In the upcoming issue of Harvard Business Review, my colleague Paul Nunes at Accenture’s Institute for High Performance and I are publishing the first of many articles from an on-going research project on what we are calling “Big Bang Disruption.”
The project is looking at the emerging ecosystem for innovation based on disruptive technologies. It expands on work we have done separately and now together over the last fifteen years.
Our chief finding is that the nature of innovation has changed dramatically, calling into question much of the conventional wisdom on business strategy and competition, especially in information-intensive industries–which is to say, these days, every industry.
The drivers of this new ecosystem are ever-cheaper, faster, and smaller computing devices, cloud-based virtualization, crowdsourced financing, collaborative development and marketing, and the proliferation of mobile everything. There will soon be more smartphones sold than there are people in the world. And before long, each of over one trillion items in commerce will be added to the network.
The result is that new innovations now enter the market cheaper, better, and more customizable than products and services they challenge. (For example, smartphone-based navigation apps versus standalone GPS devices.) In the strategy literature, such innovation would be characterized as thoroughly “undiscplined.” It shouldn’t succeed. But it does. Continue reading →
Eli Dourado said it best:
More information available here. Some details:
The Mercatus Center’s MA Fellowship program is targeted toward students with an interest in gaining advanced training in economics, but who do not anticipate a career in academia. Students who anticipate working in public policy are ideal candidates for this fellowship. The two-year program offers full tuition towards an MA in applied economics from George Mason University, a generous stipend, and experience publishing policy articles and papers with Mercatus Center senior scholars. For more information please email MAFellows@mercatus.org.
The application deadline for Fall 2013 is March 1, 2013.
Why do mobile carriers sell phones with a subscription? My roommate and I were debating this the other night. Most other popular electronics devices aren’t sold this way. Cable and satellite companies don’t sell televisions with their video service. ISPs don’t sell laptops and desktops with their Internet service. Bundling phones with mobile service subscriptions is pretty unique. (The only mass-market analogs I can think of are satellite radio and GPS service.)
Why might this be? Continue reading →
Tom W. Bell, professor of law at Chapman University and author of the concluding essay in Copyright Unbalanced, a new book edited by Surprisingly Free’s own Jerry Brito, discusses the ways in which copyright has evolved over time and why reform is vital.
Bell differentiates copyright from other types of property, arguing that conflating the two terms causes great confusion amongst laypeople and, over time, corrodes the value placed in tangible property rights. According to Bell, copyright is a privilege created by statute that doesn’t exist in a state of nature and is not recognized by common law.
As a special type of economic good, copyright must be treated differently than tangible property rights, according to Bell, who outlines five proposals for copyright reform.
While Bell is not opposed to copyright, he argues that copyright enforcement has gone too far, and lawmakers should structure policies to lead us towards a world in which we conceivably do without it.
James D. Miller, Associate Professor of Economics at Smith College and author of Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World, discusses the economics of the singularity, or the point of time in which we’ll either have computers that are smarter than people or we will have significantly increased human intelligence.
According to Miller, brains are essentially organic computers, and, thus, applying Moore’s law suggests that we are moving towards singularity. Since economic output is a product of the human brain, increased brainpower or the existence of computers smarter than humans could produce outputs we cannot even imagine.
Miller goes on to outline what the singularity could look like and what could derail our progress towards it.
Here’s a presentation I delivered on “The War on Vertical Integration in the Digital Economy” at the latest meeting of the Southern Economic Association this weekend. It outlines concerns about vertical integration in the tech economy and specifically addresses regulatory proposals set forth by Tim Wu (arguing for a “separations principle” for the tech economy) & Jonathan Zittrain (arguing for “API neutrality” for social media and digital platforms). This presentation is based on two papers published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University: “Uncreative Destruction: The Misguided War on Vertical Integration in the Information Economy” (with Brent Skorup) & “The Perils of Classifying Social Media Platforms as Public Utilities.”
We spend a lot of time here defending the simple proposition that flexible free-market pricing is a good thing. You would think that in 2012 we wouldn’t need to do so, but there’s a growing movement afoot today by some academics, regulatory activists, and public policymakers to have government start asserting more authority over broadband pricing. In particular, they want Congress, the FCC, or state officials to investigate and possibly even regulate efforts by wireline and wireless broadband carriers to use usage-based pricing and data caps as a method of calibrating supply and demand. This was the focus of my last weekly Forbes column, “The Specter Of Broadband Price Controls.” In the piece I note that:
Data caps and usage-based pricing are forms of what economists refer to as price discrimination. Although viewed with suspicion by some policymakers and regulatory-minded academics and activists, price discrimination is widely recognized to improve consumer welfare. Price-differentiated and prioritized services are part of almost every industrial sector in our capitalist economy. Notable examples include airline and hotel reservations, prioritized shipping services, amusement park passes, and fuel and energy pricing. Economists agree that price discrimination represents a sensible way to calibrate supply and demand while ensuring the fixed costs of doing business get covered. Consumers benefit from such pricing experimentation by gaining more options while firms gain more certainty about investment and service decisions.
This is confirmed by an excellent new Mercatus Center working paper on “The Impact of Data Caps and Other Forms of Usage-Based Pricing for Broadband Access,” by Daniel A. Lyons, an assistant professor of law at Boston College Law School. Lyons explains why a return to price controls for communications would be monumentally misguided. Continue reading →
Scott Shackelford, assistant professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University, and author of the soon-to-be-published book Managing Cyber Attacks in International Law, Business, and Relations: In Search of Cyber Peace, explains how polycentric governance could be the answer to modern cybersecurity concerns.
Shackelford originally began researching collective action problems in physical commons, including Antarctica, the deep sea bed, and outer space, where he discovered the efficacy of polycentric governance in addressing these issues. Noting the similarities between these communally owned resources and the Internet, Shackelford was drawn to the idea of polycentric governance as a solution to the collective action problems he identified in the online realm, particularly when it came to cybersecurity.
Shackelford contrasts the bottom-up form of governance characterized by self-organization and networking regulations at multiple levels to the increasingly state-centric approach prevailing in forums like the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Analyzing the debate between Internet sovereignty and Internet freedom through the lens of polycentric regulation, Shackelford reconceptualizes both cybersecurity and the future of Internet governance.
I’ve argued (here and here, for instance) against worrying too much about the monopolization of Internet access. Broadband is pretty clearly an industry in which there are increasing returns to scale, and when returns to scale are severe enough, that results in natural monopoly. There are not clear welfare gains from regulatory solutions to natural monopoly problems generally, and broadband in particular is a case where many of the problems associated with monopolization are ameliorated by price discrimination.
Nevertheless, I accept that most people are not persuaded by this logic. Let me try a different tack, explaining what I would expect to see if profit-centered monopolists were really as bad for consumers as their critics claim.
The answer can be summed up in one word: mutuals. Mutual companies are not especially common in today’s economy, but they are worth pondering at some length. Mutuals are firms in which customers, in virtue of their ongoing patronage of the firm, are also its owners. A mutual company generally has no other shareholders to please, and it does not typically distribute dividends. Instead, if it makes a profit it will distribute it to its customers in the form of lower prices in the future.
Continue reading →