The federal government is responsible for funding a lot of the technological innovation that we often attribute to private companies. While the purpose of some of these innovations is to be applied to the military innovation of the US armed forces, a lot of them also end up as vital components of civilian lives. Private companies may not be willing to invest in technological advancements if they may come at a cost to shareholder profit, but the government isn’t as concerned with profitability.
In this clip, we see that a succession of technological advancements has changed the way Kevin Hart listens to his satellite radio provider (SiriusXM.) When satellite radio was first introduced, it was considered revolutionary. Listeners could tune into their favorite radio stations anywhere their car could go. People were no longer limited to radio stations from their geographic location. One drawback of the service was that the technology was tied to a specific physical location – the car.
Kevin Hart clearly thinks this is still the case as he is seen sitting in his car listening to SiriusXM. LL Cool J shows him he can now stream on his laptop and thus he is able to leave his car and continue listening to his favorite station! Eventually, he’s told that he can listen on his cell phone and even stream his station through his Alexa speaker. His mind is blown! Technological advancement has made all of this development possible. We now have greater flexibility about where we can listen to satellite radio.
Thanks to Erin Yetter for the clip submission and commentary.
Even Santa and his sleigh can use some upgrades once the new technology has been developed. Technological improvements allow companies to produce more products using the same resources or to continue providing the same level of output more efficiently. Charlie and the elves help Santa improve his gift-giving efficiency by upgrading his suit and improving the features of his sleigh.
Thanks to Mandy Mandzik for the clip recommendation. Check out her working paper, All I Want for Christmas is an A on My Econ Final: A Holiday-Themed Review Class, for more Christmas-themed economics examples.
A lot of the recent discussion on the manufacturing industry has framed the loss of employment as a reduction in manufacturing capacity. The US manufactures more physical goods than ever, but it’s using labor as the primary input. In this segment of Adam Ruins Everything, we meet Hank who has recently been laid off from his job at the factory. In an earlier segment, Hank and Adam discuss major economic measures like GDP and Unemployment. In this segment, they discuss some of the misperceptions about manufacturing.
Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy where host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common themes. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course.
In the Summer of 2020, the paper was officially published in The Journal of Economics and Finance Education, which you can read online.
At this part in the episode, Senior Communications Director Toby Ziegler tells Press Secretary C.J. Cregg about the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting the CPI increased by 0.7% in one month (could this be info that they released on Jobs Friday?). C.J. is about to go to a press briefing and quickly practices an answer in case a reporter asks about this startling statistic. C.J. and Toby, though they don’t name these exactly, talk about New Product Bias and Quality Bias as ways of explaining why CPI is not always reliable!
Thanks to Katie Cook and Kalina Staub from UNC for getting this clip on the website!
I just got an email from a student at 10:30pm on a Saturday because they were watching the West Wing and there was a scene where CJ and Toby were discussing CPI and inflation, and she knew what they were talking about. I will never receive a better email. My life is made.
— Kalina Staub (@TwterlessKalina) December 2, 2018
It’s back to school time and everyone has flooded the store to buy calculators, notebooks, dictionaries, and planners, but these are all items that come with a smartphone so it makes those products obsolete for most individuals. Creative destruction occurs when new innovations replace old industries.
In a 1963 Labor Day interview with Walter Cronkite, President Kennedy discusses his position on handling the labor market of the United States with around 4 million unemployed (about 5.5% at the time). Kennedy notes that the growing labor force in the United States requires that if the US wants to “stand still,” they still need to move very fast. Kennedy’s main policy focus at the time was retraining workers who had been displaced by technology and making sure that significant amount of workers have the necessary education to handle the growing workforce.
Kennedy also speaks to the lost jobs in “hardcore unemployed” industries like coal and steel and how it’s important to make sure those workers are retrained because those workers are no longer needed. He then laments that there’s a different issue with older workers replaced by technology and younger workers who don’t have the education to handle that technology. Kennedy ends this portion of the interview with a very powerful quote about the fear of automation:
Too many people coming into the labor market, too many machines are throwing people out.
You can view the entire interview, courtesy of the Kennedy Presidential Library, on YouTube.
Volvo has recently unveiled self-driving garbage trucks in Sweden that are designed to be operated by only on single garbage collector. The trucks match the pace of the garbage collector to allow for differences in worker characteristics. This is just one of the many ways in which automation improves the efficiency of tasks.
A look back at a 1981 news segment that covers the Internet and the eventual push to online media. At the time, 8 newspapers were currently part of the network delivering their daily news via this system. The “paper” included all text, but not images or classifieds. Near the end of the segment, they predict that nearly all news will be delivered electronically, but that the time would be a few years away. The segment closes with a look at a newspaper salesman who would potentially become structurally unemployed when the need for physical papers vanishes.
Radio Shack was a huge part of Sheldon’s life because of all the great technology tools available. In this scene, Sheldon describes the benefits of having a new computer and tries to convince his mom to purchase one so that they can be more productive. A computer costing $998 in 1989 would be equivalent to about $2000 in 2018 dollars. Sheldon is not initially successful in convincing his mom.
While some technology gains are productivity enhancing, at the end of this episode, we see that the gains aren’t the same for everyone.