Consumers Bear Costs of Global Warming Policies

CarbonCutsCostsGraph.gif

Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A10) Leaders of the Group of Eight major industrialized economies, meeting in Japan, issued their first long-term target for cutting global-warming emissions. But their pronouncement failed to address the two toughest questions: How will the world do it, and who will pay?

The answer to the money question is clear: Consumers will pay — at the gasoline pump, at the car dealership and on the monthly electric bill. If the campaign against global warming gets serious, it will transform today’s esoteric environmental threat into a fundamental pocketbook issue for people from Boston to Beijing.

For the full story, see:
JEFFREY BALL. “As Climate Issue Heats Up, Questions of Cost Loom.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 10, 2008): A10.

More Choice is a Robust Result of The Long Tail

I’ve discussed in a previous entry, why The Long Tail is a worthy read. The article quoted below, praises a Harvard Business Review article that disagrees. I haven’t had a chance to read the HBR article yet.
Yet on a fundamental level, I am confident that The Long Tail is right. New technologies such as Amazon and YouTube, reduce the cost of content diversity. If the supply curve of diversity moves right, then (ceteris paribus) the quantity of diverse content will increase. Hence, we can robustly expect more diverse content.
And for us free market libertarians, more choice is good.

(p. B5) The Long Tail theory, as explained by its creator, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, holds that society is “increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of ‘hits’ (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.”
The reason involves the abundance of easy choice that the Web makes possible. A record store has room for only a set number of titles. ITunes, though, can link to all of the millions of songs that its servers can store. Thus, said Mr. Anderson, “narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.” Managers were urged to adopt their business plans accordingly.
Since appearing two years ago, the book has been something of a sacred text in Silicon Valley. Business plans that foresaw only modest commercial prospects for their products cited the Long Tail to justify themselves, as it had apparently proved that the Web allows a market for items besides super-hits. If you demurred, you were met with a look of pity and contempt, as though you had just admitted to still using a Kaypro.
That might now start to change, thanks to the article (online at tinyurl.com/3rg5gp), by Anita Elberse, a marketing professor at Harvard’s business school who takes the same statistically rigorous approach to entertainment and cultural industries that sabermetricians do to baseball.
Prof. Elberse looked at data for online video rentals and song purchases, and discovered that the patterns by which people shop online are essentially the same as the ones from offline. Not only do hits and blockbusters remain every bit as important online, but the evidence suggests that the Web is actually causing their role to grow, not shrink.
Mr. Anderson responded on his Long Tail blog, thelongtail.com, saying much of the difference between his analysis and hers involved how hits and non-hits, or “head” and “tail” in the book’s lingo, are measured. Aside from that, he was generous in praising the article, and said he welcomed the sort of rigorous scrutiny the theory was getting.

For the full commentary, see:
LEE GOMES. “PORTALS; Study Refutes Niche Theory Spawned by Web.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., JULY 2, 2008): B5.

The full information on The Long Tail, is:
Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail. New York: Hyperion, 2006.

The HBR article that is critical of the long tail, is:
Elberse, Anita. “Should You Invest in the Long Tail?” Harvard Business Review 86, no. 7/8 (2008): 88-96.

Age and Inventiveness

AgeProductivityGraph.gif Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B5) A particularly stark view of age-related constraints on researchers’ work comes from Benjamin Jones, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He examined biographical data over the past century for more than 700 Nobel laureates and renowned inventors.

His conclusion: “Innovators are productive over a narrowing span of their life cycle.” In the early 20th century, he found, researchers at the times of their greatest contributions averaged slightly more than 36 years old. In recent decades, innovation before the age of 30 became increasing rare, with the peak age of contribution rising toward age 40. Meanwhile, the frequency of key contributions has consistently diminished by researchers in their early or mid-50s.
Occasionally, Mr. Jones says, booming new fields “permit easier access to the frontier, allowing people to make contributions at younger ages.” That could account for the relative youth of Internet innovators, such as Netscape Communications Corp. founder Marc Andreessen and Messrs. Page and Brin. But “when the revolution is over,” Mr. Jones finds, “ages rise.”
Unwilling to see researchers at peak productivity for only a small part of their careers, tech companies are fighting back in a variety of ways. At microchip maker Texas Instruments Inc., in Dallas, executives are pairing up recent college graduates and other fresh research hires with experienced mentors, called “craftsmen,” for intensive training and coaching.
This system means that new design engineers can become fully effective in three or four years, instead of five to seven, says Taylor Efland, chief technologist for TI’s analog chip business. Analog chips are used in power management, data conversion and amplification.
At Sun Microsystems Inc., teams of younger and older researchers are common. That can help everyone’s productivity, says Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer for the Santa Clara, Calif., computer maker. Younger team members provide energy and optimism; veterans provide a savvier sense of what problems to tackle.

For the full story, see:
GEORGE ANDERS. “THEORY & PRACTICE; Companies Try to Extend Researchers’ Productivity; Teams of Various Ages, Newer Hires Combat Short Spans of Inventing.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., AUGUST 18, 2008): B5.

A large literature exists on the relationship between age and scientific productivity. I am particularly fond of the following examples:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “Age and the Acceptance of Cliometrics.” The Journal of Economic History 40, no. 4 (December 1980): 838-841.
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “An Economic Model of the Life-Cycle Research Productivity of Scientists.” Scientometrics 6, no. 3 (1984): 189-196.
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “The Life-Cycle Research Productivity of Mathematicians and Scientists.” The Journal of Gerontology 41, no. 4 (July 1986): 520-525.
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “An Optimal Control Model of the Life-Cycle Research Productivity of Scientists.” Scientometrics 11, nos. 3-4 (1987): 247-249.
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “The Polywater Episode and the Appraisal of Theories.” In A. Donovan, L. Laudan and R. Laudan, eds., Scrutinizing Science: Empirical Studies of Scientific Change. Dordrecht, Holland: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988, 181-198.
Hull, David L., Peter D. Tessner and Arthur M. Diamond, Jr. “Planck’s Principle: Do Younger Scientists Accept New Scientific Ideas with Greater Alacrity than Older Scientists?” Science 202 (November 17, 1978): 717-723.