Virginia Postrel on textiles and technology, nature and magic

Here’s a great highlight from a fascinating and very entertaining podcast from a16z: Textiles as Tech, Science, Math, Culture… or Civilization. Recommended. Sonal Chokshi: “We suffer textile amnesia because we enjoy textile abundance.” … Viginia Postrel: “This really has mostly happened in my lifetime – I’m sixty – where textiles have just become so abundant and so cheap that we…

Thucydides on the prosperity that comes with peace

This is Thucydides writing in 432 BC. Apart from the general description of how stability affects the accumulation of wealth he also gives what is probably the earliest description of the resource curse. … it is evident that the country now called Hellas had in ancient times no settled population; on the contrary, migrations were of frequent occurrence, the several…

UK income inequality by ethnicity: data from the ONS

This article in the Guardian summarises a new set of data from the Office of National Statistics. Here’s the key table on income inequality (based on median hourly income). Main takeaways: Workers of White Irish, Chinese and Indian ethnicity on average earn significantly more than White British. (This gap gets bigger for under 30s – see below). Workers of Pakistani…

Victor Hugo: two faces of political violence

They wanted an end to oppression, an end to tyranny, an end to strife, work for men, education for children, social goodwill towards women, liberty, equality, fraternity, bread for all, an idea for all, a paradise made of this world, progress. And that good, sweet blessed thing, progress, they demanded fearsomely, driven to extremity, to utter distraction, half-naked, with bludgeon…

Kevin Kelly on the future of progress and prosperity

Here’s a dose of optimism from KK – part of his excellent series of videos on The Future of X. It’s well worth checking out. I believe there are going to be another two decades of increased productivity, increased prosperity, around the world on average. That doesn’t mean everywhere, it doesn’t mean every person, but taken as a whole, the…

What’s reading worth? OECD data on the economic returns to literacy

This OECD data records an average 7.5% increase in a person’s wages (8.8% for non-native speakers) for every one standard deviation increase in literacy proficiency, averaged across 24 OECD countries. That’s equivalent to slightly more than two-and-a-half years’ additional salary over a 35 year working life.* According to this data the UK’s return to a one standard deviation in literacy…

Recommendation: Econtalk with Matt Ridley on How Innovation Works

I highly recommend this episode of Econtalk with Matt Ridley talking about how innovation makes inventions useful by making them available, affordable and reliable. The Academy of Ideas podcast is a good overview of the book’s key points about how innovation works and made me feel that I probably didn’t need to read it. This excellent interview with Russ Roberts…

Not long ago, or Little by little (4): Dolly Parton on the scar on her toes

[For those who came in late… Start with Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening… Somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains c1950… Jad Abumrad: She told me one story about how one day, when she was about seven or eight, she…

Not long ago, or Little by little (3): scarcity and subsistence in rural Suffolk

[For those who came in late… Start with Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening… A village in Suffolk [in the east of England], circa 1900: There were seven children at home and father’s wages had been reduced to 10…

Not long ago, or Little by little (2): Indoor plumbing

[Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening, little by little: It’s the Chinese city of Kunming in 1980: Li Kunwa and Phillipe Ôtié’s A Chinese Life is an amazing memoir – a lens into sixty years of struggle and upheaval…