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Weekly selection
23 February 2018

5 insightful op-eds or articles to help make sense of today’s world

  • Jeffrey Frankel, “The Economic Message from Equity Markets”

    (Project Syndicate - 22 February 2018)

    The Harvard economist’s take on the recent stock market correction: it is now clear that last year's unusually low financial and economic volatility is over. He also argues that stocks are too high from a longer-term perspective, implying that that their rate of return is likely to be substantially lower over the next 15 years than it was over the last 15 years (reads in 4-5 min).

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  • Various authors, “Solving the productivity puzzle”

    (McKinsey Global Institute - 28 February 2018)

    This is not our standard article but we included this report because it sheds some interesting light on one of today’s greatest economic puzzles: stagnant productivity despite all the hype about tech. McKinsey offers three reasons that explain why the recovery has been productivity-weak but job-rich: (1) the waning of a productivity boom that began in the 1990s, (2) financial crisis aftereffects including persistent weak demand and uncertainty, and (3) digitization. As more companies adopt digital strategies, it posits that productivity growth will recover to 2% over the next decade.

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  • Kevin Rose, “His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming”

    (The New York Times - metered paywall - 10 February 2018)

    This is a sign of things to come… As the angst against tech in general and AI in particular keeps mounting, more politicians (or aspiring ones, like the businessman in this article who is a contender for the next US Presidential election) will focus their campaign on the ‘robot apocalypse’. They will propose radical and less radical measures (such as UBI) to fend off the coming robots. Watch this space! (reads in 6-7 min).

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  • Phillip Ball, “China’s great leap forward in science”

    (The Guardian - 18 February 2018)

    For quite a while, the Chinese authorities have been pursuing scientific dominance with systematic resolve. Their massive investment is now paying off with serious advances in biotech, computing and space, so much so that it may be edging ahead of the west. This article makes clear that "The patronizing old idea that China, like the rest of East Asia, can imitate but not innovate is certainly false now”. In an increasing number of scientific fields, China is starting to set the pace for others to follow (reads in 9-12 min.).

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  • Ben Schiller, “Everyone is Miserable – Here’s What We can Do About It”

    (Fast Company - 16 February 2018)

    This is a review of a new book (“Lost Connections”) that explores how modern societies may be creating a world of unhappiness. The author (Hohann Hari) questions the prevailing wisdom about depression and wonders whether the current epidemic is not connected to how we’ve chosen to construct the world around us. He concludes by asserting that: “If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life” (reads in 7-9 min).

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