5 insightful op-eds or articles to help make sense of today’s world

Michael Spence, “Labor’s Digital Displacement”
(Project Syndicate, May 22, 2014)
The Nobel laureate in economics explains why digital technologies are transforming global value chains and, with them, the structure of the global economy. In particular, new digital capital-intensive technology allows production to move toward the final market, wherever it is. The conclusion? As labor becomes a less important asset for growth, all countries will need “to rebuild their growth models around digital technologies and the human capital that supports their deployment and expansion”.

Andrew Smithers, “The Demographic Threat to Developed Nations”
(Financial Times, May 21, 2014 – metered paywall)
A short piece from a great investor on why it is ageing rather than the declining total numbers in the population that matters most in terms of maintaining living standards. Based on this observation, a few charts show that Japan is still the country most under threat up to 2015 (and Germany as the least threatened).

Lana Swartz and Bill Maurer, “The Future of Money-Like Things”
(The Atlantic, May 22, 2014)
The two academics (from a research center that deals with money and technology) posit that we need to look at the infrastructure that makes money move to understand the future of monetary forms like Bitcoin. They explore the possibility that physical currency will disappear, with multiple moneys or “money-like things” interacting with one another, and private currencies challenging the state’s monopoly on money.

Anatole Kaletsky, “China-Russia is a Match Made in Heaven, and that’s Scary”
(Blogs Reuters, May 22, 2014)
Anatole explains why and how the “Western diplomatic ineptitude” has delivered a huge economic and geopolitical windfall for Putin: the prospect of a Sino-Russian partnership to balance NATO and the U.S. alliances in Asia. He gives five reasons why Putin’s recent trip to Shanghai could possibly mark the start of a strategic realignment between nuclear superpowers “comparable to the tectonic shifts that began with President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to China in 1972”.

Elizabeth Kolbert, “No Time”
(The New Yorker, May 26, 2014)
Based on Keynes’ prediction that our generation would work about three hours a day, the prize-winning journalist ponders why economic wealth has not translated into leisure. We are in fact busier than ever. She reviews a book – “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” that looks into this issue. One of the many conclusions: “busyness has acquired social status: the busier you seem, the more important you are”.