BEST OF THE WEB: Computers are broken, why the GDP is useless, the economics of Transformers 4, and the ‘nice internet’

At the annual KV CEO Summit, both Larry Page and Sergey Brin sat down to discuss a wide range of topics including the acquisition that never was, why computers today are still pretty bad, their partnership over the last 16 years, the future of Google, government 2.0 and how machine learning and technology will shape our future of abundance.


Here’s the video, and full transcript of the talk, which is interesting throughout.


Some highlights include Larry Page saying that computers are still pretty bad.


“You’re just messing around,” Page says. “You’re scrolling on your touchscreen phone, and trying to find stuff. The actual amount of knowledge you get out of your computer versus the amount of time you spend with it is still pretty bad. So I think our job is to solve that, and most of the things we’re doing make sense in that context.”


Has the GDP outgrown its use?

It’s a big question, but the Financial Times takes it on.


According to David Pilling the GDP gets far too much respect as an economic indicator.


While it’s good for measuring production of raw materials and simple manufactured goods, it is much less reliable with complex manufactured goods. The GDP is also “atrocious” at capturing services, which account for two-thirds of rich-world output.


“What do the price of hair-salon services in Beijing and sexual services in London have in common?” Pilling asks. “The answer is that, depending on how you measure them – or indeed whether you measure them at all – the size of the Chinese and British economies will expand or contract like an accordion.”


His premise is that our societies have been somehow hijacked by pursuit of a single data point.


Transformers 4 is a master class in global economics.

Critics have not been kind to the movie Transformers 4 but Ezra Klein at Vox thinks it’s just been misunderstood.


Transformers 4 is a master class in global economics,” he writes. “Over the course of 166 minutes — long for a film, sure, but short for a graduate-level econ seminar — Bay destroys economic shibboleths as if they were a major metropolitan area concealing the Autobots from Lockdown.


“His lessons are pitiless: inequality will keep rising, job security will keep falling, and American companies will contort themselves into all kinds of embarrassing positions to suck up to China.”


Sharing nice content is caring

The New York Times profiles the “nice internet”, those sites like Upworthy, Viral Nova and Thought Catalog which aim to share feel-good stories, because people quite simply like sharing good news.


“But behind their warm and fuzzy veneers, these growing media companies are businesses, and they peddle in uplifting content because they believe it’s profitable,” writes Sheila Marikar.


It’s fascinating stuff.


“The architects of these social-sharing sites bring to mind mixologists tinkering behind a bar, adding dashes of this and that to come up with the perfect cocktail, the one that will be Instagrammed to oblivion and ordered round after round.”


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