Thursday, November 15, 2007

Debraj Ray

Julius Silver Professor of Economics in New York University has a survey article on 'Development Economics'. Ray's bookon Development Economics has been used by Dani Rodrik and others in their courses.There is aseminar at Crooked Timber on Dani Rodrik's book "One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalizat, Institutions and Economic Growth".
I vaguely remember that Ray was among a group of three young economists who came back to India in the early 80's to find a suitable job and work on development. Only one of the three is in india now. I think that one of them is in Australia and Ray is in USA.
More links to development economics here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I completed reading "Economics, A Very Short Introduction" by Partha Dasgupta. For an outsider like me trying to get some understanding of economics, this seems to be the best of the popular books that I have read or browsed through so far. Earlier, it seemed to be a subject driven by politics and hegemony, a view supported to some extent by the articles of Mike Reay and Marion Fourcade. This book indicates that basic economics can be used with a view of sharing scarce resources and planning for the future irrespective of ideolgy. I recall David Warsh's comment from
"Each book targets a different audience. Often there are advertisers lurking in the background. The primer I have enjoyed most, the one I would recommend to a friend who wanted to learn how economists think about the world right now, is one that passed almost completely unnoticed into the stream, perhaps because it is so slight. But then, that is the point of Economics: A Very Short Introduction, by Partha Dasgupta, the Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at Cambridge University. He boils down everything that's ordinarily included in a thousand-page introductory text, and more, to 160 graceful but undersized pages."
I feel that elementary books in sciences, at least at the level of understanding current news, should be available in regional languages. I think that this book fits that criterion. I am taking a copy of it to A.P. with the hope that somebody may translate or write articles in Telugu based on this book. If I cannot find anybody, I may attempt to do it myself, even though my Telugu is not that good.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Going to India

on a long trip. Possibly very few posts in the next months.
Happy holidays and new year to all.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Lorraine Lee Rose

pictured hereis an Australian bred rose. In the last ten years, I never watered it and sprayed it only once. It seems to flower most of the year.

Two posts on eco-friendly housing

Rahul Banerjee explains his efforts making his house in Indore eco-friendly :
"All the kitchen waste is composted to yield manure. What is more even at the height of summer when the temperature in Indore hits 45 degrees centigrade our house remains cool because of its leafy exterior. We have a natural air-cooling system as the house has been designed with a lot of cross ventilation and all we have to do is hang some khas grass curtains on the windows and wet them through drips and the air blowing in becomes cool. We do not have to run fans let alone air conditioners. Our average daily consumption of electricity is 1.75 units (kwh) only."
The ecofriend blog on Agro-Housing:
"The concept of Agro-Housing is to have housing programs that will allow the formation of a new social and urban order that can be replicated as it represents basic human values lost in the process of modernization and progress. Additional expected benefits from Agro-Housing include the decline in commuting, the decline in further transportation system development, and the replacement of the zoning strategy by more sustainable urban conception. As the world’s population burgeons at startling speeds, it’s a proposal that’s more necessary than simply clever."

Friday, November 02, 2007

NYTimes on Babajob

Anand Giridhardaswrites about Babajob(via Angry Bear):
"The best-known networking sites in the industry connect computer-savvy elites to one another. Babajob, by contrast, connects India’s elites to the poor at their doorsteps, people who need jobs but lack the connections to find them. Job seekers advertise skills, employers advertise jobs and matches are made through social networks.

For example, if Rajeev and Sanjay are friends, and Sanjay needs a chauffeur, he can view Rajeev’s page, travel to the page of Rajeev’s chauffeur and see which of the chauffeur’s friends are looking for similar work.

Mr. Blagsvedt, now 31, joined Microsoft in Redmond in 1999. Three years ago he was sent to India to help build the local office of Microsoft Research, the company’s in-house policy research arm. The new team worked on many of the same complex problems as their peers in Redmond, but the employees here led very different lives outside the office than their counterparts in Redmond. They had servants and laborers. They read constant newspaper tales of undernourishment and illiteracy.

The company’s Indian employees were not seeing poverty for the first time, but they were now equipped with first-rate computing skills, and many felt newly empowered to help their society.

At the same time, Microsoft was plagued by widespread software piracy, which limited its revenue in India. Among other things, the company looked at low-income consumers as a vast and unexploited commercial opportunity, so it encouraged its engineers’ philanthropic urges.

Poverty became a major focus in Mr. Blagsvedt’s research office. Anthropologists and sociologists were hired to explain things like the effect of the caste system on rural computer usage. In the course of that work, Mr. Blagsvedt stumbled upon an insight by a Duke University economist, Anirudh Krishna.

Mr. Krishna found that many poor Indians in dead-end jobs remain in poverty not because there are no better jobs, but because they lack the connections to find them. Any Bangalorean could confirm the observation: the city teems with laborers desperate for work, and yet wealthy software tycoons complain endlessly about a shortage of maids and cooks.

Mr. Blagsvedt’s epiphany? “We need village LinkedIn!” he recalled saying, alluding to the professional networking site.

He quit Microsoft and, with his stepfather, Ira Weise, and a former Microsoft colleague built a social-networking site to connect Bangalore’s yuppies with its laborers. (The site, which Mr. Blagsvedt started this summer and runs out of his home, focuses on Bangalore now, but he plans to spread it to other Indian cities and maybe globally.)

Building a site meant to reach laborers earning $2 to $3 a day presented special challenges. The workers would be unfamiliar with computers. The wealthy potential employers would be reluctant to let random applicants tend their gardens or their newborns. To deal with the connectivity problem, Babajob pays anyone, from charities to Internet cafe owners, who finds job seekers and registers them online. (Babajob earns its keep from employers’ advertisements, diverting a portion of that to those who register job seekers.) And instead of creating an anonymous job bazaar, Babajob replicates online the process by which Indians hire in real life: through chains of personal connections.
Mr. Krishna, the Duke economist, called it a “very significant innovation,” but he cautioned that the very poor might not belong to the social networks that would bring them to Babajob, even on the periphery."

More information here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Synthesizing the wisdom of experts

Julie Rehmeyer at Mathtrek talks of the work ofBruce Bueno de Mesquita :
"The New York University political science professor has developed a computerized game theory model that predicts the future of many business and political negotiations and also figures out ways to influence the outcome. Two independent evaluations, one by academics and one by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, have both shown that about 90 percent of his predictions have been accurate. Most recently, he has used his mathematical tools to offer approaches for handling the growing nuclear crisis with Iran.

Bueno de Mesquita provides the computer tools, but he relies on political or business experts to identify specific issues, their possible outcomes, and the key players. He asks experts narrow, carefully delineated questions about which outcome each player would prefer, how important the issue is to each player, and how much influence each player can exert. But he does not ask about the history of the conflict, the cultural norms of the area, or what the experts think will happen.

With careful interviewing, Bueno de Mesquita finds that he can get experts to agree on what information the model needs as input, even when the experts disagree sharply on expected outcomes. Once, after generating a report for the CIA using information from the agency's experts, he had his students assemble the same information from news reports. "Over 90 percent of them came up with the same results as I got [when I was] locked in a lead-lined vault at the CIA headquarters," Bueno de Mesquita says. "It's basic information that experts agree on and that you can even find in The Economist." "

She also refers to Mesquita & Roundell, a company he founded that uses his model to advise businesses and governments and this article , according to which they advised Union Carbide.

Vacation links-1

Going on a long trip to India soon and may not have internet access during parts of the trip. Trying to keep track of some articles to be read again.
Alex Gunz on hate (via Abi at Nanopolitan).

Robert Burton on prejudice at

Holly Arrow on sharp end of altruism (needs subscrpton). Abstract:Simulations show that war drives the joint evolution of altruism and hostility to outsiders.

Current Biology article "Cooperation peaks at intermediate disurbance".

Vilaynur Ramachandran on 'THE NEUROLOGY OF SELF-AWARENESS' (via 3quarksdaily). There are some predictions and a surprising statement towards the end: "Here again was, evidence that two seemingly contradictory aspects of self — its the individuation and intense privacy vs. its social reciprocity — may complement each other and arise from the same neural mechanism, mirror neurons. Like the two sides of a Mobius strip, they are really the same, even they appear — on local inspection — to be fundamentally different."

Arun Thiruvengadam on Arundhati Roy.
P.S.(7th Nov.) Nice survey but not up-to-date:
Wilson and Wilson on the survival of the selfless *with references to Turchin):