Janet Yellen on Productivity

Source: Federal Reserve Board, May 2015

The most important factor determining living standards is productivity growth, defined as increases in how much can be produced in an hour of work. Over time, sustained increases in productivity are necessary to support rising incomes.

Here the recent data have been disappointing. The growth rate of output per hour worked in the business sector has averaged about 1-1/4 percent per year since the recession began in late 2007. This rate is down from gains averaging 2-3/4 percent over the preceding decade.

Productivity depends on many factors, including our workforce’s knowledge and skills and the quantity and quality of the capital, technology, and infrastructure that they have to work with.

… as a nation, we should be pursuing policies to support longer-run growth in productivity. Policies to strengthen education, to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, and to promote capital investment, both public and private, can all be of great benefit.

The Need to Increase Productivity

Source: FT, May 2015

Five drags on productivity

1. Investment is too low

2. The big innovations have already happened

3. Innovations are not being measured correctly

4. Be patient — it is just a matter of time

5. Inefficient services

Staying Ahead of Computers

Source: NYTimes, May 2015

Computers and robots are already replacing many workers. What can young people learn now that won’t be superseded within their lifetimes by these devices and that will secure them good jobs and solid income over the next 20, 30 or 50 years? In the universities, we are struggling to answer that question.

Two strains of thought seem to dominate the effort to deal with this problem. The first is that we teachers should define and provide to our students a certain kind of general, flexible, insight-bearing human learning that, we hope, cannot be replaced by computers. The second is that we need to make education more business-oriented, teaching about the real world and enabling a creative entrepreneurial process that, presumably, computers cannot duplicate. These two ideas are not necessarily in conflict.

The successful occupations, by this measure, shared certain characteristics: People who practiced them needed complex communication skills and expert knowledge. Such skills included an ability to convey “not just information but a particular interpretation of information.” They said that expert knowledge was broad, deep and practical, allowing the solution of “uncharted problems.”

5 Reasons for Slow Economic Growth

Source: Project Syndicate, Dec 2014

  • the capacity for fiscal intervention – at least among developed economies – has been underutilized.
  • Investments in infrastructure, education, and technology help drive long-term growth. They increase competitiveness, facilitate innovation, and boost private-sector returns, generating growth and employment. It does not take a lot of growth to offset even substantial investment – especially given current low borrowing costs.Research by the International Monetary Fund has indicated that these fiscal multipliers – the second factor overlooked by forecasters – vary with underlying economic conditions. In economies with excess capacity (including human capital) and a high degree of structural flexibility, the multipliers are greater than once thought.

    3. the disparity between the behavior of financial markets and that of the real economy.

    4. the quality of government. In recent years, there has been no shortage of examples of governments abusing their powers to favor the ruling elite, their supporters, and a variety of special interests, with detrimental effects on regulation, public investment, the delivery of services, and growth. It is critically important that public services, public investment, and public policy are well managed. Countries that attract and motivate skilled public managers outperform their peers.

    5. the magnitude and duration of the drop in aggregate demand has been greater than expected, partly because employment and median incomes have been lagging behind growth. 

Andrew Wiles: Problems on Where No One Has Any Idea Where to Start

Source: The Fermat Diary, 2000

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Mazur – Use Mathematics for Literary Purposes

Source: Harvard website, Mar 2012

Mazur - Use Mathematics for Literary Purposes

Funny Men are Better in Bed

Source: Psychology Today, Apr 2015

A new study (link is external) examines whether women whose partners have a great sense of humor also have more orgasms.

the best predictors of the number and intensity of orgasms were how satisfied a woman is with her partner, how much she was attracted to him, his income, and his self-confidence, as rated by his partner. Also, the more orgasms a woman had, the stronger her orgasms were.

… a sense of humor was also a good predictor of sexual pleasure. Women with partners who had a great sense of humor enjoyed more orgasms and stronger ones as well.

Women also reported that funny partners were more popular, more intelligent, more creative, and had better leadership skills than men who did not have a great sense of humor. Women also initiated more sex with men who have a great sense of humor, and had more sex with them in general (for good reason apparently). They also felt safer and more committed to their partner.

The study reinforces the importance of humor in relationships