Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The New Untouchables

Op-Ed Columnist - The New Untouchables -

Tom Friedman on who has the advantage in the current workforce. What value-added are you bringing to your political science degree? Here is a nice summary from the end:

As the Harvard University labor expert Lawrence Katz explains it: “If you think about the labor market today, the top half of the college market, those with the high-end analytical and problem-solving skills who can compete on the world market or game the financial system or deal with new government regulations, have done great. But the bottom half of the top, those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want, have done poorly. They’ve been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable.”

Those at the high end of the bottom half — high school grads in construction or manufacturing — have been clobbered by global competition and immigration, added Katz. “But those who have some interpersonal skills — the salesperson who can deal with customers face to face or the home contractor who can help you redesign your kitchen without going to an architect — have done well.”

Just being an average accountant, lawyer, contractor or assembly-line worker is not the ticket it used to be. As Daniel Pink, the author of “A Whole New Mind,” puts it: In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top. So our schools have a doubly hard task now — not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

View From Inside the Great Depression

Talking Business - Benjamin Roth’s View From Inside the Great Depression -

This is a very interesting piece by Joe Nocera in today's NYT. I think I'll buy the book.

Here are some pictures to go with the article. They show the decline and then rise circa 1937-38 of unemployment and the rebound of the stock market followed by a second large fall. Nocera has a nice discussion of the policy issues behind that increase of unemployment then and the implications for the current recovery.

And compare with now: (click on graph for full size)

Monday, October 12, 2009

2 Americans Share Economics Nobel

2 Americans Share Economics Nobel -

Our Big Ten colleague at Indiana, Elinor Ostrom, has won the Nobel Prize in economics. She is the first woman laureate ever for the economics prize. And she is the fourth political scientist to win or share the Nobel.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Teaching Students to Sift Mountains of Data

Teaching Students to Sift Mountains of Data -

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — It is a rare criticism of elite American university students that they do not think big enough. But that is exactly the complaint from some of the largest technology companies and the federal government.

At the heart of this criticism is data. Researchers and workers in fields as diverse as bio-technology, astronomy and computer science will soon find themselves overwhelmed with information. Better telescopes and genome sequencers are as much to blame for this data glut as are faster computers and bigger hard drives.

Political science doesn't yet have this problem, but there is no reason we can't or shouldn't go there. Every campaign contribution, every precinct vote return, every roll call vote. Every international conflict event. Every foreign investment. Every word of political news coverage. Every blog post. For all time.

And if you want to get teched up for graduate school in any field, or you want to move to silicon valley and make a billion, learn to handle large data.

For Twitter fans, search #hadoop to find fellow travelers who you can follow and who will point to you events and resources. Take a look at #mapreduce as well.