Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Less Stuff, More Happiness

 I was searching for an interesting topic for my blog and finally one nice title attracted my attention: “Less stuff, more happiness”. The first thought and question that came to my mind was “Is this any direct way to get happiness?” So, let’s see what I have “discovered”.

 First of all, like in my previous blog cases, I have searched to find out about the author. Graham Hill studied design and architecture. His company, ExceptionLab, is about creating sustainable prototypes. Graham Hill is the founder of TreeHugger.com, and is the author of Weekday Vegetarian.

 In his talk Graham Hill (2011) states his point of view that with less stuff people can obtain more happiness. The purpose of this talk is to consider the benefits of the edited life

 He starts his talk by comparing nowadays American’s space use with an American living 50 years ago. Now Americans use 3 times more space than they did 50 years ago. But to what does it lead? It results to lot of debts, environmental footprints, and stress. Hill states that less may equal more. This means that less stuff and less space are equal to less environmental footprints, save more money and more ease in life J. For finding some solutions in this area, he used project called Life Edited

 For this project he used example of his apartment. Like all other people he also needs convenient flat with all necessary rooms like home office, room for guests, bedroom, etc. For that is needed approximately 600 square feet space, but he has bought 420 square feet space apartment instead of 600 square feet space by saving approximately 200 square feet space. This is smaller space and it results to smaller utilities, which leads to save more money, also smaller footprint. Besides all these, it was designed in a proper way and fitted the needs of the author.

 Graham Hill offers the main 3 approaches that lead to get “less, small, little”. The first approach is “Edit ruthlessly”, which means to clear life from secondary products and think before buying, by asking ourselves a question “is that really going make me happier?” The second approach is “Think small”, as we want space efficiency, we should buy those things which we will be able to use for several years. The third approach is “Make multifunctional”, use multifunctional housewares, one such example of multifunctional housewares is a dining table which becomes a bed.

 What I liked in this talk is that the author states his main idea, point of view, and explains, presents by his own life examples. He talks about the positive effects of editing, also provides 3 ways which will help people to get the things smaller.

 Actually this talk wasn’t about any direct way to happiness, as I was thinking from the beginning, but it made me to think about such questions: “Could I do a little life editing? Would I change anything in my room, and change the stuff that I use? And would that life editing give me a little more freedom and more time?”
  And I have found the answers to these questions. So, when you enter to your room, take a second and think about these questions. 
 “Maybe less might equal more. So let’s make room for the good stuff…” Graham Hill

Source: Hill, G. (2011). Less Stuff, More Happiness. TEDTalks (Video podcast). Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8YJtvHGeUU

Friday, January 20, 2012

1000 TEDTalks, 6 Words

 I was searching for a podcast which would be related to my previous blog posts concerning to the production, education or economics, but suddenly one title attracted my attention: “1000 TEDTalks, 6 words”.  I have heard it and decided to make this blog and I think it relates to all themes because it is about all TEDTalks taken altogether.
 After listening to this talk, I was very interested in the author and his work experience because I liked a lot his talk, his clear explanations and his great aspiration to get the desired result. That’s why I have decided to search about him in Google.

 Sebastian Wernicke is a manager at Oliver Wyman. He studied bioinformatics; he processed an algorithm to analyze biological networks. He worked as a filmmaker, and then started his career in statistics. He is mostly famous by being the author of TEDPad app.
 In his talk Sebastian Wernicke (2011) states that there are some ways to summarize all TEDTalks in 6 words. He explains his point of view very clearly. There are thousands of TEDTalks which express 1000 different ideas. The average length of TEDTalks is approximately 2300 words.  For watching and getting all those 1000 ideas, each person has to spend nearly 250 hours. By doing some calculations, the author gets 2.3 million words for 1000 TEDTalks, and he discusses a question: 
 “Isn’t there any way to have the TEDTalks shorter and what is the minimum amount of the words which are needed to have a TEDTalk?”

  During discussion of this issue, Sebastian Wernicke faced the case of Ernest Hemingway. The writer summed his novel into 6 words which became his best novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”. 
 Sebastian Wernicke also takes into account one project which is called “Six words memoir”. According to that project people were asked to sum their life into 6 words and one result of such summary was: “Found true love, married someone else”. After all these Sebastian came to one conclusion that as the novel and the whole memoir can be put into 6 words, then only 6 words are needed for making a TEDTalk. 
 One way of getting the summaries for all TEDTalks was through website where is possible to post tasks like “please summarize this text for me in 6 words”, and the task is done for 10 cents. As it would be very costly to summarize all TEDTalks individually, it is more appropriate to do 6 words summary for 10 TEDTalks at the same time. It will result to 600 summaries for 1000 TEDTalks. Some good examples of such summaries that Sebastian Wernicke mentioned and I also liked are: “Striving toward happiness=moving toward unhappiness”, “Food shaping body, brains, and environment”.

 But all these 6 words 600 summaries are a huge list, and there should be another way of summaries. That’s why Sebastian Wernicke divided those 600 summaries into 9 groups (Courageous, persuasive, informative, fascinating, inspiring, beautiful, ingenious, funny, jaw-dropping), and asked people to summarize groups. Here are two interesting results: for courageous group People dying with easy solutions around”, for funny group “English is not good of author”. So, the cost also reduced to $95.50, which is less than $100.
 From all those mess-up summaries, Sebastian Wernicke got one 6 words summary for 1000 TEDTalks at the value of $95.50 by playing with different words in totally different summaries. That summary is: 
“Why the worry, I’d rather wonder”.

I liked this TEDTalk a lot. Sebastian Wernicke clearly defines and solves the problem. He uses some other similar ideas and concepts, provides explanations and finally states the concluded 6 word sentence. He talks clearly by providing logical interpretations.

Source: Wernicke, S. (2011) 1000 TEDTalks, 6 words TEDtalks (Video podcast). Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LifvSfll2dw

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Does democracy help or hinder the economic growth?

 In his talk Yasheng Huang (2011) is speaking about the economic growth in China and India. I was interested in this topic because he raised a question which is very interesting for economists, as for me. The key question of the talk is “whether democracy has helped or has hindered the economic growth?”
  First of all as this question was very interesting for me, especially I wanted to understand why and how China grows so fast, I have decided to search also about Yasheng Huang for understanding whether it is a trustworthy source or not, and I have found out some details about the author. 
 Yasheng Huang is a professor of political economy and international management at MIT Sloan School of Management. His previous appointments include faculty positions at the University of Michigan and at Harvard Business School. He was also a consultant to the World Bank.

The key question in this topic, which also includes the main idea, is “why has China grown so much faster than India?” For answering to this question Huang uses many statistical data and historic evidences of China and India by making several comparisons mainly in terms of GDP growth rates. According to those statistical data China has grown twice the rate of India during the last 3 decades. For explaining such kind of result Huang uses “The Shanghai model of economic growth”, which consists of several characteristics that foster the economic growth:

  •   Infrastructures
  •         Strong government 
  •         State capitalism and government ownership
 The main point of this model is that the democracy is the hindrance for economic growth rather than a facilitator of economic growth. Another important question comes up here:how important are infrastructures for economic growth? By using two examples (the first example is that Soviet Union had more telephones than China, and the second is that India had longer system of railways than China till 1990s) Huang came to conclusion that infrastructure doesn’t explain why China has grown faster than India. Even if Soviet Union had more telephones, the country collapsed, that means that infrastructure doesn’t help to economic growth. India being a smaller country than China had longer railways, but again China today has great economic advantage over India. If we look at the evidence worldwide, we can say that infrastructures are the result of economic growth rather than the cause for economic growth.

 The important question is also: “Is democracy bad for growth?” The author compared the GDP rates per capita for India and Pakistan. India is democratic country, Pakistan is a non-democratic country. The comparison of these 2 countries is more convenient and acceptable than India and China, because India and Pakistan are similar from the geographic point of view; also they have somehow common history and culture. The only common thing among India and China is the highest population. Again when we look at the statistical evidence worldwide, there is no support for the idea that authoritarian governments hold a systematic advantage over democracies in terms of economic growth.
So, for answering to the main question let’s compare China during Cultural Revolution with India during the times of Indira Gandhi. During Cultural Revolution China’s GDP rate was by average about 2.2% larger than India’s GDP rate. This means that China had one important and advantageous resource which helped the country to overcome the worst effects of Cultural Revolution and that resource was human capital. At the same time the adult literacy rate in China is 77%, the same rate in India is 48%. Here the key issue is to understand how the literacy rate is defined in both countries. In China literacy is defined as the ability to read and write 1500 characters. In India literacy is defined the ability to read your own name in the language you happen to speak. The reason of this advantage is discrimination.

 The important issue is also the political system of China. Let’s consider statics of the political system and the dynamics of the political system of China. Statically China is a one party system, authoritarian. Dynamically, it has changed over time to become less authoritarian and more democratic. In terms of the political changes they have introduced village elections, they have increased the security of proprietors and the security with the long-term land leases, and there are also financial reforms and rural entrepreneurial revolution in China. In the case of India the country has undertaken not only economic reforms, but also political reform by introducing village self-rule, privatization of media, and introducing freedom of information acts.

  By summarizing the main perspectives of this topic, let’s compare dragon and elephant: Which country has the growth momentum?” China has some of the excellent raw fundamentals (mostly the social capital, the public health), that we cannot find in India. But from the other side India has the momentum; it has solid institutional conditions for growth. India has the right institutional conditions for economic growth whereas china is still struggling with political reforms. The main idea that Huang states here is that for keeping the economic growth, political reforms should happen in China.

 Overall the topic is very interesting. The author clearly defines the issue and uses many statistical data and examples for his explanations. He uses question-answer type of presentation by which he presents several questions in the same talk. At the end of his talk Huang states his assumption and point of view. Logical explanations are provided in this talk. The author talks clearly, and precisely presents the evidence and perspectives. 
Source: Huang, Y. (2011). Does democracy stifle economic growth? TEDTalks (video podcast). Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UR-uWwvpn5c