Archive for April, 2014

What Future for Online Learning?

April 27, 2014

During the past year, I enrolled in a number of online courses including World History from 1300, The History and Future of Mainly Higher Education, Financial Markets and A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behaviour. These have helped to shape my views on the future of online learning, which, using current technology, is still in its early stages, although a form has previously existed. It is too early to know how it will turn out. The following are my impressions to-date about its future.

 

  • The beginnings of online learning occurred with correspondence courses, the Open University in the UK, and the publishing of textbooks.
  • Some who have delivered online courses see them as a substitute for text books. Students can watch the course in their own time, and attend classes conducted as discussion groups focused on the lecture content. Many lecturers already provide outlines of their lectures available as Power Point presentations, either before or after a live lecture.
  • Experimentation is taking place with various degrees of in-class and online lectures. Different disciplines and levels (undergraduate and graduate) lend themselves to different blends. The instructor and subject matter will make a difference to what does and does not work. Seminars and lab work require an in class presence.
  • Those who have given online courses say that the upfront (fixed) costs of producing the material are high. The cost of another student accessing the material (marginal cost) is negligible, and make these courses attractive to cash strapped institutions and those not wishing to raise fees. Fixed costs are likely to decline as experience is gained and software improved to facilitate presentations.
  • Those watching videos are used to the production values of first rate television programs such as Downton Abbey, a National Geographic Special or Jeopardy. Online lectures which do little more than put a camera in a classroom will be an ineffective teaching tool, regardless of the reputation of the instructor and the institution.
  • While the foregoing addresses mainly university teaching, online instruction is useful for education at all levels including schools, technical colleges, professional training and any skills which require updating as developments occur.
  • The issue of certification for online courses is always raised. For example, an online course given by a Yale professor may lead to a certificate if the student meets certain conditions. While it will not be equivalent to a Yale course credit (or degree), if the person receiving the credit gets a job, and after a probationary period appears to have the knowledge associated with the course content, the certificate will gain the recognition of having certain value which becomes known to employers. Experimentation is taking place to test different business models.
  • Richard Levin, an economist and President of Yale University for 20 years became the CEO of Coursera, one of the largest commercial companies offering MOOCs  (Massive Open Online Courses). Udacity and edX are two others, while the Kahn Academy offers course material for free. Universities and entrepreneurs are investing in these changes.
  • To-date, information technology (IT) has resulted in significant restructuring of industries, for example, television, film, newspaper, book and magazine publishing, (although less so for periodical publishing), finance, retail shopping, and manufacturing through the use of robots. As outlined above, IT is currently creating changes to the delivery of educational and training services. Quality content is now available worldwide wherever the internet and mobile phones are available. The current world population of 7bn is associated with 6.8bn mobile phones – eg. phones per 100 inhabitants by country, Italy 147, Brazil 137,Morocco 113, China 89, Canada 74, N.Korea 8.
  •  Cost implications for universities depend on the restructuring which occurs. Some universities offer only online courses, and thus save on buildings and salaries of support staff. Others offer a mix of online and on-campus courses, where there will be a mix of additional equipment to distribute online course material but savings on classrooms, offices, support staff and buildings. Ever since the introduction of portable computers, my observation is that faculty has spent less time in campus offices and more time working at home. Other industries no longer provide individual offices for their staff which use shared space. The same could occur in post-secondary institutions.
  •  Cost implications for students include more efficient use of their time, less travel time, easier to work at home and to collaborate with other students and faculty online. They can also mix study with work more easily.
  •  It is the case that taking courses online is not the same as getting the benefits of live interaction with other students and faculty, and use of the other facilities which a traditional university setting offers, such as a library, athletic facilities, clubs and cafeterias. In the same way that restaurants offer different facilities and menus, so post secondary institutions will offer different combinations of onsite and online facilities at different prices to the students and the taxpayers. The latter tend to fund a big chunk of university education in most countries.

 

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Why we fail to foresee approaching problems?

April 23, 2014

I am struck by the frequency with which unexpected events occur, some more important than others, and which are widely debated on old and new media when they do strike. For example:

 

  • The US stock market increased by over 25% in 2013. If anyone had predicted this in January 2013, it would have been dismissed derisively. Some analyst did predict a rise of 11%. This was considered as foolishly over-optimistic. While there are thousands of people following stock market conditions, the predictions were worse than weather forecasts.
  • There was little, if any, public coverage about a possible Russian takeover of the Crimea in 2014 before it took place. Events in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria also emerged with little warning.
  • There is extensive discussion and debate over global warming and its possible effects, but very little discourse about previous ice ages and what happened when warming occurred in the past. (Historians point to at least five previous major ice ages. The last one left the contours of the Canadian Shield and the lakes which I enjoy today in the summer).
  • A failure to recognize in Canada and other developed countries the weakening of the public educational system. Grade inflation has taken place in high schools, especially where there is no province wide exam, as is the case in Ontario since the 1960s. A much higher percentage of young people are entering universities and either being unemployed or employed in occupations which don’t need a university education.

 

The last is like the case of the frogs placed in water who do not notice that it is heating up until they expire. Things are happening around us which we either deliberately ignore or fail to recognise what is happening. Donald Rumsfeld illustrated this.  In 2003, he was awarded the Foot in Mouth Award by the Society for Plain English for the following remark:

 “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Canadian Mark Steyn defended Rumsfeld by calling it “in fact a brilliant distillation of quite a complex matter”, and Australian economist John Quiggin wrote, “Although the language may be tortured, the basic point is both valid and important …”

I have had difficulty in sorting out what is included in each category but will try below. The question concerns how an analyst decides the context for decision making about the future. For example, how do you decide when to go to war, how to treat legal and illegal immigrants, whether to sign a trade or environmental agreement?

Known knowns – these are things that we know we know, for example,

 

  • The distribution of intelligence in the population is normal. There are more and less smart people in the population. Schools and universities have to rank students by grades although these may not be reliable indicators.

 

  • The global population was 1.5 bn in 1900, is 7.2 bn now, and will rise towards 9 billion by 2060. The age structure of a country’s population can be estimated fairly accurately.

 

  • Base metals and rare earths will remain in finite supply.

 

  • Migration from country to city will remain high, and migration of people from poor to rich countries will continue both legally and illegally.

 

Known unknowns – things we know will happen but not when, where or how much.

 

  • The supply of natural resources will increase as a result of discoveries and technological change but by how much is not known.

 

  • A major financial crisis will affect commodity prices, stock prices and interest rates, but the extent and timing is unknown.

 

  • Politics and policies in different countries will affect the natural resource sector re exploitation, and the environment, but how and when is not known.

 

  • Earthquakes and tsunamis will occur in different locations, but where, when and their size are unknown.

 

Unknown knowns – things we don’t know we don’t know

 

  • Asset pricing bubbles will arise and then burst

 

  • Political corruption exists in all countries but the degree is unknown

 

  • Income inequality in a society will change over time.

 

  • There will be further revolutions and wars but their timing and location are uncertain (Middle East, Russia, China, N.Korea for example).

 

Some suggest a fourth category, namely Unknown Unknowns – things that we refuse to acknowledge that we know. For example, those who issue warnings re climate change seldom point to previous periods of climate change, although this attitude is changing.

Another example is the refusal by some to admit that prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and in Guantanamo, Cuba were subject to torture during their interrogation. Until Wikileaks and the actions of Edward Snowden, there was the false assertion that US agencies were not spying on their own citizens.

This classification shows the difficulty of making decisions in the face of uncertainty, and that uncertainty is made up of different components, some of which are harder to assess than others. The conditions for a game of tick-tack-toe are clear and the outcome predetermined after playing a few times. Drafts and chess have more possible moves, but the board is fixed, as are the moves which each player can make. A computer can be programmed to play chess and has beaten a chess champion.

In the arena of international affairs, such as the west assessing the next moves by Russia in the Ukraine, for Russia the next moves by the west, and for Japan the next moves by China in the South China Sea, there is more uncertainty and the outcome difficult to analyse and predict.

So what are the areas where the water is warming and that should concern us about the future? The following is an idiosyncratic and partial list.

  • In the South China Sea, China faces off against its neighbours, especially Japan, Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines over claims to resources. The presence of the US navy adds to these tensions.
  • In Eastern Europe, the spheres of influence are being tested by Russia in areas involving the Ukraine, Poland, Finland and the Baltic states with implications for NATO member countries which are not sure how to respond.
  • Chinese economic growth has resulted in part from domestic investment projects, including the building of cities for several million inhabitants. Many are ghost towns with few living there. They will deteriorate if not maintained and become a drain on the domestic economy, which in recent years has promoted global economic growth by the demand for imported natural resources and the supply of cheap labour. The wage advantage is being undermined by the substitution of robotics for persons.
  • In Myanmar, with Chinese assistance a new capital is being built at Naypyidaw. It boasts a 20 lane highway with street lights and virtually no traffic, suggesting poor planning and harm for an already poor economy.
  • Institutions in democratic countries are being weakened by domestic forces as politicians compete for taxpayers’ votes by spending taxpayers’ money. This leads to the establishment of entitlements and interest group politics which Adam Smith recognized in the 18th century as harmful to society. The rise of right wing parties, especially in Europe, and pressure groups like the Tea Party are a reflection of this process. Niall Ferguson describes this as the Great Degeneration.

 

I invite others to list their concerns which if not recognized may cause us to become dead frogs.

 

The Second Machine Age – GDP and Jobs

April 10, 2014

In order to plan for economic and social change, it is useful to know what is happening in an economy. Various economic measures indicate current developments, GDP being a widely used overall measure of how national economies are changing. Employment levels and the skill structure of the economy, and those employed or unemployed are other statistics reported quarterly and annually. Others have proposed a measure of happiness.

The remainder of this posting deals with two topics, 1. The adequacy of GDP accounting to assess the state of an economy, and 2. How skill requirements are changing as a result of computers and communications technology, and what this may mean for those providing and receiving education.

 

  1. GDP

GDP was never designed as a measure of overall social welfare although, perhaps out of convenience or laziness, it is often used as a proxy for welfare. Its shortcomings are well known, recently discussed by Diane Coyle in GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History, (Princeton, 2014). To paraphrase Coyle’s preliminary comments on the limitations of GDP (p.35):

  • It measures paid for goods and service, excluding many unpaid services such as parents’ care of children, cooking at home and housework.
  • It includes “bads” such as the environmental costs of pollution.
  • It ignores improvements in the quality of new goods, especially when technology changes (for example from manual to electric typewriter to word processor).
  • It excludes many indicators of progress such as health, education, infant mortality and life expectancy.
  • The simple reporting of GDP per capita does not show the distribution of GDP between rich and poor.

Coyle surveys other indicators such as the Human Development Index, Gross National Happiness, and the output of a working group lead by Nobel winning economists Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz examining the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.

In sum, there is ongoing research both to improve the measurement of GDP and to develop indicators which incorporate other aspects of social, political and economic welfare. Economic activities associated with the second machine age create some urgency for this work, as many information related activities generate free but valuable goods and especially services, and therefore underestimate a country’s GDP.

Downturns, such as followed the recent recession, may not be as bad in aggregate terms as reported. By April 2014, ninety-three percent of the labour forces in Canada and the USA were employed. But the downside is that at the same time the internet and communications have altered the skill structure of the labour force leading to un- and underemployment. We look at this in the next section.

  1. Skill requirements for employment 

Andrew McAfee, coauthor of Race Against Machines and The Second Machine Age predicts that rapid advancements in automation are eliminating more middle class jobs. The skill profile of the workforce will change from looking like a bowl, with lower skills at one end moving bowl-like to higher skills at the other, to a Tuna can with almost entirely low skilled jobs at one end and high skilled jobs at the other, and very little need for medium skilled (perhaps middle class) jobs. The hamburger flippers are at one end and computer scientists at the other. These skill changing forces are reflected in the rhetoric of politicians who try to win votes by pledging to save the middle class. which is adversely affected by the changes. Probably they cannot deliver.

These trends will likely accelerate. While Canada decries the loss of so-called good jobs in manufacturing to low wage countries, the same loss is happening in China. While initially the jobs moved from high to low wage countries, low cost automation is now replacing low wages.

John Carroll, co-author of The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups, states:

  • “Technology has improved so much, and will keep improving for the foreseeable future. Sensors are so cheap that you can build them into anything for almost no cost. Add a motor and you have a robot. Computing power costs essentially nothing, and everything can be controlled wirelessly these days, so it isn’t hard to imagine interesting things that the robots can do.”

If robots are going to substitute for people, then schools and post secondary institutions will have to adjust their course offerings and their means of delivery with more of it online. Students who want a liberal arts education will still be able to find one, but it may not lead to the desired type and level of paid employment. At the same time they will have the opportunity for lifelong learning, due to the availability of various combinations of online and in-class learning with some of the best instructors from around the world.   Indicative of this trend is the appointment of the former President of Princeton University to become the CEO of Coursera, one of the main commercial firms offering online courses.

 

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Three of the current remarkable examples of computer robots are Google’s driverless car, the computer which beat a chess champion, and the one which won at Jeopardy by answering questions.

Following are some further references to the probable changing skill structure of the workforce, from the Conversible Economist posting for April 9, 2014. (http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.ca/).

It reads as follows:

The current discussion is about robots that are mobile, able to receive a variety of commands, and with the capability to carry them out. For example, the March 29 issue of the Economist has a lengthy cover story on the “Rise of the Robots.” But I’ll focus here on Stuart W. Elliott’s article, “Anticipating a Luddite Revival,” which discusses how robots will affect the future of human work. It appears in the Spring 2014 edition of Issues in Science and Technology.  Elliott did a literature review of the robot capabilities that are cutting edge and now becoming feasible as discussed in AI Magazine and IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine from 2003 to 2012. Here, I’ll refer to his discussion of the more recent capabilities of robots in four areas: language capabilities, reasoning capabilities, vision capabilities, and movement capabilities.

 

Language capabilities. “[T]he tasks included screening medical articles for inclusion in a systematic research review, solving crossword puzzles with Web searches, answering Jeopardy questions with trick language cues across a large range of topics, answering questions from museum visitors, talking with people about directions and the weather, answering written questions with Web searches, following speech commands to locate and retrieve drinks and laundry in a room, and using Web site searches to find information to carry out a novel task.”

 

Reasoning capabilities. “[T]he tasks included screening medical articles for inclusion in a systematic research review, processing government forms related to immigration and marriage, solving crossword puzzles, playing Jeopardy, answering questions from museum visitors, analyzing geological landform data to determine age, talking with people about directions and the weather, answering questions with Web searches, driving a vehicle in traffic and on roads with unexpected obstacles, solving problems with directions that contain missing or erroneous information, and using Web sites to find information for carrying out novel tasks. One of the striking aspects of the reasoning systems was their ability to produce high levels of performance. For example, the systems were able to make insurance underwriting decisions about easy cases and provide guidance to underwriters about more difficult ones, produce novel hypotheses about growing crystals that were sufficiently promising to merit further investigation, substantially improved the ability of call center representatives to diagnose appliance problems, achieved scores on a chemistry exam comparable to the mean score of advanced high-school students, produced initial atomic models for proteins that substantially reduced the time needed for experts to develop refined models, substituted for medical researchers in screening articles for inclusion in a systematic research review, solved crossword puzzles at an expert level, played Jeopardy at an expert level, and analyzed geological landform data at an expert level.”

Vision capabilities. “[T]he tasks included recognizing chess pieces by location, rapidly identifying types of fish, recognizing the presence of nearby people, identifying the movements of other vehicles for an autonomous car, locating and grasping objects in a cluttered environment, moving around a cluttered environment without collisions, learning to play ball-and-cup, playing a game that involved building towers of blocks, navigating public streets and avoiding obstacles to collect trash, identifying people and locating drinks and laundry in an apartment, and using Web sites to find visual information for carrying out novel tasks such as making pancakes from a package mix.”

Movement capabilities. “[T]he tasks included moving chess pieces, driving a car in traffic, grasping objects in a cluttered environment, moving around a cluttered environment without collisions, learning to play ball-and-cup, playing a game that involved building towers of blocks, navigating public streets and avoiding obstacles to collect trash, retrieving and delivering drinks and laundry in an apartment, and using the Web to figure out how to make pancakes from a package mix.”

Second Machine Age – Are the good times here?

April 8, 2014

Each generation blames previous ones, usually their parents, for the current state of the world. This can be a perilous exercise depending on whether one emphasizes the good bits or the naughty bits which precede the present. I would argue that today’s younger generation has much to be thankful for from the past, despite the problems that exist in the world, but then that’s what you would expect from me.

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The Way We Live Now is the title of a satirical novel by Anthony Trollope describing the trials and tribulations of young love, the pettiness of Victorian upper class life, the energy of London, the most powerful city in the world, and the greed and corruption that lay just below the glittering surface. Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901. My grandfather lived from 1824 – 1899 and my father from 1889 – 1976. Both survived this era and some years thereafter. They witnessed Trollope’s world at first hand and passed down some of it. Evelyn Waugh, his son Auberon and grandson Alexander, Somerset Maugham, P.G.Wodehouse, George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling chronicled parts of the 1900’s, and Christopher Hitchens the more recent years. For the USA today, Jon Stewart, on the Comedy Channel, focuses a television spotlight on greed, corruption and other kinds of knavery. No change from the past here.

Each generation blames the previous one for causing the mess it lives in. The current younger generation is no exception. No doubt their children will do it to them. But how bad is the current state of today’s world? After the crash of 2007-08, the pessimists point to unemployment, the loss of good paying jobs, public and personal financial deficits and high debt levels, environmental problems, deteriorating public infrastructure, growing income inequality, the failure of public and private institutions and democracy in general.

But are things really that bad relative to the past? Since 1900, there was the Boer War, World War 1, the Great Depression, World War 2, the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and of Japanese militarism, the overthrow of the Tsar and the rise and fall of Communism. Many other military and domestic conflicts, in China for example, could be listed. So conditions today  are probably no worse, perhaps better than what took place in most of the twentieth century. There is no need for today’s older generation to feel overly defensive about the accusations of those younger. For example, today’s elderly had to live through and adjust to the destruction caused by WW2 and the great depression.

A world war cured the high levels of unemployment of the 1930s. But a postwar recovery did occur and there is a partial good news story to tell future generations. Today, people in developed and developing countries have a much higher living standard than a century ago. There remain pockets of poverty in rich countries, but globally, the proportion of people living below the poverty line has decreased. The absolute numbers of poor may be higher but this is because the world population of 1.7 bn in 1900 is now over four times higher at 7.2 bn (Canada is almost six times higher, 5.5 mil and 32 mil).

Before examining today’s problems in the next section, let’s look at the forces affecting global society today.  Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in the Second Machine Age describe how, the world has entered a second industrial revolution. While the first one from about the 1760s revolved around the steam engine replacing manpower and horsepower, the second one is related to the computer and the digitization of information and communications stemming from developments since the 1930s which are ongoing.

The effects of the second machine age are seen in the growing interdependence between people, firms and other institutions locally, domestically and internationally, labeled as globalization; the changing patterns of skills required in the workplace; the demise of some businesses and the restructuring of others. Examples include the book and newspaper industries (the magazine industry seems to be less affected, as do community newspapers which grow fatter as daily newspapers slim down). Restructuring has occurred in the music, television, cable and film industries as well as in the financial industry and many traditional manufacturing industries with the use of programmable robots. Some industries have speeded up their operations so that a fraction of a second makes a difference to the value of a transaction (see Michael Lewis, Flash Boys, A Wall Street Revolt, 2014). Quality has improved for many goods and services, while at the same time prices have fallen, for example for computing power, an online stock trade, payment of a bill, watching a movie and listening to music online.

These changes are causing disruptions. Some are weathering them better than others, but the changes which need to be made so that those in the workforce adapt to the Second Machine Age are fairly clear. Measurement of economic change in terms of GDP and the skills required for the new economy are the subject of a future posting.

The Second Machine Age – Some Comments

April 5, 2014

The Second Machine Age (Norton 2014) or 2MA by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee has received several excellent reviews. Some can be located via Amazon or other web searches where summaries of the book are also available. Rather than repeat them, I note aspects of 2MA which especially struck me.

  • As a book about economic history and the economic aspects of current technological  developments, it is written in a style which is widely accessible. There is an absence of economic jargon and the explanation of economic concepts is understandable to the informed layperson. Even the difference between mean, median and mode is outlined, for example when dealing with the measurement of changing income inequality.
  • The book’s title identifies around 1765 as the start of the first machine age with the development of Watt’s steam engine, which substituted mechanical power for man and animal (horse) power for many types of economic activity. Railways were a big part of this age. Water power and canals were also features of this earlier period. The latter are now often used for tourism, although some like the Suez and Panama remain as busy shipping highways.
  • The second age, 2MA, relates to computers and developments in digital communications. Like most inventions they begin with a series of inputs, one of which was Alan Turing who is often considered the founder of the modern computer with the publication of his 1936 paper. But things took off later. A 1965 article by Gordon Moore, then working for Fairchild Semiconductor, predicted correctly that “Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers – or at least terminals connected to a central computer – automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment.” Home computing and laptops appeared in the early 1980s. This paper was the source of Moore’s Law, which forecast that the amount of integrated circuit computing power bought for one dollar would double each year. That has happened for over four decades and some extend this forecast for another eighteen months. Others say the law will end in about 15 years due to various physical constraints. Who knows? But scientists are probably better forecasters than economists and meteorologists.
  • Government statistical agencies first noted information technology as a corporate investment expenditure in 1958, another approximation for when 2MA begins. The world is now in its early stages with pioneers like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Larry Page (Google). Not long ago the leaders were persons in charge of firms like IBM, Hewlett Packard, Digital Equipment, Dell and Cisco. Because this 2MA is still young, the exponential changes are best graphed logarithmically showing the growth of supercomputer speeds, supercomputer energy efficiency, residential internet download speed and hard drive cost efficiency, as well as the number of microprocessors per chip. A graph with a normal scale would go off the top of the page.
  • Two schools of thought prevail about the prospects for future growth. One, supported by Tyler Cowen, sees economic growth declining in the future because we have “picked the low-hanging fruit” of recent technological changes. Another, supported by the authors of 2MA, argues that we are in the early stages of a new machine age and that there will be many applications of information technology which entrepreneurs will introduce. They also argue that the way we measure economic output in terms of GDP grossly underestimates the actual output of the economy, and that new diagnostic tools are required. They do agree that the occupational structure of the labour force has changed and that this accounts in part for growing income inequality.
  • What are the shortcomings of the system of national accounts which provides a measure of annual and quarterly GDP? The US accounts were developed in 1937 by a NBER team lead by Simon Kuznets, and have since been refined and adopted by other countries. Economic texts have always noted problems (they are listed in my 1985 fifth edition of Lipseys’ introductory text and I am sure it would have been in the first edition). National accounting does not distinguish between activity associated with cleaning up after an oil spill and with producing tankers. Both are counted as part of annual GDP. And there is nothing like a war to expand economic output. As well, some economic activities go unreported such as criminal acts and certain activities including the services of housewives. As a measurement of change, as opposed to levels of economic activity, if these omissions are constant, then it doesn’t matter too much. But with 2MA the changes are significant.
  • Much of what is consumed each year is now either free or cheaper than in the past. Take Wikipedia, it is available for free over the internet, except for the cost of having an internet connection. Individuals provide and consumers use the content for no charge, leaving no recorded activity for the national accounts. Many other electronically delivered services have one or other or both of these features. One result is that calculations of ratios such as the productivity of labour (output per worker) would be higher if the numerator (output) was fully reported in monetary terms. A similar argument could be made about many of the apps which are prepared, often for free, to access some service which may or may not valued in monetary terms. (Chapter 8 of 2MA elaborates on these issues).
  • Contrast GDP accounting and reporting with other activities which do record flows of activity. Stock market prices are available in real time, as are current air, rail, and probably truck transportation data (unless the plane disappears). The same is true for the weather, and medical conditions of a patient who wears some type of sensor for blood, heart and other conditions. Why is this not possible for the output of the economy which is used for setting economic policies?   Where is the app for real time GDP measurement? (In Canada, Statistics Canada releases information on a daily basis, but not for the day but for some past period. For GDP, the latest data are for January 2014 as accessed in The Daily for April 4th, 2014.) One explanation is that it takes time to collect the data. But if the data are being generated continuously, then it should be possible to collect and report them even if they are revised at a later date – which is the present case anyway.

A future posting will examine what 2MA means for the nature of employment, education and training, and income inequality.