Robots are moving in to our homes, but there’s no killer app – Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

From The Conversation

Not too long ago, robots were giant, caged things, mainly found in automotive manufacturing lines. Social robotics was a new field of research pursued by the best and brightest in university research labs.

In the past few years, however, it seems that social robots have finally come of age. All of a sudden, the market is teeming with products. Some are distinctly humanoid.

The rise of social robots

Softbank Robotics’ Nao, Pepper and Romeo all have a head and two arms. With their stylised designs, they deftly avoid the “uncanny valley” of human-machine interfaces (realistic enough to look human, but non-human enough to look spooky).

Others are more subdued in their anthropomorphism. Blue Frog Robotics’ Buddy sports an animated face on a screen, and scoots around on wheels. Jibo is yet more subtle in its ability to evoke humanity, with its stationary base and a head that can turn and nod.

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International trade and household debt: How import competition from China helped fuel the credit bubble of the 2000s – Jean-Noël Barrot, Erik Loualiche, Matthew Plosser, Julien Sauvagnat

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Jean-Noël Barrot

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Jean-Noël Barrot

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Erik Loualiche

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Erik Loualiche

From Vox

In the years preceding the Great Recession, there was a dramatic rise in household debt (e.g. Mian and Sufi 2009) and an unprecedented increase in import competition. This competition was triggered by the expansion of China and other low-wage countries in global markets, and had substantial labour market consequences (Autor et al. 2013, Autor et al. 2014, Pierce and Schott, 2016). There is a striking break and a dramatic acceleration of both trends at the turn of the century.

We hypothesise that these two phenomena were intimately linked, and that the impact of import competition on labour markets affected household debt expansion from 2000 to 2007.

More precisely, we argue that the displacement of domestic production by imports fuelled demand for credit in impacted areas.

We examine this hypothesis using a large, nationally representative panel dataset of anonymous consumer credit records, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax Data (CCP), HMDA as well as a longitudinal survey, the PSID. We exploit cross-regional variation in exposure to import competition to study the impact of import penetration on household liabilities.

More precisely, we use variation in exposure to international trade driven by historical industry composition at the commuting-zone level. To capture exposure to import competition, we build on prior work (Barrot et al. 2016) and use industry-level shipping costs (SC), obtained from import data and computed as the mark-up of Cost-Insurance-Freight over the price paid by the importer. We find shipping costs to be a strong predictor of the increase in import penetration. In Figure 1 we decompose Chinese import penetration to the US into high, medium, and low shipping cost industries. Most of the dramatic increase in Chinese import penetration in the 2000s is concentrated in low-shipping-cost industries.

Read the full post at Vox.

Jean-Noël Barrot is the Alfred Henry and Jean Morrison Hayes Career Development Professor and an Assistant Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Erik Loualiche is an Assistant Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

On the making of Trump: the blind spot that created him – Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

From The Huffington Post

We have entered a watershed moment not only here in America, but also globally. It’s a moment that could help us wake up to a deeper level of collective awareness and renewal—or a moment when we could spiral down into chaos, violence, and fascism-like conditions. Whether it’s one or the other depends on our capacity to become aware of our collective blind spot.

Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States has sent shock waves across the planet. In a replay of Brexit, a coalition of white, working- (and middle-) class men (and women) from mostly rural areas swept an anti-establishment candidate into office. But the election of Trump is hardly an outlier: just look at the global rise of strongmen such as Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdogan, Viktor Orban, and Rodrigo Duterte and the surge of other right-wing populists.

Why has the richest and most prosperous country in the world now elected a climate denier who used racist, sexist, misogynistic, and xenophobic language throughout his campaign? What makes us put someone like him in the White House? Why did we create a presidential election between two of the most disliked candidates of all time, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? Why did Trump, who lied and attacked minorities, journalists, women, and the disabled, only become stronger and stronger throughout his campaign? What is the blind spot that has kept us from seeing and shifting the deeper forces at play? Why, again and again, do we collectively create results that most people don’t want?

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The Power of the Post-It – A low-tech tool for mastering high-performance collaboration–Virginia Healy-Tangney

MIT Sloan Lecturer, Managerial Communication

MIT Sloan Lecturer, Virginia Healy-Tangney

The simplest tool can sometimes be the most effective. Consider a list of the world’s easiest to use and most beloved tools: a pencil, a ruler, a shovel and the ever-present workhorse in business, education, and daily life—the Post-it note.

Developed by accident by Spencer Silver, a senior researcher and chemist at 3M in the late 1950s, his low tack reusable adhesive was referred to within 3M as a “solution without a problem,” since no one could envision a use for the small sticky and movable squares. That was until a colleague, Art Fry, used the removable sticky paper to bookmark a page in his hymnal.  Fry, having discovered that the squares could easily be used to mark pages without marring the paper underneath and then repositioned easily, sought to develop the product for commercial usage and the Post-it was officially born.

How did we learn just how powerful this simple tool is in the collaboration process? Partnering with Continuum colleagues, over that past two years, we’ve conducted an intensive design-thinking seminar with MIT Sloan MBA students. An important process in the design thinking methodology is team-based iterating to brainstorm ideas focused on solving a client problem such as the one presented this year by the MIT Leadership Center.

For many MIT Sloan students the team-based ideation process is a new challenge.  Enter a pad of Post-its – where everyone is responsible for penning their unique ideas and posting them to a white board.  The result: Students culturally oriented to refrain from participation or those who by nature are introverted gained confidence sharing their ideas, hearing multiple viewpoints and giving constructive feedback.  Using post-its created the right conditions for squares to be easily posted, moved, parked or tossed and for team mates to collaboratively engage in revising and vetting to strengthen ideas based on feedback, not intuition.

As one student, a managing partner at a Canadian law firm, said, writing down an idea on your own block of Post-it® Notes ‘levels the playing field’ so that regardless of personality style or level of expertise, more people feel comfortable participating.

Team CollaborationBest of all, as another student offered, the small pad ‘forces you to distill your idea down to its essence.” Brainstorming concisely written thoughts engenders sharper dialogue and allows a team to move forward with viable ideas faster

We all know first-hand teams work better when sharing ideas to pursue a common goal. What we teased out of our retrospective session and what leading authors such as Gillian Tett in The Silo Effect clearly expose, getting collaboration right across diverse teams and letting different voices be heard is a constant and rigorous endeavor.

Although there is no single blueprint for collaborative success and using Post-it Notes is not a panacea to unlocking incredible ideas, in my experience at the MIT Sloan School of Management, sometimes the simplest, most versatile tool helps a team begin to create an environment of interpersonal trust and mutual respect to optimize innovative problem-solving and thoughtful decision-making.

Virginia Healy-Tangney is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Trump’s magical economic thinking – Simon Johnson

MIT Sloan Professor Simon Johnson

MIT Sloan Professor Simon Johnson

From Project Syndicate

Donald Trump has finally put out a detailed economic plan. Authored by Peter Navarro (an economist at the University of California-Irvine) and Wilbur Ross (an investor), the plan claims that a President Trump would boost growth and reduce the national debt. But its projections are based on assumptions so unrealistic that they seem to have come from a different planet. If the United States really did adopt Trump’s plan, the result would be an immediate and unmitigated disaster.

At the heart of the plan is a very large tax cut. The authors claim this would boost economic growth, despite the fact that similar cuts in the past (for example, under President George W. Bush) had no such effect. There is a lot of sensible evidence available on precisely this point, all of which is completely ignored.

The Trump plan concedes that the tax cut per se would reduce revenue by at least $2.6 trillion over ten years – and its authors are willing to cite the non-partisan Tax Foundation on this point. But the Trump team claims this would be offset by a growth miracle spurred by deregulation.

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