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Senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity
Photo by Erland Ekseth on Unsplash.

Everyone wants jobs, and with a low-carbon energy transition underway, they especially want energy jobs. Joe Biden ran for president on a plan to create 10 million clean energy jobs. Now that he is president, his signature infrastructure proposal, which calls for $100 billion of spending on energy infrastructure, is called the American Jobs Plan.

It’s not just the president. Congress wants energy jobs. Governors want energy jobs. …


Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Every space enthusiast was excited to learn in January that President Biden had chosen to include a moon rock collected on Apollo 17 among his Oval Office decorations. The White House told reporters that it is a reminder of the accomplishments and ambitions of previous generations. Still, one could not help but hope that it signaled ambitions for space exploration in particular.

The initial excitement is now falling apart thanks to the Administration’s appointments. America has not sent astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit since the Apollo program ended in 1972. NASA’s current Artemis program is set to reach the moon again…


Why we get so much innovation when we get ourselves into trouble

Ever since John F. Kennedy butchered Chinese etymology to make the point, no business consultant or motivational speaker has let anyone forget that times of crisis represent both danger and opportunity. The ongoing pandemic has been a tragedy with over 3 million confirmed deaths. Yet it has also accelerated the development of mRNA technology and its supply chain — technology whose arrival means new treatments on the way for HIV and cancer, among many other ailments. The disease is dangerous, but the cure presents a great opportunity.

It is tempting to make the trite observation with respect to recent progress…


One weird trick that unlocks unreasonably effective procurement

A Falcon 9 launches astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA/Bill Ingalls.

In the early 2000s, NASA knew that the Space Shuttle’s days were numbered. Without the Shuttle, the only way to resupply the International Space Station was to use foreign vehicles like the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and the U.S. didn’t want to have to rely on foreign governments for much. The agency did what it often does: in February 2004, it awarded a contract to an American aerospace company to develop a product it needed — in this case, a new launch system to take cargo to the ISS.

The awardee was a company called Kistler Aerospace, run by former NASA…


We need productivity improvements in the sectors that disproportionately affect the poor

Supply-side economics has a dirty reputation. Since the late 1970s, the term has been associated with “trickle-down” economics: the now-defunct theory that cuts in the highest tax brackets would boost economic productivity so much that government revenue would increase and all of society, even the poor, would benefit.

The trickle-down theory is all but dead, but there is more to the supply side of the economy than taxes. Thousands of government decisions affect real output and economic productivity. A new supply-side economics would recognize that productivity growth is the right target, but it would reject tax policy as the primary…


Machine learning has unlocked one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of this century

Illustration by Christoph Burgstedt

On Monday, DeepMind rocked the world of molecular biology by announcing it had essentially solved the problem of protein folding. In the just-concluded 14th biennial Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction (CASP), a friendly contest pitting research teams against each other, the DeepMind team finished with an average error of 0.16 nanometers, a distance less than the width of many atoms. The discrepancy between DeepMind’s predictions and experimentally-derived structures is so small that it is impossible to tell whether the error is a fault in the predictions or in the empirical measurements they are being compared against. …


Give geothermal the same permitting concessions as oil and gas on public lands

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the shale revolution. Unconventional oil and gas wells have made the United States a net energy exporter for the first time since the 1950s. The revolution has been a rare bright spot in U.S. economic productivity growth, which has stagnated since the 1970s. And indeed, as geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan argues, its profound effects on the global order are continuing to play out.

The shale revolution was not inevitable. It was supported by key policy choices to foster the development of unconventional oil. …


Why Apple’s strict App Store rules can be pro-consumer and pro-developer

The Blue Screen of Death

Who do you blame when something goes wrong?

Have you ever experienced a blue screen of death? Nobody likes it when his computer crashes, but the BSoD, the screen that is displayed when Windows crashes, features a particularly frustrating problem: It is difficult to know who is to blame for the crash.

An operating system can crash for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that there is a bug in the operating system, in which case the OS manufacturer is to blame. Another is that there is a hardware failure. The motherboard, RAM, peripherals like a video card: any of these could cause a crash. It…


How prediction markets can make the world more rational

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

If we are going to improve public discourse, we must at the outset confront a tricky question: What if people prefer their polarized beliefs? If they are going to line up behind their preferred ideas no matter the facts, we aren’t going to get very far by better educating our ideological opponents. There will always be demand for fake news and charlatans who confirm one’s priors. To save our democracy, we need betting markets.

Rational irrationality

Economist Bryan Caplan was the first scholar to recognize the full implications of preferences over beliefs for political economy. In a string of papers (1, 2


For computers to serve us, they must understand human contexts

Power relationships can be deceptive, even those with inanimate objects. Who is in charge, you or your computer? I am old enough to remember booting up a DOS or Linux computer straight to a command line. The black screen displayed some apparently random symbols followed by a cursor, beckoning the entry of exactly the right incantations. These incantations are called a “command,” a term that suspiciously makes it feel like the user is in charge. Do it correctly, and the computer would do what you want. Mistype even one character, and it would refuse, returning a mysterious error message. In…

Eli Dourado

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