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Large Language Models Can Entertain but Are They Useful?

Humans who value correct responses will need to fact-check everything LLMs generate

In 1987 economics Nobel Laureate Robert Solow said that the computer age was everywhere—except in productivity data. A similar thing could be said about AI today: It dominates tech news but does not seem to have boosted productivity a whit. In fact, productivity growth has been declining since Solow’s observation. Productivity increased by an average of 2.7% a year from 1948 to 1986, by less than 2% a year from 1987 to 2022. Labor productivity is the amount of goods and services we produce in a given amount of time—output per hour. More productive workers can build more cars, construct more houses, and educate more children. More productive workers can also enjoy more free time. If workers can do in four Read More ›

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Business Prof: Stop It! The World is NOT Running Out of Stuff!

A famous bet between two top thinkers settled that a long time ago

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Dr. Gale Pooley, Professor of Economics at BYU-Hawaii, on the myth that we are running out of resources and doomed to future scarcity. Even though media pundits often claim it is true, the numbers say it is a myth. The story begins with a famous bet between two professors… From the interview: The bet was whether basic commodity prices would rise between September 29, 1980 and September 29, 1990. The professors who made the bet were Stanford insect biologist Paul Ehrlich (1932–), author of bestseller The Population Bomb (1968), and economist Julian Simon (1932–1998) Ehrlich bet yes and Simon bet no. Gale Pooley: First of all, what was interesting about Julian Simon, he reads Ehrlich’s book Read More ›

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Engineering students using a 3D printer

Why Engineering Can’t Be Reduced to the Laws of Physics

When we reduce the engineer’s mind to a computer, the source of innovation disappears

The fundamental problem of modern science is the problem of innovation. Where does novelty come from? This problem shows up in physics, biology, artificial intelligence, and economics. Within physics, the problem is how to account for the fundamental constants of reality. They are all precisely tuned to make sentient and intelligent life—life that can learn about itself and the universe—possible through science. Within biology, the problem is accounting for the source of highly complex genetic sequences that express finely tuned biological functions. In artificial intelligence, the challenge is identifying solutions that are relevant to a given scenario. In economics the problem is identifying the right products for the market. What do all these situations have in common? In each case, Read More ›

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Universal Basic Income? Fear of AI Fuels Bad Economics

If new technology led to mass permanent unemployment, history would be an endless saga of expanding joblessness

Although the coming shift will be abrupt, new technologies enable us to focus, as economists would put it, on our comparative advantage over machines. 

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How Can Information Theory Help the Economy Grow?

New information is the true source of new wealth; everyone wins when we learn how to produce it more efficiently
What gives humans the ability to increase in prosperity, according to Eric Holloway, is our ability to “read” from Plato’s Library of new ideas, thus providing an ever-growing supply of side information that powers the economy. Read More ›
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Does Technology Favor Tyranny?

Part One: Deconstructing Yuval Harari’s Silly Forecast of AI’s Future Impact

Will infotech and biotech erode human agency, subvert human desires, and render free-market economics obsolete?  At first glance, there looks to be a wide gap between the future of AI and the destruction of democracy. Some futurists claim to have jumped that chasm. In a cheery little column published by the Atlantic, Yuval Noah Harari posits AI will ultimately destroy Read More ›