The Constant Consumer


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We have become an active consumer all through the day thanks to technology.

In light of Amazon’s all-encompassing ambitions, the strategy behind several of the company’s most important product initiatives — Alexa, Amazon Prime, physical retail stores (including Amazon Go and Whole Foods), and Amazon Key — becomes clearer. These products seek to redefine what being a customer means by immersing us more completely within the Amazon universe. Formerly, being a customer was a role one assumed upon physically entering a store or ordering something from a company. Amazon promises to create a newer type of environment, a hybrid of the digital and the physical, that lets us permanently inhabit that role: the world as Everything Store, which we’re always inside.

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Drew Austin — Real Life

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The Bear Stearns Bailout, Ten Years Later


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Most of us remember the pains and uncertainty around that time. But, have we learnt the lessons?

During former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker’s famous remarks to members of the Economic Club of New York after details about Bear Stearns’ rescue by JP Morgan Chase and the Fed came out ten years ago, he pointedly observed that such actions carried an “implied promise of similar action in times of future turmoil.” The Fed’s intervention is commonly remembered as the start of a cycle of institutional collapse and government bailouts that defined the 2008 financial crisis. Volcker went on to observe that such crises have in fact been a “recurrent feature of free and open capital markets” and that “any return to heavily regulated, bank-dominated, nationally insulated markets is pure nostalgia.”

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Luzi Hail, Ahmed Tahoun, Clare WangInstitute for New Economic Thinking

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After Recessions, Why Do Some Jobs Disappear Forever?


Knowledge@Wharton: There are two things that I found quite interesting in your paper that I want to highlight for a minute. One is the finding that 88% of job losses in the so-called “routine” occupations — such as bank tellers, manufacturing plant jobs, and office clerks — happened during economic downturns, and this is a trend that has been going on since the mid-1980s. Interestingly, this was also around the same time when innovation and automation started to pick up. These two seem to be correlated. Are they?

Roussanov: This is exactly the main empirical fact that our model aims to explain or at least understand. We were not the ones who documented this fact, but this has become an important piece of information for macroeconomists to wrap our heads around — the fact that this job polarization process seems to be primarily happening during relatively short periods of time, which are recessions.

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Knowledge@Wharton

No, Rental Cars Aren’t About to Disappear


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That’s … less than stunning. It shows big changes in business-traveler behavior (and by extension in consumer behavior in general). But rental-car companies appear to still account for a 70 percent share of ground-transportation spending by Certify users, more than twice that of Uber and Lyft combined. Which makes sense: If you’re traveling to anywhere but a city center or other densely packed neighborhood in the U.S., renting a car for a few days is still usually more convenient than trying to get by on ride hailing, transit, walking or, well, scootering.

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Justin Fox — Bloomberg

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It is far from clear that requiring payments for data makes sense


Should we get paid for our data?

Herein lies the insight: to the extent that having consumers not be paid for their data is an indication that they value the use of their data by the network, by forcing the network to pay for that data, the consumer can be made worse off because they can no longer just give the data to the network. Thus, the whole analogy with slavery or the supply of pure labour breaks down because the consumer may want to encourage the network to make use of more of its data. Requiring the network to pay subverts that process.

In order for the notion of regulating payments for data makes sense, you have to believe that consumers do not gain utility by giving additional data to networks. Some (and perhaps many) consumers do give their data freely to networks now. Thus, it is entirely possible that they will be made worse off it networks are required to pay them for that data because those networks may structure themselves to no longer make use of the data rather than pay for it.

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Joshua Gans — Digitopoly

Asian-Americans on being “likable” in the modern workplace


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On navigating racial stereotypes:

The stereotype that I run into the most with my own race is looking young. I was 27 and had just started a new job, and I was introduced to the team as a new person. One older woman said to me, “I don’t mean to sound ageist, but you don’t look like you’ve graduated from college.” It was like, what was the purpose of making that statement? I’m telling you that I have.The implication that I might be in school signals that I might be less than professional.

For Asian-American men, the leading stereotypes are being good at math and being good with computers. But when you narrow that down to East Asian men, you are also pegged as quiet, shy, and for many, socially awkward. I had a conversation with a friend who was categorized as being “stoic and unexpressive” even though I know him to be a very funny, likable person. If your communication skills are not that strong, it’s easy for people not to talk very much.

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PAVITHRA MOHAN AND ANISA PURBASARI HORTON — Fast Company

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Elon Musk’s Fall from Grace


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Will Musk come out of this?

The conflicts of interest certainly seem problematic—and not just for the shareholders. Consider the following: as the two companies, SolarCity and Tesla, were delaying operations and refusing to bargain with workers, Brad W. Buss received $4.95 million as a Tesla director in 2015 alone, on top of his $32 million as the Chief Financial Officer at the insolvent SolarCity. Antonio J. Gracias, founder and CEO of the private equity firm Valor Management, sits on Tesla’s board and owned 211,854 SolarCity shares at the time of the merger. Steve Jurvenston, another Silicon Valley venture capitalist, earned over $6 million as a Tesla board member in 2016 and owned over 417,450 shares of SolarCity during the merger. His investing firm, Draper Fisher Jurveston, put $18.9 million in SolarCity. Nancy Pfund, a venture capitalist at DBL investors, another equity firm, owned over 1.5 million shares of SolarCity at the time of the merger, and Pfund’s partner at DBL is Ira Ehrenpreis, who owns the map software firm MapBox and is also a Tesla director. (In 2015, he secured an agreement with the auto company to use his software, at a $5 million fee on top of sales.)

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Andrew Elrod — Boston Review

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