Thursday, May 26, 2011

Majora Carter on Sustainable South Bronx

Good stuff. Work with business. Mixed housing. Jobs. Don't push out the people that are there. "Eco-industrial park."

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Vision of the Next Economy: From Macro to Metro

LSE podcast - lecture by Ricky Burdett and Bruce Katz emphasizing export economy over domestic consumption. The following hallmarks:

1) Export Driven

2) The Clean Economy ("can we play in the low carbon revolution as a market proposition?")

3) Innovation ("always been the catalyst of economic growth...not just whether we can continue to be in the vanguard of idea generation, but whether we can use ideas and inevetion to spur production and employment")

4) Opportunity ("we've had decades of slippage in opportunity, because as we shifted to a consumption and debt-laden economy, we began to see wages suppressed and income inequities grow... exporting companies pay better wages and offer better benefits")

"Going forward, if we don't produce more in the United States, we will innovate less. The U.S. needs to MAKE THINGS AGAIN, so it's time to discover our innovation mojo, not just at MIT, frankly, and not just at Stanford, but on the factory floors again, and in the voc ed places. America used to be a place of tinkerers, it used to be a place where the average citizen, in their garage, right, where so many iconic american companies started, invented things. We need to get back to that."

"We have huge educational disparities in the United States. This used to be seen as an issue of equity and an issue fo fairness. It's an issue of competitiveness of the United Staes, and it's an issue, frankly, of national security."

National govt should do some essential things: price carbon, invest in advanced R&D in energy at scale for a sustained period of time, invest in transformative infrastructure, overhaul immigration, invest in education and skills.

The next economy celebrates differentiation. Build on strengths. We are taking the principles of private sector business planning and applying them to metropolitan areas.

"The challenge is to invert the federalist pyramid in the United States, to move from a top-down system of federal policy or state policy to where the locals are leading, where the metros are driving, because they're the closest to the ground, they're the most cognizant and aware of their assets and attributes." (~1h3m)

First rule (1h28m): Know thyself. Wall yourself off from all those idea viruses, which one year is biotech, the next year is the creative class...just wall yourself off from them. Know who you were, because who you were is going to determine who you are going to be; build off your strengths.

AND: Stop development in the outskirts. Concentrate development. Land use planning is crucial.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Import Replacement & At-Risk Youth in Seattle

Thinking about local economic resilience, the rising price of shipping, and the phenonenon of import replacement. What if I could induce a local entrepreneur to begin developing import-replacing industries for certain products, creating local manufacturing jobs, and accepting graduates of youth employment/certification programs? Focus on imports that are manageable to make (minimal initial capital investment in infrastructure, etc.), and already close to the line for being worth shipping. Which imports will be the first to go when shipping costs rise? Focus on these. Low-tech.

Open Source Warfare & Resilience

"Produce everything you can locally. Virtualize everything else. The value of your home will be based on the ability of your community to offer energy independence, food security, economic vitality, and protection. Survivalist stockpiles and zero footprint frugality are pathways to failure. Think in terms of vibrant local economic ecosystems that are exceedingly efficient, productive, and bountiful."

From this interview with John Robb on

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Higher Education Bubble

Article by Peter Thiel of PayPal

Blog entry by John Robb

Higher Education's Bubble is About to Burst by Glenn Reynolds, May 10 2011:
So what happens if the bubble collapses? Will it be a tragedy, with millions of Americans losing their path to higher-paying jobs?

Maybe not. College is often described as a path to prosperity, but is it? A college education can help people make more money in three different ways.

First, it may actually make them more economically productive by teaching them skills valued in the workplace: Computer programming, nursing or engineering, say. (Religious and women's studies, not so much.)

Second, it may provide a credential that employers want, not because it represents actual skills, but because it's a weeding tool that doesn't produce civil-rights suits as, say, IQ tests might. A four-year college degree, even if its holder acquired no actual skills, at least indicates some ability to show up on time and perform as instructed.

And, third, a college degree -- at least an elite one -- may hook its holder up with a useful social network that can provide jobs and opportunities in the future. (This is more true if it's a degree from Yale than if it's one from Eastern Kentucky, but it's true everywhere to some degree).

While an individual might rationally pursue all three of these, only the first one -- actual added skills -- produces a net benefit for society. The other two are just distributional -- about who gets the goodies, not about making more of them.

The Higher Education Bubble by Richard Vedder, April 5 2011
The sad thing about it all is that much of the increase in governmental spending that is at the root cause of most of the bubble has been undeniably wasted. The goal was to increase enrollment among the poor, arguing that equal educational opportunity is an important step in achieving the American Dream. Yet the percentage of college students in, say, the bottom quintile of the income distribution is lower today than it was in 1970 before we even had, for example, Pell Grants.

Wikipedia entry on "higher education bubble"

Article in The Economist

Industrial Education by John Robb. "costs for collegiate education have increased 4.39 times faster than inflation over the past three decades and has now eclipsed affordability for most households (median incomes have stagnated during this same period) with no appreciable improvement in the quality of graduates." (see graph below)


College Unbound

The Omnivore's Advantage

Blog entry by John Robb

The gist:

"Specialization can:

- offer access to extremely dense and high value sources of energy
- provide protection from competitors (few competitors will have the specialization necessary to access it)

"However, when the environment is in a period of rapid flux, specialists can rapidly become extinct. Simply: its favorite sources of energy can dry up or become inaccessible as conditions change. In contrast, the generalist or omnivore, can thrive when the environment is in flux.

"We're living through a period of rapid change. Flux. Things are going get very different much quicker than most people assume. As a result, we need to adopt more of an omnivore strategy in regards to nearly everything we do. For example:

1. Skills. The more specialized your role/job, the less valuable and/or useless you are in the future. Re-skill. Broaden your knowledge. There will be few things more pathetic (albeit hilarious) than seeing a former $500 an hour lawyer or Wall Street Tycoon in a breadline.
2. Investments. An omnivorous investment strategy isn't hedging. Hedging still assumes most of what you own is still considered a financial asset. An omnivorous investment strategy puts resources into communities and technologies that will be there even when most financial assets are imploding."


Wikipedia on Resilience:

Resilience is the property of a material to absorb energy when it is deformed elastically and then, upon unloading to have this energy recovered. In other words, it is the maximum energy per unit volume that can be elastically stored. It is represented by the area (integral) under the curve in the elastic region (the initial, linear portion) of the stress-strain curve; this quantity is also known as the elastic potential energy of a material.

Wikipedia on Psychological Resilience:

"Resilience" in psychology is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity...In all these instances, resilience is best understood as a process. It is often mistakenly assumed to be a trait of the individual, an idea more typically referred to as “resiliency”.[11] Most research now shows that resilience is the result of individuals interacting with their environments and the processes that either promote well-being or protect them against the overwhelming influence of risk factors.[12] These processes can be individual coping strategies, or may be helped along by good families, schools, communities, and social policies that make resilience more likely to occur.[13] In this sense "resilience" occurs when there are cumulative "protective factors". These factors are likely to play a more and more important role the great the individual’s exposure to cumulative "risk factors". The phrase "risk and resilience"' in this area of study is quite common... Resilience is better understood as both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that sustain their well-being, and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided and experienced in culturally meaningful ways.

"Power to the People" - Open source response to open source warfare

Article by John Robb about open-source warfare and the only secure response: self-organizing smaller societies, independence, and resilience.

The rich and the middle class will develop their own solutions, but:

"As for those without the means to build their own defense, they will have to make do with the remains of the national system. They will gravitate to America's cities, where they will be subject to ubiquitous surveillance and marginal or nonexistent services. For the poor, there will be no other refuge...

"Until, that is, the next wave of adaptive innovation takes hold. For all of these changes may prove to be exactly the kind of creative destruction we need to move beyond the current, failed state of affairs. By 2016 and beyond, real long-term solutions will emerge. Cities, most acutely affected by the new disruptions, will move fastest to become self-reliant, drawing from a wellspring of new ideas the market will put forward. These will range from building-based solar systems from firms such as Energy Innovations to privatized disaster and counterterrorist responses. We will also see the emergence of packaged software that combines real-time information (the status of first-responder units and facilities) with interactive content (information from citizens) and rich sources of data (satellite maps). Corporate communications monopolies will crumble as cities build their own emergency wireless networks using simple products from companies such as Proxim...

"By 2016, we may see the trials of the previous decade as progress in disguise. The grassroots security effort will do more than just insulate our gas lines and high schools. It will also spur positive social change: So-called green systems will quickly shed their tree-hugger status and be seen as vital components of our economic and personal security...

"Perhaps the most important global shift will be the rise of grassroots action and cross-connected communities. Like the Internet, these new networks will develop slowly at first. After a period of exponential growth, however, they will quickly become all but ubiquitous--and astonishingly powerful, perhaps as powerful as the networks arrayed against us. And so we will all become security consultants, taking an active role in deciding how it is bought, structured, and applied. That's a great responsibility and, with luck, an enormous opportunity. Choose wisely."

John Robb's blog: