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The Rest

A guide to some of the articles here that don't quite fit into other categories (yet)

Published onMar 08, 2023
The Rest
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You're viewing an older Release (#2) of this Pub.

  • This Release (#2) was created on Aug 30, 2023 ()
  • The latest Release (#3) was created on Feb 20, 2024 ().

This post provides a quick overview of claim articles in New Things Under the Sun that are at present not good fits for any of the other index posts.

What are the returns to R&D?

  • Explains the intuition behind a famous paper that shows the average return to R&D is equal to the growth rate, divided by the savings rate and the interest rate.

  • Discusses how various complications change this result

    • What if some of the growth benefits of technology arise for free, for example via learning by doing?

    • What if R&D underestimates the true cost of developing and diffusing new technologies?

    • What if there are benefits to R&D beyond GDP growth?

  • (go to article)

An example of high returns to publicly funded R&D

  • We’ve got some good theoretical reasons to think the return on R&D is very high, on average.

  • Several papers look at a specific class of R&D program - the SBIR in the USA, and SME instrument in the EU - that gives R&D grants to small firms.

  • These papers compare applicants to the program who barely win, to those who barely lose.

  • These studies suggest the grants are as effective at funding innovation at about the same level as the private sector could manage.

  • If we try to assess the broader impact of that funding, we find including all the social benefits gives us a return at least twice as high as the ones we got by focusing just on the grant recipients.

  • (go to article)

Optimal kickstarter

  • Explains the intuition for a clever paper that finds a formula for how you can optimally fund public goods (like innovations) with a combination of crowd-funds (as with kickstarter) and a large patron.

  • Funding public goods with crowd contributions is challenging because individuals might only consider their private benefits, not the benefits to everyone else, when deciding how much to contribute

  • The formula circumvents this problem by allowing donors to “purchase” more support for a project with the patron’s funds.

  • The article closes by examining a few challenges to implementing the scheme in the real world.

  • (go to article)

More people leads to more ideas

  • Looks at three papers arguing larger populations are associated with more innovation (at least, in the pre-industrial world)

    • In lab experiments, larger groups are better able to improve simple (artificial) technologies and maintain complex ones

    • Across separated islands in Oceania, islands with larger populations had larger and more complex sets of tools

    • Over human history, the rate of population growth (used here as a proxy for the rate of economic growth, which is itself assumed to be a proxy for the rate of innovation) is faster in eras and places with larger populations.

      • At least until the demographic transition

      • And our data for this is pretty poor

  • (go to article)

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