Weekly Selection 19 July 2019

Susan Lund, James Manyika, Michael Spence, The Global Economy’s Next Winners - What It Takes to Thrive in the Automation Age 

(Foreign Affairs, July-August 2019)

The key point of this article: globalization is transforming in rich countries’ favour because economic growth in the developing world is boosting demand for its products: trade in goods is down but trade in services is up. Middle-income countries, such as China and Mexico, may also benefit from the next era of globalization (although changing trade and investment patterns may well leave behind sections of their workforces), but the poorest countries will see their chief advantage (cheap labour) grow less important (reads in 10 min or so).

Mohamed El-Erian, Are Central Banks Losing Their Big Bet?

(Project Syndicate, July 19, 2019)

After the 2008 global financial crisis, central banks bet that greater activism on the part of other policymakers would be their salvation, helping them to normalize their operations. But that activism never came, and central bankers are now facing a lose-lose proposition, having to design another round of stimulus that will involve even more political and policy risks. The Fed and the ECB in particular did stress the importance of a timely policy handoff to more comprehensive pro-growth measures, but their pleas fell on deaf ears (reads in 6-8 min).

Steven Cook, Europe’s Future Will Be Decided in North Africa

(Foreign Policy, July 18, 2019)

This article argues that North Africa is far more important to US interests than the “Middle East obsessions of the policy community”. Energy, migration, terrorism… To a large extent, the stability and security of Europe (vital to the US) depend on what happens in North Africa, with southern European countries being particularly vulnerable (reads in 5-6 min).

David Epstein, Generalise, don't specialise: why focusing too narrowly is bad for us

(The Guardian, July 12, 2019)

The author of “How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World” argues that breadth actually serves us better than depth. The 10,000-hour rule says intense, dedicated practice makes perfect – at that one thing, and we are often taught that the more competitive and complicated the world gets, the more specialised we all must become. However, research shows that highly credentialed experts can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, even while becoming more confident  - a dangerous combination… (reads in 8-10 min).

Daniel Willingham, The High Price of Multitasking

(The New York Times, July 14, 2019)

Multitasking is appealing but it comes at a price: it entails a trade-off between emotional lift and cognitive cost, but there are a few principles to better manage the trade-off: (1) hoping for efficiency by combining two pure productivity tasks is folly - all cognitive cost and no emotional benefit; (2) be realistic about what poor task performance might mean, given that you’re not as good at multitasking as you believe; (3) see if you can get the emotional lift without the cognitive cost (reads in 6-7 min).