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Get Ready for Grumby – You Know You Want One! Connect the dots from the Industrial Revolution to the Computer and Communications business of today. Can we get medicine on the same ever-lowering price curves as technology. Funny stories of my quest to figure out where silicon will change medicine. As election season approaches, chants about the hollowed-out middle class predictably grow louder. Wages have been flat for decades, we’re told.
New York Times breathlessly reported last year. Cast a leery eye on anyone who uses 1973 as a base—it was a high-water mark before a deep recession. The odoriferous offender is the manufacturer of inflation data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After the creation of Social Security in 1935, Congress would occasionally bestow vote-winning gifts on retirees in the form of benefit increases. Forget for a moment that some of that didn’t exist in 1975. As consumer items got more feature-rich and complex, the BLS simply couldn’t note the absolute price of, say, a microwave oven.
It’s a better measurement but still inaccurate. Here’s a thought experiment: Think about your car’s automatic emergency braking, sometimes known as precrash or collision avoidance. It has been an increasingly popular option in recent years. By 2022, it will be standard on most cars. Let’s do a little hedonic decomposing of our own. Before these sensors, you would have had to hire a person to ride shotgun and constantly watch for potential collisions and slam on the brakes for you. In 2016 the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated the average driver spends almost 300 hours a year in the car, logging more than 10,000 miles.
Does this show up anywhere in the consumer-price index? Dear Grads: How can you make an impact on this world? Courage is needed more than ever. Many of you graduates think you want socially conscious careers—giving back, fighting injustice and making a difference. Well, you know, we all want to change the world. You want to reduce inequality, end poverty, comfort the homeless, expand human dignity.
But you’re going about it the wrong way. If you’re volunteering at shelters or working for most nonprofits, that’s all very nice, but it’s one-off. You’re one of the privileged few who have the education to create lasting change. There’s a word that was probably never mentioned by your professors: Scale. No, not the stuff on the bottom of your bong or bathtub. It’s the concept of taking a small idea and finding ways to implement it for thousands, or millions, or even billions.