More on Jobs Haiku

My Jobs haiku has received some discussion in the blogosphere.

It is reproduced, along with haikus submitted by other economics bloggers, in an entry of the blog of the Economist magazine:

I especially like a comment to the Economist blog entry:


Oct 26th 2011 7:59 GMT

What a creative way to describe the economy. It is so interesting to see how everyone interprets the economy through poem. I personally like the “jobs and Jobs” one. I think it describes our economy, and gives a snapshot of a major moment in our history.


Nov 2nd 2011 1:41 GMT

It is interesting to see people’s opinions about the economy being put into haikus. My favorite out of these is the haiku that refers to the fact that we have lost Steve Jobs and many jobs for US citizens. And in order to regain these jobs we are going to need more people to contribute in ways Steve Jobs has.

(Note: I added kbuch5’s comment on 11/7/11.)

CNBC correspondent Jane Wells describes my haiku as “poetic” on her blog:

Innovative Entrepreneurs Finance Basic Research in Mariana Trench

OceanDepthGraphic2011-08-10.jpgSource of graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D1) A new generation of daredevils is seeking to plunge through nearly seven miles of seawater to the bottom of a rocky chasm in the western Pacific that is veiled in perpetual darkness. It is the ocean’s deepest spot. The forbidding place, known as the Challenger Deep, is so far removed from the warming rays of the sun that its temperature hovers near freezing.

“When I was a kid, I loved not only amazing ocean exploration but space, too,” James Cameron, the director of “Avatar,” “Titanic” and “The Abyss,” said in an interview. “I can think of no greater fantasy than to be an explorer and see what no human eye has seen before.”
The would-be explorers can afford to live their dreams because of their extraordinarily deep pockets. Significantly, their ambitions far exceed those of the world’s seafaring nations, which have no plans to send people so deep.
The billionaires and millionaires include Mr. Cameron, the airline mogul Richard Branson and the Internet guru Eric E. Schmidt. Each is building, planning to build or financing the construction of minisubmarines meant to transport them, their friends and scientists into the depths. Entrepreneurs talk of taking tourists down as well.
The vehicles, meant to hold one to three people, are estimated to cost anywhere from $7 million to $40 million.

For the full story, see:
WILLIAM J. BROAD. “Ambitions as Deep as Their Pockets.” The New York Times (Tues., August 2, 2011): D1 & D4.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 1, 2011.)

Statute of Caps “Required People to Wear Caps Instead of Hats”

(p. 381) Sumptuary laws were enacted partly to keep people within their class, but partly also for the good of domestic industries, since they were often designed to depress the importation of foreign materials. For the same reason for a time there was a Statute of Caps, aimed at helping national capmakers through a depression, which required people to wear caps instead of hats. For obscure reasons, Puritans resented the law and were often fined for flouting it. But on the whole sumptuary laws weren’t much enforced. Various clothing restrictions were enshrined in (p. 382) statutes in 1337, 1363, 1463, 1483, 1510, 1533 and 1554, but records show they were never much enforced. They were repealed altogether in 1604.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

“A Landmark Achievement for Regenerative Medicine”

TracheaMadeInLab2011-08-09.jpg “A lab-made windpipe was implanted June 9 into a 36-year-old patient whose own windpipe was obstructed by a tumor.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A3) Doctors have replaced the cancer-stricken windpipe of a patient with an organ made in a lab, a landmark achievement for regenerative medicine. The patient no longer has cancer and is expected to have a normal life expectancy, doctors said.

“He was condemned to die,” said Paolo Macchiarini, a professor of regenerative surgery who carried out the procedure at Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital. “We now plan to discharge him [Friday].”
The transplantation of an entirely synthetic and permanent windpipe had never been successfully done before the June 9 procedure. The researchers haven’t yet published the details in a scientific journal.

For the full story, see:
GAUTAM NAIK. “Lab-Made Trachea Saves Man; Tumor-Blocked Windpipe Replaced Using Synthetic Materials, Patient’s Own Cells.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 8, 2011): C8.

Schumpeter on the Difference Between “Making a Road and Walking Along It”

(p. 85) Carrying out a new plan and acting according to a customary one are things as different as making a road and walking along it.

Schumpeter, Joseph A. The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle. Translated by Redvers Opie. translation of 2nd German edition that appeared in 1926; translation first published by Harvard in 1934 ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1983.

Arabic Numerals Enabled Better Accounting Systems


Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) Humans have been recording counts for at least 35,000 years, if the notches in a Paleolithic-era baboon’s fibula are an indicator.
. . .
Before the 13th century, European businessmen recorded figures in Roman numerals and computed with their fingers or a counting board. But these creaky accounting systems began to buckle under the growing complexity of regional and international finance. In 1202, Leonardo of Pisa–better known by his family name, Fibonacci–published the “Liber Abbaci,” or “Book of Calculation,” a 600-page tome detailing the rules of Hindu-Arabic arithmetic and algebra. Fibonacci’s volume was directed not to scholars but to merchants, the first work in the West to demonstrate the commercial utility of Eastern mathematics. The book was an instant success and propelled the Pisan maestro d’abbaco to fame.
The “Liber Abbaci” inspired a flood of regionally produced (and lesser) primers on the subject. Arithmetic schools sprang up throughout Italy and would eventually count among their pupils da Vinci and Machiavelli. German merchants flocked to Venice during the 1300s to learn the new accounting practices. In “The Man of Numbers,” mathematician Keith Devlin makes the case that Fibonacci’s book spearheaded the decline and fall of the Roman numeral and transformed scientific, technological and commercial calculation in the West.
At age 15, Fibonacci accompanied his father, a Pisan trade representative, to the North African port of Bugia (now Bejaia, in Algeria). In the preface to “Liber Abbaci,” Fibonacci writes of his early introduction to the “art of the nine Indian figures” and their computational power. After more than a decade of his own studies and tutelage under Arabic mathematicians across North Africa, he returned to Pisa to write his masterwork. Such was the acclaim that Fibonacci appeared before Emperor Frederick II–a colorful intellectual who referred to himself as Stupor mundi or Wonder of the World–and vanquished the emperor’s court mathematician in an arithmetic duel.
. . .
. . . as Mr. Devlin reminds us, even something as prosaic as a sequence of 10 numbers can remake an entire world.

For the full review, see:
ALAN HIRSHFELD. “BOOKSHELF; Counting On Progress; Roman numerals were fine for adding and subtracting. Fibonacci saw that complex math required a better system.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., JULY 7, 2011): A13.
(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)

Book under review:
Devlin, Keith. The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution. New York: Walker & Company, 2011.

The Huge Value of Exposing Ourselves to Unexpected Evidence

Bill Bryson tells how much we learned from the remains of a man from the neolithic age, who has been called Ötzi:

(p. 377) His equipment employed eighteen different types of wood – a remarkable variety. The most surprising of all his tools was the axe. It was copper-bladed and of a type known as a Remedello axe, after a site in Italy where they were first found. But Ötzi’s axe was hundreds of years older than the oldest Remedello axe. ‘It was,’ in the words of one observer, ‘as if the tomb of a medieval warrior had yielded a modern rifle.’ The axe changed the timeframe for the copper age in Europe by no less than a thousand years.

But the real revelation and excitement were the clothes. Before Ötzi we had no idea – or, to be more precise, nothing but ideas – of how stone age people dressed. Such materials as survived existed only as fragments. Here was a complete outfit and it was full of surprises. His clothes were made from the skins and furs of an impressive range of animals – red deer, bear, chamois, goat and cattle. He also had with him a woven grass rectangle that was three feet long. This might have been a kind of rain cape, but it might equally have been a sleeping mat. Again, nothing like it had ever been seen or imagined.
Ötzi wore fur leggings held up with leather strips attached to a waist strap that made them look uncannily – almost comically – like the kind of nylon stockings and garter sets that Hollywood pin-ups wore in the Second World War. Nobody had remotely foreseen such a get-up. He wore a loincloth of goatskin and a hat made from the fur of a brown bear – probably a kind of hunting trophy. It would have been very warm and covetably stylish. The rest of his outfit was mostly made from the skin and fur of red deer. Hardly any came from domesticated animals, the opposite of what was expected.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

Reasons to Hope for 150 Year Life Span


Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) Ms. Arrison is in the hopeful camp. She recounts advances in stem-cell research, pharmaceuticals and synthetic biology. And the tinkering with genes still goes on. We learn about Dr. Cynthia Kenyon at the University of California in San Francisco, who discovered that the life span of the tiny worm Caenorhabditis elegans could be doubled by partially disabling a single gene. Further improvements on the technique resulted in worms living six times longer than normal. “In human terms,” Ms. Arrison says, “they be the equivalent of healthy, active five-hundred-year-olds.” That may be a bit much to expect, but Ms. Arrison says she is confident that “human life expectancy will one day reach 150 years.”
. . .
What is more, technology heavyweights are paying attention, including Bill Gates (if he were a teenager today, Mr. Gates once said, he’d be “hacking biology”) and Jeff Bezos (“atom by atom we’ll assemble small machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs”). Larry Ellison, of Oracle, started a foundation more than a decade ago to support anti-aging research; the institution donates about $42 million a year.
. . .
And if humans do begin living to 150, then what?
. . .
. . . , Ms. Arrison argues that apocalyptic prophecies are unlikely to be realized. Increasing wealth and mankind’s adaptability and ingenuity mean that as new problems emerge, new solutions will be forthcoming. “In looking at the trends of history,” she says, “we can see that even when there are downsides to a particular wealth- or health-enhancing technology, the problem is often fixed once the population reaches a point where it feels secure in spending the resources to do so.”

For the full review, see:
NICK SCHULZ. “BOOKSHELF; Bioengineering Methuselah; Human beings living to be 150? And you thought Social Security and Medicare were in trouble now.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., August 31, 2011): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Book under review:
Arrison, Sonia. 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, from Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Obama Regulations Are “Choking Off Innovation”

From 2007 to 2010 Nina V. Fedoroff was the science and technology adviser to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in the Obama administration. Fedoroff is currently a Professor of Biology at Penn State. The passages quoted below are from her courageous commentary in The New York Times op-ed section:

(p. A21) . . . even as the Obama administration says it wants to stimulate innovation by eliminating unnecessary regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to require even more data on genetically modified crops, which have been improved using technology with great promise and a track record of safety. The process for approving these crops has become so costly and burdensome that it is choking off innovation.

Civilization depends on our expanding ability to produce food efficiently, which has markedly accelerated thanks to science and technology. The use of chemicals for fertilization and for pest and disease control, the induction of beneficial mutations in plants with chemicals or radiation to improve yields, and the mechanization of agriculture have all increased the amount of food that can be grown on each acre of land by as much as 10 times in the last 100 years.
These extraordinary increases must be doubled by 2050 if we are to continue to feed an expanding population. . . .
. . .
Myths about the dire effects of genetically modified foods on health and the environment abound, but they have not held up to scientific scrutiny. And, although many concerns have been expressed about the potential for unexpected consequences, the unexpected effects that have been observed so far have been benign. Contamination by carcinogenic fungal toxins, for example, is as much as 90 percent lower in insect-resistant genetically modified corn than in nonmodified corn. This is because the fungi that make the toxins follow insects boring into the plants. No insect holes, no fungi, no toxins.
. . .
Only big companies can muster the money necessary to navigate the regulatory thicket woven by the government’s three oversight agencies: the E.P.A., the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
. . .
. . . the evidence is in. These crop modification methods are not dangerous. The European Union has spent more than $425 million studying the safety of genetically modified crops over the past 25 years. Its recent, lengthy report on the matter can be summarized in one sentence: Crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous than crop modification by other methods. Serious scientific bodies that have analyzed the issue, including the National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society, have come to the same conclusion.

For the full commentary, see:
NINA V. FEDOROFF. “Engineering Food for All.” The New York Times (Fri., August 19, 2011): A21.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary was dated August 18, 2011.)

Easter Island Was Ravaged by Rats, Peruvian Slaving Parties and Nonnative Diseases, Not by Ecocide


Source of book image:

The natives call Easter Island “Rapa Nui.”

(p. C5) With the forest gone, Rapa Nui’s soil degraded; unable to feed themselves, Mr. Diamond argued in his best-selling “Collapse” (2005), Easter Islanders faced “starvation, a population crash, and a descent into cannibalism.” The fall was abrupt and overwhelming; scores of giant statues were abandoned, half-finished. Roggeveen had discovered a ruin–and a powerful eco-parable.

Books and articles by the hundred have pointed to Rapa Nui as the inevitable result of uncontrolled population growth, squandered resources and human fecklessness. “The person who felled the last tree could see it was the last tree,” wrote Paul G. Bahn and John Flenley in “Easter Island, Earth Island” (1992). “But he (or she) still felled it.” “The parallels between Easter Island and the whole modern world are chillingly obvious,” Mr. Diamond proclaimed. “The clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources,” he said, Rapa Nui epitomizes “ecocide,” presenting a stark image of “what may lie ahead of us in our own future.”
No, it doesn’t, write archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo in “The Statues That Walked,” a fascinating entry in the pop-science genre of Everything You Know Is Wrong. Messrs. Hunt and Lipo had no intention of challenging Mr. Diamond when they began research on Rapa Nui. But in their fourth year of field work, they obtained radiocarbon dates from Anakena Beach, thought to be the island’s oldest settlement. The dates strongly indicated that the first settlers appeared around A.D. 1200–eight centuries later than Heyerdahl and other researchers had thought.
Wait a minute, the authors in effect said. Rapa Nui is so remote that researchers believe it must have been settled by a small group of adventurers–a few dozen people, brave or crazy, in boats. The new evidence suggested that their arrival had precipitated catastrophic deforestation “on the scale of decades, not centuries.” The island then probably had only a few hundred inhabitants. Some ecologists estimate that the island originally had 16 million palm trees. How could so few people have cut down so much so fast?
. . .
The real culprit, according to “The Statues That Walked,” was the Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans), which stowed away on the boats of the first Polynesian settlers. In laboratory settings, Polynesian rat populations can double in 47 days. Throw a breeding pair into an island with no predators and abundant food and arithmetic suggests the result: ratpocalypse. If the animals multiplied as they did in Hawaii, the authors calculate, Rapa Nui would quickly have housed between two and three million. Among the favorite food sources of R. exulans are tree seeds and tree sprouts. Humans surely cleared some of the forest, but the real damage would have come from the rats that prevented new growth.
“Rather than a case of abject failure,” the authors argue, “Rapa Nui is an unlikely story of success.” The islanders had migrated, perhaps accidentally, to a place with little water and “fundamentally unproductive” soil with “uniformly low” levels of phosphorus, an essential mineral for plant growth. To avoid the wind’s dehydrating effects, the newcomers circled their gardens with stone walls known as manavai. Today, the researchers discovered, abandoned manavai occupy about 6.4 square miles, a tenth of the island’s total surface.
More impressive still, about half of the island is covered by “lithic mulching,” in which the islanders scattered broken stone over the fields. The uneven (p. C6) surface creates more turbulent airflow, reducing daytime surface temperatures and warming fields at night. And shattering the rocks exposes “fresh, unweathered surfaces, thus releasing mineral nutrients held within the rock.” Only lithic mulching produced enough nutrients–just barely–to make Rapa Nui’s terrible soil cultivable. Breaking and moving vast amounts of stone, the islanders had engineered an entirely new, more productive landscape.
Their success was short-lived. As Messrs. Hunt and Lipo point out, the 18th and 19th centuries were terrible times to reside in a small, almost defenseless Pacific nation. Rapa Nui was repeatedly ravaged by Peruvian slaving parties and nonnative diseases.
. . .
Easter Island’s people did not destroy themselves, the authors say. They were destroyed.
. . .
Oral tradition said that the statues walked into their places. Oral tradition was correct, the authors say. By shaping the huge statues just right, the islanders were able to rock them from side to side, moving them forward in a style familiar to anyone who has had to move a refrigerator. Walking the statues, the authors show in experiments, needed only 15 or 20 people.
In a 2007 article in Science, Mr. Diamond estimated that hundreds of laborers were needed to move the statues, suggesting that the eastern settlements of the island alone had to have “a population of thousands”–which in turn was proof of the island’s destructive overpopulation. By showing that the statues could have been moved by much fewer people, Messrs. Hunt and Lipo have removed one of the main supports of the ecocide theory and the parable about humankind it tells.

For the full review, see:
CHARLES C. MANN. “Don’t Blame the Natives; It was a rat that caused the sudden collapse of Easter Island’s civilization.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JULY 30, 2011): C5-C6.
(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)

Source of book under review:
Hunt, Terry, and Carl Lipo. The Statues That Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island. New York: Free Press, 2011.

Bathtubs Started Out “Extremely Expensive” and Then Prices Fell

(p. 372) At last the world had baths that looked good and stayed looking good for a long time. But they were still extremely expensive. A bath alone could easily cost $200 in 1910 – a price well beyond the range of most households. But as manufacturers improved the processes of mass manufacture, prices fell and by 1940 an American could buy an entire bath suite – sink, bath and toilet – for $70, a price nearly everyone could afford.

Elsewhere, however, baths remained luxuries. In Europe a big part of the problem was a lack of space in which to put bathrooms. In 1954 just one French residence in ten had a shower or bath. In Britain the journalist Katharine Whitehorn has recalled that as recently as the late 1950s she and her colleagues on the magazine Woman’s Own were not allowed to do features on bathrooms as not enough British homes had them, and such articles would only promote envy.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.