017

Solid Tumor Gene Therapy Studies Plod Along

(p. A1) The approval of gene therapy for leukemia, expected in the next few months, will open the door to a radically new class of cancer treatments.

Companies and universities are racing to develop these new therapies, which re-engineer and turbocharge millions of a patient's own immune cells, turning them into cancer killers that researchers call a "living drug." One of the big goals now is to get them to work for many other cancers, including those of the breast, prostate, ovary, lung and pancreas.

"This has been utterly transformative in blood cancers," said Dr. Stephan Grupp, director of the cancer immunotherapy program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and a leader of major studies. "If it can start to work in solid tumors, it will be utterly transformative for the whole field."

But it will take time to find that out, he said, at least five years.

For the full story, see:

DENISE GRADY. "Companies Rush to Develop 'Utterly Transformative' Gene Therapies." The New York Times (Mon., JULY 24, 2017): A1 & A17.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 23, 2017, and has the title "Racing to Alter Patients' Cells To Kill Cancer.")

August 25, 2017

A.I. "Continues to Struggle in the Real World"

The passages quoted below are authored by an NYU professor of psychology and neural science.

(p. 6) Artificial Intelligence is colossally hyped these days, but the dirty little secret is that it still has a long, long way to go. Sure, A.I. systems have mastered an array of games, from chess and Go to "Jeopardy" and poker, but the technology continues to struggle in the real world. Robots fall over while opening doors, prototype driverless cars frequently need human intervention, and nobody has yet designed a machine that can read reliably at the level of a sixth grader, let alone a college student. Computers that can educate themselves -- a mark of true intelligence -- remain a dream.

Even the trendy technique of "deep learning," which uses artificial neural networks to discern complex statistical correlations in huge amounts of data, often comes up short. Some of the best image-recognition systems, for example, can successfully distinguish dog breeds, yet remain capable of major blunders, like mistaking a simple pattern of yellow and black stripes for a school bus. Such systems can neither comprehend what is going on in complex visual scenes ("Who is chasing whom and why?") nor follow simple instructions ("Read this story and summarize what it means").

Although the field of A.I. is exploding with microdiscoveries, progress toward the robustness and flexibility of human cognition remains elusive. Not long ago, for example, while sitting with me in a cafe, my 3-year-old daughter spontaneously realized that she could climb out of her chair in a new way: backward, by sliding through the gap between the back and the seat of the chair. My daughter had never seen anyone else disembark in quite this way; she invented it on her own -- and without the benefit of trial and error, or the need for terabytes of labeled data.

Presumably, my daughter relied on an implicit theory of how her body moves, along with an implicit theory of physics -- how one complex object travels through the aperture of another. I challenge any robot to do the same. A.I. systems tend to be passive vessels, dredging through data in search of statistical correlations; humans are active engines for discovering how things work.

For the full commentary, see:

GARY MARCUS. "Gray Matter; A.I. Is Stuck. Let's Unstick It." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., JULY 30, 2017): 6.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 29, 2017, and has the title "Gray Matter; Artificial Intelligence Is Stuck. Here's How to Move It Forward.")

August 24, 2017

Who Was the Breakfast Cereal Innovator?

(p. A15) . . . , it turns out that the turn-of-the-last-century origin and evolution of the cereal industry was a very nasty and unpleasant bit of business, as Howard Markel chronicles in "The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek."

. . .

The Kelloggs (and others) thought that an easily digestible corn cereal might solve all the problems. The birth of breakfast cereal is a tortured tale. Both Kellogg brothers would insist on having made the crucial innovations, as would others, including the most successful copycat, C.W. Post, who moved to Battle Creek to make his new Shredded Wheat. Shredded Wheat became a top seller after John failed to conclude a deal to buy Post's company and, worse, refused to aggressively sell the Kellogg cereal because he thought it unseemly for a medical doctor, and his increasingly famous sanitarium ("the San"), to sell a commercial product.

Through it all, John's younger brother, Will--a plump, colorless, diligent numbers man--served as his long-suffering factotum. "The doctor was the San's showman and carnival barker," Mr. Markel writes, "while Will kept the place running smoothly and served as a brake to his brother's tendency to make poor and costly business decisions." Mr. Markel's portrayal of the sibling dynamic edges a bit into a Scrooge-and-Cratchit stereotype, though it is amply backed up by anecdotes, such as the many times poor Will was obliged to take dictation while John sat on the toilet.

In 1905, after 25 years of this, Will said "enough." He made a deal with John to leave the San and start a cereal company of his own, which in time became a global conglomerate.

For the full review, see:

Bryan Burrough. "BOOKSHELF; The Battle of Battle Creek." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Aug. 14, 2017): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 13, 2017, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; The Birth of a Cereal Empire.")

The book under review, is:

Markel, Howard. The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek. New York: Pantheon, 2017.

August 23, 2017

Gene Editing of Embryos Promises to Cure Inherited Diseases

(p. A13) For the first time in the United States, scientists have edited the genes of human embryos, a controversial step toward someday helping babies avoid inherited diseases.

. . .

The Oregon scientists reportedly used a technique called CRISPR, which allows specific sections of DNA to be altered or replaced. It's like using a molecular scissors to cut and paste DNA, and is much more precise than some types of gene therapy that cannot ensure that desired changes will take place exactly where and as intended. With gene editing, these so-called "germline" changes are permanent and would be passed down to any offspring.

The approach holds great potential to avoid many genetic diseases, . . .

. . .

One prominent genetics expert, Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, California, said gene editing of embryos is "an unstoppable, inevitable science, and this is more proof it can be done."

Experiments are in the works now in the U.S. using gene-edited cells to try to treat people with various diseases, but "in order to really have a cure, you want to get this at the embryo stage," he said.

For the full story, see:

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. "U.S. Scientists Edit Genes in Human Embryo." The New York Times (Fri., JULY 28, 2017): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 27, 2017, and has the title "In U.S. First, Scientists Edit Genes of Human Embryos.")

August 22, 2017

Global Warming Would Increase Access to Arctic's "Natural Beauty"

(p. A1) When the Crystal Serenity, a 1,000-passenger luxury liner, sails in August on a monthlong Arctic cruise through the Northwest Passage, it will have a far more utilitarian escort: a British supply ship.

The Ernest Shackleton, which normally resupplies scientific bases in Antarctica, will help with the logistics of shore excursions along the route from Alaska to New York through Canada's Arctic Archipelago.

. . .

As global warming reduces the extent of sea ice in the Arctic, more ships -- cargo carriers as well as liners like the Serenity taking tourists to see the region's natural beauty -- will be plying far-northern waters.

For the full story, see:

HENRY FOUNTAIN. "As Liners Ply Arctic, Worry Tempers Thrill." The New York Times (Mon., JULY 24, 2017): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 23, 2017, and has the title "With More Ships in the Arctic, Fears of Disaster Rise.")

August 21, 2017

Rising Hurricane Costs Due to More Rich People Choosing to Live on Coast

(p. A15) "An Inconvenient Truth" promoted the frightening narrative that higher temperatures mean more extreme weather, especially hurricanes. The movie poster showed a hurricane emerging from a smokestack. Mr. Gore appears to double down on this by declaring in the new film's trailer: "Storms get stronger and more destructive. Watch the water splash off the city. This is global warming."

This is misleading. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--in its Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2013--found "low confidence" of increased hurricane activity to date because of global warming. Storms are causing more damage, but primarily because more wealthy people choose to live on the coast, not because of rising temperatures.

Even if tropical storms strengthen by 2100, their relative cost likely will decrease. In a 2012 article for the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers showed that hurricane damage now costs 0.04% of global gross domestic product. If climate change makes hurricanes stronger, absolute costs will double by 2100. But the world will also be much wealthier and less vulnerable, so the total damage is estimated at only 0.02% of global GDP.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. "Al Gore's Climate Sequel Misses a Few Inconvenient Facts; Eleven years after his first climate-change film, he's still trying to scare you into saving the world." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 28, 2017): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 27, 2017.)

August 20, 2017

Inventor Haber and Entrepreneur Bosch Created "an Inflection Point in History"

(p. C7) . . . , Mr. Kean's narrative of scientific discovery jumps back and forth. The first episode narrated in detail is Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch's conversion of nitrogen into ammonia, the crucial step in producing artificial fertilizer, which Mr. Kean characterizes as "an inflection point in history" that in the 20th century "transformed the very air into bread." The process consumes 1% of the global energy supply, producing 175 million tons of ammonia fertilizer a year and generating half the world's food. Haber and Bosch both won Nobel Prizes but were subsequently tainted by their involvement in developing chlorine gas for the German military.

The book's middle section turns back the clock to steam power, the technology that launched the Industrial Revolution. James Watt was its master craftsman, though Mr. Kean confesses that, as "a sucker for mechanical simplicity," he regards Watt's pioneering engine, with its separate condenser, as "a bunch of crap cobbled together." A more elegant application of gases was Henry Bessemer's process for making steel, which used blasts of compressed air to make obsolete the laborious and energy-hungry mixing of liquid cast iron and carbon.

For the full review, see:

Mike Jay. "Adventures in the Atmosphere." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 22, 2017): C7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 21, 2017.)

The book under review, is:

Kean, Sam. Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017.

August 19, 2017

Artificial Technology Can Make Food Safer

(p. A11) . . . the wider food-handling community increasingly is calling for a "kill step" in handling raw vegetables and produce.

Cooking (properly) is a kill step that works for food that is cooked.

. . .

After the 2015 disaster, Chipotle hired Prof. James Marsden of Kansas State University's renowned food safety program. By the details released so far, the company has indeed begun experimenting with kill steps. These include blanching--dipping produce in boiling water--or spritzing with "natural" pathogen-neutralizers like lemon juice. Certain tasks have also been shifted to a central, McDonald's -style kitchen and away from the local restaurant, though the company says certain steps were reversed when customers complained about the taste or appearance of their meals.

. . . Many in the food-safety camp are already keen on more-energetic kill steps, such as irradiation, chemical treatment with ozone or chlorine compounds, or the use of high-barometric-pressure systems.

. . .

A 2007 KSU study put volunteers in a test kitchen to see if they could follow directions safely to prepare frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products. Many couldn't. Among the findings: 100% of adolescents (the kind that work in fast-food restaurants) claimed they washed their hands when video monitoring showed they hadn't.

For the full commentary, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. "Chipotle Seeks a 'Kill Step'; America's growing taste for fresh greens is a challenge to food-handling practices." The Wall Street Journal (Sat.., July 29, 2017): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 28, 2017.)

August 18, 2017

Russian Regulators Jail Entrepreneur for Innovating "Too Fast and Too Freely"

(p. A1) AKADEMGORODOK, Russia -- Dmitri Trubitsyn is a young physicist-entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation, seen in this part of Siberia as an exemplar of the talents, dedication and enterprise that President Vladimir V. Putin has hailed as vital for Russia's future economic health.

Yet Mr. Trubitsyn faces up to eight years in jail after a recent raid on his home and office here in Akademgorodok, a Soviet-era sanctuary of scientific research that was supposed to showcase how Mr. Putin's Russia can harness its abundance of talent to create a modern economy.

A court last Thursday [August 3, 2017] extended Mr. Trubitsyn's house arrest until at least October, which bars him from leaving his apartment or communicating with anyone other than his immediate family. Mr. Trubitsyn, 36, whose company, Tion, manufactures high-tech air-purification systems for homes and hospitals, is accused of risking the lives of hospital patients, and trying to lift profits, by upgrading the purifiers so they would consume less electricity.

Most important, he is accused of doing this without state regulators certifying the changes.

It is a case that highlights the tensions between Mr. Putin's aspirations for a dynamic private sector and his determination to enhance the powers of Russia's security apparatus. Using a 2014 law meant to protect Russians from counterfeit medicine, investigators from the Federal Security Service, the post-Soviet KGB, and other agencies have accused Mr. Trubitsyn of leading a criminal conspiracy to, essentially, innovate too fast and too freely.

. . .

(p. A9) Irina Travina, the founder of a software start-up and head of the local technology-business association, said Akademgorodok was "the best place in Russia," with "outstanding schools, low crime and a high concentration of very smart people."

But she said Mr. Trubitsyn's arrest had delivered a grave blow to the community's sense of security.

"In principle, anyone can fall into this situation," Ms. Travina said, praising Mr. Trubitsyn as a patriot because he had not moved abroad and had invested time and money in science education for local children. "It can happen to anybody," she added. "Everyone has some sort of skeleton in their closet. Maybe nothing big, but they can always find something to throw you in jail for."

For the full story, see:

ANDREW HIGGINS. "Russia Wants Innovation, but Jails Innovators." The New York Times (Thurs., AUG. 10, 2017): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 9, 2017, and has the title "Russia Wants Innovation, but It's Arresting Its Innovators.")

August 17, 2017

War and Pandemics Are Greater Threats than Global Warming

(p. A17) To arrive at a wise policy response, we first need to consider how much economic damage climate change will do. Current models struggle to come up with economic costs commensurate with apocalyptic political rhetoric. Typical costs are well below 10% of gross domestic product in the year 2100 and beyond.

That's a lot of money--but it's a lot of years, too. Even 10% less GDP in 100 years corresponds to 0.1 percentage point less annual GDP growth. Climate change therefore does not justify policies that cost more than 0.1 percentage point of growth. If the goal is 10% more GDP in 100 years, pro-growth tax, regulatory and entitlement reforms would be far more effective.

. . .

Global warming is not the only risk our society faces. Even if science tells us that climate change is real and man-made, it does not tell us, as President Obama asserted, that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Really? Greater than nuclear explosions, a world war, global pandemics, crop failures and civil chaos?

No. Healthy societies do not fall apart over slow, widely predicted, relatively small economic adjustments of the sort painted by climate analysis. Societies do fall apart from war, disease or chaos. Climate policy must compete with other long-term threats for always-scarce resources.

For the full commentary, see:

David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane. "Climate Change Isn't the End of the World; Even if world temperatures rise, the appropriate policy response is still an open question." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., July 31, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 30, 2017.)

August 16, 2017

"Shannon's Principles of Redundancy and Error Correction"

(p. C7) There were four essential prophets whose mathematics brought us into the Information Age: Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Alan Turing and Claude Shannon. In "A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age," Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman make a convincing case for their subtitle while reminding us that Shannon never made this claim himself.

. . .

The only one of the four Information Age pioneers who was also an electrical engineer, Shannon was practical as well as brilliant.

. . .

Wiener's theory of information, drawing on his own background in thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and the study of random processes, was cloaked in opaque mathematics that was impenetrable to most working engineers.

. . .

"Before Shannon," Messrs. Soni and Goodman write, "information was a telegram, a photograph, a paragraph, a song. After Shannon, information was entirely abstracted." He derived explicit formulas for rates of transmission, the capacity of an ideal channel, ability to correct errors and coding efficiency that could be understood by anyone familiar with logarithms to the base 2.

Mathematicians use mathematics to understand things. Engineers use mathematics to build things. Engineers love logarithms as a carpenter loves a familiar tool. The electronic engineers who flooded into civilian life in the aftermath of World War II adopted Shannon's theory as passionately as they had avoided Wiener's, bringing us the age of digital machines.

. . .

Despite the progress of technology, we still have no clear understanding of how memories are stored in our own brains: Shannon's principles of redundancy and error correction are no doubt involved in preserving memory, but how does the process work and why does it sometimes fail? Shannon died of Alzheimer's disease in February 2001. The mind that gave us the collective memory we now so depend on had its own memory taken away.

For the full review, see:

George Dyson. "The Elegance of Ones and Zeroes." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 22, 2017): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 21, 2017.)

The book under review, is:

Soni, Jimmy, and Rob Goodman. A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

August 15, 2017

Code Schools Provide Intense 12 Week Training, and Jobs

(p. B1) Across the U.S., change is coming for the ecosystem of employers, educational institutions and job-seekers who confront the increasingly software-driven nature of work. A potent combination--a yawning skills gap, stagnant middle-class wages and diminished career prospects for millennials--is bringing about a rapid shift (p. B4) in the labor market for coders and other technical professionals.

Riding into the breach are "code schools," a kind of vocational training that rams students through intense 12-week crash courses in precisely the software-development skills employers need.

For the full commentary, see:

Christopher Mims. "Code-School Boot Camps Offer Fast Track to Jobs." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Feb. 27, 2017): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 26, 2017, and has the title "A New Kind of Jobs Program for Middle America.")

August 14, 2017

Fanjul Sugar Family Donated to Inauguration and Now Seeks Sugar Price Protection

(p. B1) MEXICO CITY -- The sugar barons of Florida, Alfonso and José Fanjul, have been equal-opportunity political donors for decades, showering largess on the campaigns of Democrats and Republicans alike to ensure that lawmakers will protect the American sugar industry.

When Donald J. Trump was preparing to take office as president, the Fanjul brothers wrote another check. Among the contributors to Mr. Trump's inaugural festivities in January was Florida Crystals, a Fanjul-owned company that contributed half a million dollars.

The brothers most likely had more on their mind than a sumptuous ball. Led by the Fanjuls, large American sugar producers and refiners were eager for the new administration to tackle some business left unfinished by the Obama administration: an agreement to control imports of Mexican sugar.

For the full story, see:

ELISABETH MALKIN. "Sugar Talks May Hint at Trump's Approach to U.S.-Mexico Trade." The New York Times (Mon., June 5, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 4, 2017, and has the title "Sugar Talks May Hint at Trump Approach to U.S.-Mexico Trade.")

August 13, 2017

Petsitting Is Illegal Without a License

CorderoRaulPetsitterNYC2017-08-08.jpg"Raul Cordero with his Rhodesian ridgeback, Viuty. Mr. Cordero operates a dog-care business in East Harlem that appears to run afoul of city rules regarding the care of pets for pay in homes." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A18) Raul Cordero and his Rhodesian ridgeback, Viuty, often have canine houseguests overnight at their East Harlem home, part of Mr. Cordero's dog-care business, for which he carries special petsitter's insurance that costs about $800 a year.

Yet despite Mr. Cordero's efforts to do everything by the book, he was shocked to discover that his petsitting business -- and in fact, any of the ubiquitous, your-home-or-mine variety -- is against New York City's rules.

According to long-established but little-noticed regulations of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, anyone offering petsitting for pay must be licensed to board animals, and do so in a permitted kennel. Running such a kennel out of a home is not allowed in the city.

. . .

The newcomers are large, app-based pet-care businesses, with names like Wag and Rover, that operate in a similar style to Airbnb, enabling New Yorkers to open their apartments and dog beds as à la carte dog hostels.

. . . Rover and its ilk have run afoul of similar stipulations in places like California and Colorado, and John Lapham, Rover's general counsel, said that Rover was currently embroiled in similar concerns in several cities in New Jersey.

. . .

The department's rule "deprives dog owners of the most obvious, safe and affordable care," Mr. Lapham said.

"And it deprives sitters of the opportunity to make ends meet," he said.

Mr. Lapham noted that in New York City, babysitting, for example, is permitted, no license necessary.

. . .

. . . to Mr. Cordero, 27, regulating small-time dogsitters like him and his Rhodesian sidekick feels like government overreach. Petsitting "is like taking care of you own pet in your house," he said, adding: "So if you have a license, that means you are certified to feed a dog or a cat? That's crazy."

For the full story, see:

SARAH MASLIN NIR. "Paid Petsitting in Homes Is Illegal in New York. That's News to Some Sitters." The New York Times (Sat., JULY 22, 2017): A18.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 21, 2017.)

August 12, 2017

Employment Grows as Productivity Rises

(p. C3) In a recent paper prepared for a European Central Bank conference, the economists David Autor of MIT and Anna Salomons of Utrecht University looked at data for 19 countries from 1970 to 2007. While acknowledging that advances in technology may hurt employment in some industries, they concluded that "country-level employment generally grows as aggregate productivity rises."

The historical record provides strong support for this view. After all, despite centuries of progress in automation and recurrent warnings of a jobless future, total employment has continued to increase relentlessly, even with bumps along the way.

More remarkable is the fact that today's most dire projections of jobs lost to automation fall short of historical norms. A recent analysis by Robert Atkinson and John Wu of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation quantified the rate of job destruction (and creation) in each decade since 1850, based on census data. They found that an incredible 57% of the jobs that workers did in 1960 no longer exist today (adjusted for the size of the workforce).

Workers suffering some of the largest losses included office clerks, secretaries and telephone operators. They found similar levels of displacement in the decades after the introduction of railroads and the automobile. Who is old enough to remember bowling alley pin-setters? Elevator operators? Gas jockeys? When was the last time you heard a manager say, "Take a memo"?

. . .

. . . , if artificial intelligence is getting so smart that it can recognize cats, drive cars, beat world-champion Go players, identify cancerous lesions and translate from one language to another, won't it soon be capable of doing just about anything a person can?

Not by a long shot. What all of these tasks have in common is that they involve finding subtle patterns in very large collections of data, a process that goes by the name of machine learning.

. . .

But it is misleading to characterize all of this as some extraordinary leap toward duplicating human intelligence. The selfie app in your phone that places bunny ears on your head doesn't "know" anything about you. For its purposes, your meticulously posed image is just a bundle of bits to be strained through an algorithm that determines where to place Snapchat face filters. These programs present no more of a threat to human primacy than did automatic looms, phonographs and calculators, all of which were greeted with astonishment and trepidation by the workers they replaced when first introduced.

. . .

The irony of the coming wave of artificial intelligence is that it may herald a golden age of personal service. If history is a guide, this remarkable technology won't spell the end of work as we know it. Instead, artificial intelligence will change the way that we live and work, improving our standard of living while shuffling jobs from one category to another in the familiar capitalist cycle of creation and destruction.

For the full commentary, see:

Kaplan, Jerry. "Don't Fear the Robots." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., June 22, 2017): C3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 21, 2017.)

The David Autor paper, mentioned above, is:

Autor, David, and Anna Salomons. "Does Productivity Growth Threaten Employment?" Working Paper. (June 19, 2017).

The Atkinson and Wu report, mentioned above, is:

Atkinson, Robert D., and John Wu. "False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850-2015." (May 8, 2017).

The author's earlier book, somewhat related to his commentary quoted above, is:

Kaplan, Jerry. Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

August 11, 2017

Toyota's Solid-State, Lithium-Ion Batteries Increase Electric Car Range

(p. B6) TOKYO--Toyota Motor Corp. believes it has mastered the technology and production process for a new lithium-ion battery that could slash charging time and double the range of electric vehicles, according to U.S. patent filings and one of the inventors.

On Tuesday [July 25, 2017] Toyota said that by the early 2020s it planned to sell cars equipped with solid-state batteries, which replace the damp electrolyte used to transport lithium ions inside today's batteries with a solid glass-like plate.

Behind Toyota's brief statement lay years of research aimed at solving issues that have long bedeviled batteries for electric cars. Current lithium-ion batteries can't be packed too tightly together because of fire risk. That is one reason electric cars tend to have limited range compared with traditional gasoline-powered cars.

With the solid-state battery, "you can improve the output and reduce the charge time--hopefully," said Ryoji Kanno, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Prof. Kanno led a team including Toyota scientists that discovered the materials for the glass-like electrolyte.

For the full story, see:

McLain, Sean. "Toyota: Battery Can Make Electric Cars Go Farther." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 28, 2017): B6.

(Note: bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 27, 2017, and has the title "Toyota's Cure for Electric-Vehicle Range Anxiety: A Better Battery.")

August 10, 2017

Process Innovations Increase Access to Natural Resources

(p. B6) SUPERIOR, Ariz.--One of the world's largest untapped copper deposits sits 7,000 feet below the Earth's surface. It is a lode that operator Rio Tinto PLC wouldn't have touched--until now.

. . .

Advances in mining technology are making that possible--just as developments in oil and gas drilling heralded the fracking revolution. Now, using everything from sensors and data analytics to autonomous vehicles and climate-control systems, Rio aims to pull ore from more than a mile below ground, where temperatures can reach nearly 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

. . .

While a deep underground block-cave mine costs much more to develop, Rio says it can match the operating costs per ton of ore of a surface mine, partly because it is so mechanized.

. . .

As with the development of new hydraulic-fracturing and horizontal-drilling techniques to extract oil from shale-rock deposits, locating and extracting the copper successfully requires deployment of new technologies such as cheaper, more powerful sensors and breakthroughs in the use of data.

, , ,

Electrical gear buzzes constantly, and a network of pipes pumps water out of the shaft at the rate of 600 gallons a minute. A ventilation system cools the area to 77 degrees.

Over the next few years, Rio plans to deploy tens of thousands of electronic sensors, as well as autonomous vehicles and complex ventilation systems, to help it bring 1.6 billion tons of ore to the surface over the more than 40-year projected life of the mine.

For the full story, see:

Steven Norton. "Rio Digs Deeper for Copper." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., June 8, 2017): B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 7, 2017, and has the title "Mining a Mile Down: 175 Degrees, 600 Gallons of Water a Minute.")

August 9, 2017

"Basic Fairness Is Probably Written into Our Genetic Code"

(p. C2) Basic fairness is probably written into our genetic code. Human societies depend on the expectation of reciprocity: We assume that a neighbor will collect our mail if we've mowed their lawn, or that drivers will take turns braking at stop signs.

Fundamental as this trait might seem, however, its evolutionary origins are hazy. Previous research has shown that chimpanzees--one of our closest relatives--are less motivated by fairness than by what they immediately stand to gain from a transaction.

A new study shows that chimps can go beyond such reflexive selfishness and cooperate, even if it costs them something. But they don't just give up what's theirs, even to their kin. They are particular about when they will share some of their food, according to research led by University of Vienna biologist Martin Schmelz and just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Like many of us, the team found, chimps keep score: They're most likely to allot treats to a partner if that chimp helped them first.

For the full commentary, see:

SUSAN PINKER. "MIND AND MATTER: What Chimps Understand About Reciprocity." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 22, 2017): C2.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 21, 2017.)

The full academic article that is summarized above, is:

Schmelz, Martin, Sebastian Grueneisen, Alihan Kabalak, Jürgen Jost, and Michael Tomasello. "Chimpanzees Return Favors at a Personal Cost." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, no. 28 (July 11, 2017): 7462-67.

August 8, 2017

Disney Stories Give Happiness to the Poor

(p. 1B) If the arts community had been blossoming in north Omaha when Adrienne Brown-Norman was growing up there in the 1960s and '70s, she may never have moved to California and become a senior illustrator for Disney Publishing Worldwide.

. . .

"Of course, though, I would not ever have met Floyd."

That would be her husband, Floyd Norman, the now-legendary first African-American artist at Walt Disney Studios.

Floyd Norman, 82, began working for Disney in 1956 and was named a Disney Legend in 2007.

. . .

The Normans recently collaborated with legendary songwriter Richard Sherman ("Mary (p. 5B) Poppins") on a picture book called "A Kiss Goodnight."

The book tells the story of how the young Walt Disney was enchanted by fireworks and subsequently chose to send all of his Magic Kingdom guests home with a special kiss goodnight of skyrockets bursting overhead.

. . .

Walt Disney later picked Norman to join the team writing the script for "The Jungle Book." Disney had seen Norman's gags posted around the office and recognized a talented storyteller.

"I didn't think I was a writer, but the old man did," Norman said. "Then I realized that maybe I am good at this."

Norman named "The Jungle Book" as his favorite project, because he worked alongside Disney.

. . .

"What I learned from the old man was the technique of storytelling and what made a movie work," Norman said.

"I had an amazing opportunity to learn from the master. If you were in the room with Walt, it was for a reason. There are a lot of people who wanted to be in that room but didn't get an invitation."

. . .

One day at the studio the Normans recall pausing to watch the filming of "Saving Mr. Banks," the story of Disney's quest to acquire the rights to film "Mary Poppins." Norman had worked on the movie and was interested in seeing Tom Hanks' portrayal of his old boss.

"Tom Hanks rushed from his trailer in full costume to meet Floyd, shouting, 'Where is that famous animator?' " Brown-Norman said. "You don't expect a man like Tom Hanks to come running up. Then Tom wouldn't let us leave. He wanted to know more about Walt, and if he was getting it right."

. . .

"What I enjoy is the love of Disney that made so many people happy," [Floyd Norman] said. "Maybe they were poor. Maybe they were in a bad home, but they tell me Disney stories gave them an escape. They gave them happiness, and that's what I like."

For the full story, see:

Kevin Cole. "Legendary Animator Spread Love of Disney." Omaha World-Herald (Mon., Aug. 7, 2017): 1B & 5B.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed name, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the title "During Native Omaha Days, Disney's Floyd Norman and Adrienne Brown-Norman reflect on careers.")

The book mentioned above, co-authored by Sherman (and illustrated by the Normans), is:

Sherman, Richard, and Brittany Rubiano. A Kiss Goodnight. Glendale, CA: Disney Editions, 2017.

August 7, 2017

Health Innovations Launch Where Regulations Are Few

(p. A15) One type of mobile device that is likely to appear first in the Far East and be widely adopted there is the digital stethoscope. This device is able to detect changes in pitch and soon will be able to detect asthma in children, pneumonia in the elderly, and, in conjunction with low-cost portable electrocardiographs, cardiopulmonary disease.

An additional advantage is that this part of the world--particularly India and Africa--has limited regulation, which makes it much easier to launch these kinds of health-care tools. In India and much of Africa, there are few government drug agencies or big insurance companies to throw up barriers.

Companies that make medical devices and their accompanying smartphone apps could establish themselves almost overnight. Then, once they have built a large, profitable base of users, they could consider jumping through the legal and regulatory hoops to bring the technology to developed countries.

For the full commentary, see:

Michael S. Malone. "Silicon Valley Trails in Medical Tech; With smartphones everywhere and little regulation, India and Africa are set to lead.." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., July 24, 2017): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 23, 2017.)

August 6, 2017

How to Use Dyslexia and ADHD to Become a Better Leader

(p. R7) Leading a company without using email, reading memos or going to endless meetings sounds like a pipe dream. But it's a reality for Selim Bassoul, chief executive and chairman of Middleby Corp., the Elgin, Ill., kitchen-supply maker with such popular brands as Viking and Aga Rangemaster.

Mr. Bassoul, 60, has dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conditions that weren't diagnosed during his childhood in Lebanon, when he initially struggled in school. Years later, when he was a graduate student at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, a professor suggested he get tested, he says.

. . .

WSJ: What are some ways that having dyslexia and ADHD affects your leadership style?

MR. BASSOUL: Dyslexia has forced me to be quite conceptual, because I'm not good with detail. I think in general rather than in specific [terms]. That allows me to step back and take in the big picture rather than get bogged down in details. Because of my weaknesses and handicaps, I've learned other ways to accomplish the same goal at faster speed.

As a dyslexic you have no choice but to rely on others for help with detail and tactical tasks. You become a great judge of character. You have to select the best team around you.

Then you have ADHD, which makes you restless but it can also be a huge motivator for action. It prompts you to go out of the office and into the field. You find yourself constantly on the front line. I don't like to be confined to the office. I hate meetings. I am constantly visiting customers, our field offices, our manufacturing plants. I know the operations of my customers better than them, which helps create solutions for them prior to them knowing what they need.

For the full interview, see:

Rachel Emma Silverman, interviewer. "How a Chief Executive with Dyslexia and ADHD Runs His Company." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 17, 2017): R7.

(Note: ellipses added. Bold and italics, in original. The italics question is from the WSJ interviewer.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date May 16, 2017, and has the title "How a CEO With Dyslexia and ADHD Runs His Company.")

August 5, 2017

Regulations, Not Robots, Cause Slower Job Growth

(p. A19) Some anxious forecasters project that robotics, automation and artificial intelligence will soon devastate the job market. Yet others predict a productivity fizzle. The Congressional Budget Office, for instance, expects labor productivity to grow at the snail's pace of 1.3% a year over the next decade, well below the historical average.

There's reason to reject both of these dystopian scenarios. Innovation isn't a zero-sum game. The problem for most workers isn't too much technology but too little. What America needs is more computers, mobile broadband, cloud services, software tools, sensor networks, 3-D printing, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and, yes, robots.

For the sake of explanation, let's separate the economy into two categories. In digital industries--technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services--productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years, according to the findings of our report, "The Coming Productivity Boom," released in March. The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries--health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail--where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period.

Digital industries have also experienced stronger job growth. Since the peak of the last business cycle in December 2007, hours worked in the digital category rose 9.6%, compared with 5.6% on the physical side. If health care is excluded, hours worked in physical jobs rose only 3%.

What is holding the physical industries back? It is no coincidence that they are heavily regulated, making them expensive to operate in and resistant to experimentation. The digital economy, on the other hand, has enjoyed a relatively free hand to invest and innovate, delivering spectacular and inexpensive products and services all over the world.

But more important, partially due to regulation, physical industries have not deployed information technology to the same extent that digital industries have.

For the full commentary, see:

Bret Swanson and Michael Mandel. "Robots Will Save the Economy; The problem today is too little technology. Physical industries haven't kept up." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., May 15, 2017): A19.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 14, 2017.)

August 4, 2017

Illegal Immigration Hurts Low-Wage U.S. Workers

(p. C1) Research published a decade after the Mariel boatlift, as well as more recent analyses, concluded that the influx of Cuban migrants didn't significantly raise unemployment or lower wages for Miamians. Immigration advocates said the episode showed that the U.S. labor market could quickly absorb migrants at little cost to American workers.

But Harvard University's George Borjas, a Cuban-born specialist in immigration economics, reached very different conclusions. Looking at data for Miami after the boatlift, he concluded that the arrival of the Marielitos led to a large decline in wages for low-skilled local workers.

. . .

(p. C2) Dr. Borjas, who left Cuba in 1962, when he was 12 years old, has long challenged the idea that immigration has few downsides. One of his studies in the early 2000s analyzed decades of national data to conclude that immigrants generally do push down wages for native workers, particularly high-school dropouts.

One Sunday morning in 2015, while working on his book, Dr. Borjas recalls, he decided to revisit the Mariel boatlift. He focused on U.S.-born high-school dropouts and applied more sophisticated analytical methods than had been available to Dr. Card a quarter-century earlier.

Dr. Borjas found a steep decline in wages for low-skilled workers in Miami in the years after the boatlift--in the range of 10% to 30%. "Even the most cursory reexamination of some old data with some new ideas can reveal trends that radically change what we think we know," he wrote in his initial September 2015 paper.

. . .

Dr. Borjas has spent decades swimming against the tide in his profession by focusing on immigration's costs rather than its benefits. He said that he sees a parallel to the way many economists look at international trade. Long seen as a positive force for growth, trade is now drawing attention from some economists looking for its ill effects on factory towns. "I don't know why the profession has this huge lag and this emphasis on the benefits from globalization in general without looking at the other side," Dr. Borjas said.

. . .

Dr. Borjas's research, including his recent work on Mariel, has found fans on the other side of the debate. When he testified at a Senate hearing in March 2016, then-Sen. Sessions welcomed his rebuttal to Dr. Card's paper. "That study, I could never understand it because it goes against common sense of [the] free market: greater supply, lower costs," Mr. Sessions said. "That's just the way the world works."

. . .

Dr. Borjas welcomes what he calls a more realistic approach to immigration under the Trump administration. "If you knew what the options are, who gets hurt and who wins by each of these options, you can make a much more intelligent decision rather than relying on wishful thinking," he said. "Which is what a lot of immigration, trade debates tend to be about--that somehow this will all work out, and everybody will be happy."

For the full commentary, see:

Ben Leubsdorf. "The Immigration Experiment." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., June 17, 2017): C1-C2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 16, 2017, and has the title "The Great Mariel Boatlift Debate: Does Immigration Lower Wages?")

The book by Borjas, mentioned in the passage quoted above, is:

Borjas, George J. We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

August 3, 2017

U.S. Has 250,000 Less Jobs Due to Obamacare

(p. A15) Democrats loudly complain that people will lose health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. They never mention those who lose jobs because the ACA remains.

The ACA includes a penalty on employers that fail to provide "adequate" insurance for full-time workers. Thanks to the ACA, hiring the 50th full-time employee effectively costs another $70,000 a year on top of the normal salary and benefits.

. . .

In partnership with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, in March 2017 I was able to commission Hanover Research to survey small businesses nationwide regarding their hiring and compensation practices. The result was a sample of 745 small businesses, representing every major industry and together employing almost 50,000 people.

. . .

Many businesses, when they do not offer coverage, keep their payrolls just below 50 full-time employees and thereby narrowly escape the ACA's penalty. This pattern is not visible among businesses that offer coverage.

When we followed up, the businesses employing just fewer than 50 often said the ACA caused them to hire less and cut hours below the full-time threshold. The penalty caused payrolls to shrink or prevented them from growing.

Nationwide, we estimate the ACA-inspired practice of keeping payrolls below 50 has cost roughly 250,000 jobs. This does not count jobs lost when businesses close (we didn't survey closed businesses) or shrink because of other ACA incentives.

For the full commentary, see:

Casey B. Mulligan. "How Many Jobs Does ObamaCare Kill? We surveyed managers at small businesses and put the count at 250,000." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., July 6, 2017): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 5, 2017.)

August 2, 2017

"90 Is the New 65"

(p. A15) In this era full of baby boomers caring for frail parents, we've seen plenty of documentaries, plays and memoirs about dementia, infirmity, loss. But in the HBO documentary "If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast," Carl Reiner and friends take up another side of the phenomenon of longer life spans: the many people in their later years who are still sharp and vigorous and engaged.

The film, . . . , doesn't pussyfoot around when setting its bar; no "life after 65" theme here. Mr. Reiner is interested in people 90 and above.

. . .

There is chagrin on occasion; no one likes the condescension that is often showered on people of this age.

"I think the culture stereotypes everything," Norman Lear says. "Because I'm 93 I'm supposed to behave a certain way. The fact that I can touch my toes shouldn't be so amazing to people." (Mr. Lear is now 94.)

. . .

. . . there is plenty of life yet in the population born before the Great Depression. Now the broader culture needs to consider how to change its preconceptions if 90 is the new 65.

For the full review, see:

NEIL GENZLINGER. "Life Goes On (The 90-and-Up Crowd." The New York Times (Fri., JUNE 5, 2017): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date JUNE 4, 2017, and has the title "Review: 'If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast' Finds Vigor After 90.")

August 1, 2017

"Inexorable" Trend Toward Remote Work

(p. B1) When Dell recently surveyed its 110,000 employees about their work habits, it discovered something surprising: While only 17% of Dell's employees were formally authorized to work wherever they prefer, 58% were already working remotely at least one day a week. That's good news, says Steve Price, chief human resources officer at Dell. In 2013, the company had said it wanted half its employees to work remotely for at least part of their week... by 2020.

. . .

. . . , data indicates that the remote-work trend in the U.S. labor force is inexorable, aided by ever-better tools for getting work done anywhere. Surveys done by Gallup indicate that in 2016, the proportion of Americans who did some or all of their work from home was 43%, up from 39% in 2012. Over the same period, the proportion who only work remotely went to 20% from 15%. Amazon.com , American Express , UnitedHealth Group , and Salesforce.com allow employees to work remotely at least some of the time.

. . .

(p. B4) . . . nearly every company that employs knowledge workers is still learning which jobs can best be done remotely, as the tools to accomplish remote work become increasingly powerful.

. . .

To understand the issues, it's helpful to look at a company that has always been almost entirely remote. Automattic, maker of WordPress, the content-management system that powers 28% of all websites, has 558 employees spread across more than 50 countries, up from 302 in December 2014.

. . .

With teams that may be spread across a dozen time zones, Automattic relies on Slack for synchronous communication, Zoom for weekly video conferences and its own internal system of threaded conversations for documenting everyone's work and for major decisions.

For the full commentary, see:

Christopher Mims. "More Workers Have Out-of-Office Experience." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., June 5, 2017): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipsis inside the first quoted paragraph, in original; other ellipses, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 4, 2017, and has the title "Why Remote Work Can't Be Stopped.")



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