Suggested Answers to the Short Quiz

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Suggested Answers to the Short Quiz

Post by johnkarls »

Question 1

Are Brynjolfsson and McAffee (our authors) wrong about when “the first machine age” occurred?

Answer 1

The beginning of the title of their book (“The Second Machine Age”) implies that there was a “First Machine Age.”

It’s hard to be wrong when you coin your own term -- most historians describe much the same thing as “The Industrial Revolution.”

The Industrial Revolution is usually placed by historians as beginning in 1760 and lasting through most of the next century. It featured the replacement of water as the power source for machines, by steam and electricity obtained from coal as the new power source for machines.

Transportation by rail, steamship, etc., became commonplace. As well as factories that could then be located anywhere rather than only at a river or stream for water power. This meant, as a practical matter, that zillions of people began thinking about inventing new machines to do new things. For example in textiles, the power loom increased the output of a worker by a factor of 40. And Eli Whitney’s 1794 patent for the cotton gin, which quickly separates cotton fibers from their seeds, made cotton so cheap compared to other fabrics that there was an INCREDIBLE INCREASE in the demand for slaves to work cotton plantations.

[Though one wonders whether cotton would have become so attractive compared with other fabrics if the vast increase in slaves working cotton plantations had had their work valued as the work of human beings rather than the work of de facto farm animals!!!]

However, even though Brynjolfsson and McAffee were careful to coin their own terms to avoid being criticized for the incorrect use of the historical term, they were still very sloppy if not wrong.

Though neither the graph on p. 5 nor the graph on p. 7 contains a label specifying “First Machine Age,” the graph on p. 7 shows “The Industrial Revolution” as extending through 2013 even though historians would say it ended before 1900. And from indications throughout the text that the “Second Machine Age” heralded in the book’s title is about to begin in 2015, reinforced by what Brynjolfsson and McAffee actually mean by the “First Machine Age” and “The Second Machine Age” (more about that below), it is clear that Brynjolfsson and McAffee believe that the “First Machine Age” extends at least through 2013.

However, on p. 101 there is a graph showing “Labor Productivity” in “The Second Machine Age” which shows “The Second Machine Age” as beginning in 1970.

Based on the over-arching point that Brynjolfsson and McAffee are trying to make with what they label as the First and Second Machine Ages, the charitable view would be that the graph on p. 101 (and similar sloppiness elsewhere in the text) are wrong -- perhaps caused by two different authors writing different parts of the same text with warring notions of what their own terminology means -- and the First Machine Age was meant to describe a QUANTUM LEAP in the RATE of technological growth about 1760-1890, and the Second Machine age was meant to describe an impending QUANTUM LEAP in that already-high RATE of technological growth that may begin any year now.

An apology may be warranted for such a long answer, but it is important at the outset to understand that Brynjolfsson and McAffee, despite their sloppiness, are attempting throughout their book to describe TWO INFLECTION POINTS where each comprises a QUANTUM LEAP in the RATE of technological growth.

Question 2

Is innovation something that should be feared because of its adverse impact on the need for human labor?

Answer 2

Wouldn’t it be nice to achieve Nirvana in which all human labor is a thing of the past???

But isn’t it important to make sure that all human beings are at least heading for Nirvana, even if their progress is at different rates???

Question 3

Who famously remarked -- after visiting India and witnessing a construction site featuring human beings with shovels, and inquiring why steam shovels weren’t being employed and being told that human beings with shovels were being used to increase employment -- sarcastically asked: “Then why don’t you give them spoons instead of shovels?”

Answer 3

Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman who taught economics at the University of Chicago for more than three decades where he founded the famous “Chicago School” of Economics which emphasized monetary policy for stimulating/controlling the economy (vs. the emphasis of the then-traditional Keynesian School of Economics on fiscal policy).

Milton Friedman is probably more famous for another quotation -- "There is NO free lunch.”

Question 4

Is it theoretically possible that innovation can eliminate the need for human labor so that we can all enjoy nothing but leisure?

Answer 4

Of course!!! Virtually anything (unless it is a contradiction in terms) is possible theoretically!!!

Question 5

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee envision an impending leap in technological innovation?

Answer 5


Though the impending leap that they envision may be a lot scarier than they intend!!!

For example, their graphs on p. 5 and p. 7 show virtually a 90-degree angle, the equivalent of the floor in a building meeting a wall.

The graphs both show, inter alia, the worldwide human population burbling along for 10,000 years at less than 0.3 billion -- and then suddenly mushrooming by a factor of more than 20 times to 7 billion during the 250 years since the beginning of The Industrial Revolution.

So if we are at a NEW INFLECTION POINT comprising a QUANTUM LEAP in the RATE of technological growth, Brynjolfsson and McAffee must be expecting us to figure out for ourselves that, inter alia, the worldwide human population will break through 100 billion in no time flat!!!

Question 6

Is the impending leap in technological innovation that Brynjolfsson and McAffee envision based on advances in computer applications?

Answer 6


Question 7

Is one of their examples what we have heard about so often in recent years that cars will be able to drive themselves?

Answer 7


Question 8

Will the new computer applications be subject to hacking? For example, could a hacker commit murder by hacking the computer program of a “driverless car” to go off the highway and crash?

Answer 8

Of course!!!

Question 9

And can we now expect a spate of Hollywood movies featuring plots involving murderers hacking the programs of “driverless cars” of complete strangers to cause those cars to veer across the center line and collide head on with the cars of victims that the murderers actually want to kill -- so that the police will be mystified by the lack of motive vis-à-vis the owner of the “driverless car” whose computer program was hacked?

Answer 9


Question 10

Is another example, though barely mentioned by Brynjolfsson and McAffee, linking virtually everything you own (appliances, home-theater components, etc., etc.) to your iPhone so that, for example, from zillions of miles away you can instruct your front door to lock itself, you can instruct your vacuum cleaner to clean the living room, you can instruct your home-theater complex to record an on-air special about which you have just learned, etc., etc.???

Answer 10


Question 11

Is this nothing more than an invitation to burglars by providing them with a menu of items that are worthwhile stealing? Coupled with a list of any alarm systems that will have to be disabled?

Answer 11

Of course!!!

Question 12

Do you think you would stand a chance of preventing the burglars from hacking your systems if the U.S. Government and such wealthy corporations as Sony Pictures, with all the money they can lavish on security, are NOT able to prevent their systems from being hacked???

Answer 12

Well, what do you think???

Question 13

What are some of the new computer applications extolled at length by Brynjolfsson and McAffee in addition to driverless cars?

Answer 13

Robotics, 3-D printing, and speech recognition - language translation - writing.

Question 14

What are some of the downsides to these new computer applications, other than their possible adverse impact on employment?

Answer 14

3-D printing is actually creating objects by printing the outline of incredibly-thin two-dimensional layers independently with each outline being capable of being filled by a liquid substance that solidifies.

It was the subject of a PBS Special a year or so ago red flagging the fact that 3-D printing instructions are often nothing more than blue prints for weapons and that terrorists anywhere in the world, including in a theater near you, won’t even need to undergo a background check to buy a 3-D printer and then download the blue prints for any weapon they would like to use on you.

[The weapon featured in the PBS Special was a fancy rifle made, would you believe, from hard plastic which was just as rugged and effective as rifles made from metal.]

Those of us who are movie buffs have already been subjected to movies featuring armies of robots.

But why should robots be more fearful than actual weapons of mass destruction???

And even if robots should ever be capable of inventions (which is Yours Truly’s interpretation of what is meant by Artificial Intelligence), aren’t our actual weapons of mass destruction already capable of causing untold misery and destroying civilization???

Question 15

What has been the historical relationship between technological advances and employment?

Answer 15

Brynjolfsson and McAffee go to great lengths to describe two schools of thought -- that inventions will reduce the need for labor and that inventions will create an increase in the need for labor to produce the new inventions.

And to conclude that there is no theoretical reason why either condition should prevail for any length of time.

But that the historical record is that since the beginning of The Industrial Revolution in 1760 until the late 1990’s, technological advances and increases in employment have gone hand-in-hand while also keeping pace with the increases in population.

While seeing the DE-COUPLING of technological advances and increases in employment starting in the late 1990’s as new inventions are primarily digitally based and require little, if any, increases in labor.

Question 16

What was the attitude of Henry Ford vis-à-vis his workers after inventing the assembly line?

Answer 16

He raised the compensation of his assembly-line workers so that each of them could afford to buy a new Ford -- keeping the new assembly lines humming.

Question 17

How does this compare to the attitude of Robert Moses when he was constructing the extensive network of “parkways” in NYC?

Answer 17

For those of you who haven’t spent most of your lives in NYC, you may not realize that Robert Moses was, in many ways, the equivalent of J. Edgar Hoover (though most of you are probably too young to even know who J. Edgar Hoover was).

J. Edgar Hoover was the first director of what became the F.B.I. For half a century he ruled over the U.S. government because he had “a file on everyone” and no politician dared to cross him. Only death in 1972 at the age of 77 could stop him.

Robert Moses is described as the “master builder” of the Tri-State NYC Area in a wonderful biography, “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro (Alfred Knopf 1974).

Robert Moses was the UNELECTED head of many agencies from the 1920’s through the 1960’s, including the NYC Housing Authority and the Triborough Bridge Authority.

As with J. Edgar Hoover, mere politicians were all at the mercy of Robert Moses!!! He constructed housing, office buildings (including the World Trade Center), virtually all of NYC’s major bridges and tunnels, sports stadiums, state parks (including Coney Island), and virtually all of NYC’s famous parkways which were limited-access highways for automobiles flanked by wide park-like areas flanked in turn by forests.

Much of this construction occurred during The Great Depression, though the reason why he was not beholden to any politicians was that his various projects were self-financing from office/housing rental income and from bridge/tunnel tolls.

And equally important, all of his quasi-governmental agencies had been established by legislation granting the agencies the governmental power of eminent domain!!!

The comparison to (actually contrast with) Henry Ford???

As noted above, Henry Ford wanted all of his workers to be able to afford a new Ford.

In contrast, Robert Moses was fearful of not extracting enough money from workers!!!

He was afraid that busses would transport masses of people over his parkways to his state parks such as Coney Island!!!

And collecting parkway tolls from only a comparatively-few number of busses would never generate enough revenue to keep his empire rolling!!!

So he purposely constructed all of the overpasses on his parkways too low to accommodate busses!!!

So that only vast fleets of automobiles paying zillions in tolls could use the parkways!!!

Question 18

Was Eastman Kodak and its massive employment a good example of how a technological advance increased employment?

Answer 18


Very few pictures had been taken in the history of humankind prior to the founding of Eastman Kodak in 1892. The peak employment of Eastman Kodak was approximately 150,000. This did not include all of the labor in the shops around the world that sold Kodak film and other equipment. And did not include all of the labor in the film-developing shops around the world.

In 2012, Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy because nobody uses film anymore for taking pictures.

Question 19

Are there other good examples (other than fads such as Apple products) which involved increases in employment to produce newly-invented products for which there was great demand?

Answer 19

Radio and television. It doesn’t take long to think of zillions of others.

Question 20

Do new computer applications almost of necessity involve reductions in employment?

Answer 20

Yes, according to Brynjolfsson and McAffee.

Question 21

When do Brynjolfsson and McAffee claim that technological advances and employment became de-coupled?

Answer 21

In the late 1990’s.

Question 22

Why do Brynjolfsson and McAffee studiously ignore the U.S. government’s policy of exporting American jobs? And the U.S. government’s policy of importing illegal aliens to compete with American workers for jobs that cannot be exported geographically (e.g., construction and agriculture)?

Answer 22

God only knows!!!

Question 23

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee try to flim-flam their readers by comparing the U.S. experience to Europe?

Answer 23


On p. 133, Brynjolfsson and McAffee flippantly claim that tax policy has nothing to do with the escalation in wealth/income disparity by saying that the same thing happened in Europe.

However, as we have studied many times in the past, both in America AND IN EUROPE, a major part of The Middle Class comprised blue-collar workers. Both in America AND IN EUROPE, the manufacturing jobs of those blue-collar workers were exported to previously low-wage primarily-agrarian countries such as China. And both in America AND IN EUROPE a major part of the exportation of manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries such as China was not only the failure of the U.S. government to subject to U.S. corporate income tax the profit of U.S.-Based Multi-National Companies (MNC's) from exporting jobs BUT ALSO THE FAILURE OF EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS TO SUBJECT TO EUROPEAN CORPORATE INCOME TAX THE PROFIT OF EUROPEAN-BASED MNC'S FROM EXPORTING JOBS.

Accordingly, the resulting escalation in wealth/income disparity in both America AND IN EUROPE was indeed caused, in major part, by tax policy!!!

How does this work???

The U.S.-based and European-based MNC’s orchestrate the creation of nominally-independent manufacturing companies in the low-wage countries to hire the workers. The nominally-independent manufacturing companies then manufacture the MNC’s products to the MNC’s specifications under the MNC’s supervision using the MNC’s technology.

The U.S.-based MNC uses a tax-haven subsidiary to interface with the in-country manufacturing company and often captures 99% of the MNC’s worldwide income in the tax haven. Historically, so-called “non-resident Singapore subs” have been the tax-haven subsidiary of choice for U.S.-based MNC’s dealing with China.

[And, historically, Microsoft for example had captured at one point more than $1 TRillion (yes, that’s TRillion with 12 zeros!!!) in tax-haven subsidiaries, causing stock analysts to value Microsoft as a BANK rather than as a SOFTWARE COMPANY!!!]

European-based MNC’s don’t have to bother with such elaborate arrangements because most European countries essentially exempt from corporate income tax the profit from exporting European jobs pursuant to a principle called "The Participation Exemption." The Participation Exemption principle employed by virtually-all continental European countries, unlike the foreign-tax-credit provisions of the U.S. and, effectively, the U.K. [foreign-tax-credit regimes apply the regular corporate income tax rate to the foreign income, but then grant a credit for any foreign income tax paid], does NOT tax the foreign income so long as there was some foreign income tax paid on the income -- no matter how small the rate or what foreign government imposed the tax. Historically, it has always been "easy as pie" for a European-based MNC to route its "contract manufacturing income" from low-wage countries such as China, through the Swiss branch of a Dutch-incorporated subsidiary for a combined total income tax of only 3.5% to the Swiss and Dutch as the cost of otherwise exempting completely the income from exporting European jobs.

Accordingly, the massive exports of jobs from both America and Europe were based not only on lower wages in the third world, but were also based ON THE FAILURE OF THE U.S. AND THE FAILURE OF EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS TO TAX THE PROFITS RESULTING FROM THE LOWER WAGES.

NB: President Obama campaigned on taxing such profits but has done nothing in this regard (other than, perhaps, collecting Campaign Contributions from U.S.-based MNC’s to refrain from taxing such profits).

But, in comparison, it is a major-league felony for Brynjolfsson and McAffee to claim that a failure to tax the profits from exporting American jobs had nothing to do with the exporting of American jobs, based on the ridiculous comparison to Europe in an attempt by Brynjolfsson and McAffee to flim-flam the reader into assuming that European countries DID tax the profits from exporting European jobs!!!

Question 24

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee try to flim-flam their readers with out-of-context statistics about the relatively-recent decline in the number of Chinese factory workers?

Answer 24

On pp. 183-184, Brynjolfsson and McAffee state that since 1996, manufacturing employment in China has FALLEN by 25% representing 30 million fewer factory workers, while output in Chinese factories actually SOARED by 70%.

Their flippant conclusion which is probably false???

“Both American and Chinese workers are being made more efficient by automation”!!!

As academicians, they should be ashamed to exhibit such a lack of curiosity!!!

It is respectfully suggested that the more reasonable hypothesis for testing the Chinese statistics is that during the 20 years since 1996, the high-tech companies have become more comfortable with locating their high-tech manufacturing operations in China which, years ago, might have been thought likely to swipe them!!!

While the rise in manufacturing wages in China due to the increased confidence of MNC’s to locate high-tech operations there caused the low-tech Nikes of the world to abandon China for even lower-wage third-world countries!!!

If these hypotheses are accurate (and Yours Truly is willing to bet anyone that they are -- any takers???), then the Chinese manufacturing statistics, though perhaps similar to the American statistics, are radically different with regard to causation, since the bottom has dropped out of American manufacturing employment because those jobs were exported to China and other low-wage third-world countries!!!

Shame on Brynjolfsson and McAffee for their attempted fraud!!!

Question 25

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee claim that the adverse impacts on employment and income equality have nothing at all to do with U.S. income tax law? (and, at least impliedly, nothing to do with European tax law?)

Answer 25

Yes. [Please see Q&A-23.]

Question 26

Are Brynjolfsson and McAffee purposely lying when making this claim?

Answer 26

It’s difficult to believe that MIT Professors are ignorant.

Question 27

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee appear to believe that there is a God-given right to the free flow of capital?

Answer 27

There is no evidence that Brynjolfsson and McAffee believe in God.

Question 28

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee appear to believe that there is a God-given right to employ the cheapest “slave labor” available anywhere on the planet? Regardless of even the age and safety of the "slaves"?

Answer 28

There is no evidence that Brynjolfsson and McAffee believe in God.

Question 29

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee think their readers are idiots who will believe anything Brynjolfsson and McAffee tell them about tax law?

Answer 29

What do you think???

Question 30

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee studiously ignore America’s Permanent Under-Caste living in our Inner-City Ghettos?

Answer 30


Question 31

Are Brynjolfsson and McAffee presumptuous (and perhaps even pompous) in making recommendations about future policy, especially when they purposely ignore America’s policy of exporting jobs and purposely ignore the existence of America’s Permanent Under-Caste?

Answer 31

Of course!!!

Some miscellaneous questions --

Question (A)

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee have some truly-bizarre notions about Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?

Answer (A)

Brynjolfsson and McAffee confuse the concepts of GDP and enjoyment.

Please forgive the sarcasm, but they suggest that if enjoyment can be derived from anything that does NOT cost anything, the value of that enjoyment should nonetheless be added to GDP.

Accordingly, since Law School 101 teaches taking a principle to its extreme to test its validity, Brynjolfsson and McAffee are effectively saying that if all Americans became Buddhists who could derive infinite enjoyment from proverbial “naval gazing” or ascetics who could derive infinite joy from watching sunsets, the obvious solution to America’s woes would be to convert everyone to Buddhism.

[Though perhaps the sarcasm is unwarranted because Brynjolfsson and McAffee may be right about changing the values of Americans.]

Question (B)

In other words, if all work in the future could be performed by robots so that humans would enjoy nothing but leisure, what would be the GDP?

Answer (B)

Economics is the study of scarce resources (material, time, etc.) and how to "economize" or prioritize their use. [And so-called macro-economics is the study of management, both stimulating and constraining, of scarce resources for an entire economy, rather than focusing solely on the micro level.]

Accordingly, GDP measures the amount required to induce workers to surrender their scarce time and effort from leisure for production. And the amount required to induce owners of capital to surrender their scarce resources to facilitate that production.

Accordingly, it is respectfully suggested that if future robots can handle all future work (including increasing their ranks to handle population increases and including inventing new products for the amusement of humans), GDP should fall to zero.

One might wonder why the return on capital should fall to zero.

Even though we are only having fun dealing with theory, there should be two reasons: (1) why would the owner of capital care about earning anything when the robots are already providing everything s/he could possibly want??? And (2) if an owner of capital wanted to be so brazen as to expect a return, robots not owned by her/him would presumably put that owner and her/his robots out of business in no time flat!!!

In other words, there is NO SCARCITY of robots, so there is nothing to economize and there is no shortage that would command any compensation at all for anything.

Question (C)

Do Brynjolfsson and McAffee almost seem to talk as if digital technology is all there is to America’s and the world’s economy?

Answer (C)


Question (D)

But taking the U.S. as an example, how much of GDP is devoted to government? How much to the basics (food, clothing and shelter)? How much to healthcare? College costs?

Answer (D)

According to the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, total governmental spending in the U.S. was 41.6% of GDP for 2014.

Of the remaining 58.4% of GDP (“disposable income”), Brynjolfsson and McAffee report on p. 168 that America spends 32% on the “basics” (housing, clothing, food at home and transportation). Which is 18.7% of total GDP.

Healthcare costs in the U.S. have been running at 17% of total GDP. However, approximately 60%-65% of these costs are paid by such governmental programs as Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the V.A. So only approx. 6% of total GDP is consumed by non-governmental healthcare costs. And 6% of GDP is 10% of Disposable Income.

According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Analysis of Data from the OECD, higher education costs in the U.S. in 2010 were 2.5% of total GDP. This is 3.5% of Disposable Income.

Re-Cap --

41.6% of GDP = Total Governmental Spending
18.7% of GDP = Basics
6% of GDP = Non-Governmental Healthcare
2.5% of GDP = Higher Education
68.8% of GDP = Total

This doesn’t look too bad.

So what are the glaring problems???

First, the incredible poverty of our Inner-City Ghettos.

[According to UNICEF, 23% of U.S. children live in poverty!!! No other industrialized country tolerates even half that rate -- it is triple the rate in Germany, Austria and France, and quadruple the rate in such nations as Denmark, Slovenia, Norway, the Netherlands, and Finland.]

Second, Brynjolfsson and McAffee report (p. 169) that between 1990 and 2008, American family income rose only 20% while prices for housing and college rose about 50% and healthcare costs more than doubled by rising more than 150%.

Question (E)

Isn’t it true that information-technology can make improvements in each of these activities, but it will probably be longer than Brynjolfsson and McAffee think before robots will be able to make as much headway in these sectors as they have in manufacturing?

Answer (E)

Brynjolfsson and McAffee are way off track vis-à-vis K-12 education (please see Q&A-F below).

They are probably right about the continuing gradual improvement in all other areas except food production.

And for all of you who have failed to focus on anything since Q&A-5 because of your horror over the prospect of the world’s population growing from 7 billion to more than 100 billion in no time flat as we enter The Second Machine Age, take solace in how easy it should be to feed those 100 billion souls!!!

We have made three Six-Degrees-Of-Separation E-mail Campaigns (described in the first section of based on how thorium fission can supply 100% of the world’s energy needs for less than any alternative fuels (which is why it would be unnecessary to invade China to prevent it from bringing on stream one new monster-size coal-fired electric-generating plant EVERY WEEK) while, inter alia, eliminating 100% of greenhouse gases virtually overnight, eliminating our gaping foreign-trade deficits since we still import 50% of our energy, eliminating our need to kow-tow to oil-producing countries (and the need of our European allies to kow-tow to Russia on which they are dependant for most of their energy needs), etc., etc.

All with thorium which is so safe that it is incapable of exploding.

[Which is why the U.S. turned to uranium and plutonium and away from thorium after an 18-month successful thorium demonstration project in the 1960’s by the U.S. Nuclear Research Laboratory at Oakridge TN.]

Now please stop to consider the basics of modern agriculture.

Yes, virtually all agricultural fertilizers come from petrochemicals.

But more importantly, solar power provides the energy, directly or indirectly, for all living organisms.

Vegetarians know that virtually all of their energy comes from oxidizing sugar (C6-H12-O6) in a process that produces carbon dioxide and water (C6-H12-O6 + 6O2 > 6CO2 + 6H2O).

And even non-vegetarians obtain energy from oxidizing the sugar which comprises most of the meat of any fish or animal and which the fish/animal has derived, toward the top of any food chain, from plant life.

Now we have 100 billion people to feed, rather than the mere 7 billion that we have today.

There probably is NOT enough space on earth for conventional farms to produce that volume of food.

[And, even if that’s possible, Brynjolfsson and McAffee will tell us we are headed for 200 billion people or even a trillion pretty quickly!!!]

But what do conventional farms do anyway???

All they do is use solar power, with the help of petrochemicals, to create food in a process called photosynthesis!!!

[Photosynthesis is really nothing more than using solar power to drive IN REVERSE the oxidation or burning of sugar which produces carbon dioxide and water. In other words, sugar containing energy accessible by oxidation has to be created and the energy is put into the newly-created sugar by transforming solar power into sugar power as the solar power forces the water irrigating your garden or farm and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over your garden or farm to combine in producing sugar and oxygen. In chemical terms -- 6CO2 + 6H2O > C6-H12-O6 + 6O2. Does that formula look vaguely familiar???]

Why couldn’t thorium be used as the power source to produce all that food???

Brynjolfsson and McAffee should be proud of our invention of huge thorium-powered food-manufacturing plants on the back end of petrochemical plants -- as tomorrow’s replacement for farms!!!

And yes, I would be delighted for anyone else to take the credit for this invention as they “feed the multitude with 5 loaves and 2 fishes”!!!

Question (F)

Isn’t it true that digital-technology cheerleaders like Brynjolfsson and McAffee are unrealistic when it comes to on-line education for K-12 students? After all, aren’t Brynjolfsson and McAffee making the implicit and probably-false assumption that K-12 students are motivated, especially children in our inner-city ghettos who believe that they are not eligible for their dreams and that their only realistic career objectives are pusher or pimp, or girl friend of a pusher or pimp graduating to whore?

Answer (F)

Yes. Yes.

Question (G)

Brynjolfsson and McAffee spend a great deal of time talking about winner-take all markets and power-curve (vs. normal or bell-curve) distributions, but aren’t Brynjolfsson and McAffee merely describing the rewards for inventiveness which (both inventions and their skewed rewards) are as old as human history?

Answer (G)


Question (H)

And aren’t Brynjolfsson and McAffee being overly-dramatic in predicting such distributions for inventiveness as all-pervasive in the future -- unless their robots are able to eliminate employment in government, basics (food, clothing and shelter), healthcare and education?

Answer (H)


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Q&A-17’s Claim Robert Moses Built The World Trade Center

Post by Pat »

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Q&A-17’s Claim Robert Moses Built The World Trade Center
From: Pat
Date: Mon, October 5, 2015 4:12 pm

Dear John,

Q&A-17 claims that Robert Moses built the World Trade Center --

“Robert Moses was the UNELECTED head of many agencies from the 1920’s through the 1960’s, including the NYC Housing Authority and the Triborough Bridge Authority. As with J. Edgar Hoover, mere politicians were all at the mercy of Robert Moses!!! He constructed housing, office buildings (including the World Trade Center), virtually all of NYC’s major bridges and tunnels, sports stadiums, state parks (including Coney Island), and virtually all of NYC’s famous parkways which were limited-access highways for automobiles flanked by wide park-like areas flanked in turn by forests. Much of this construction occurred during The Great Depression, though the reason why he was not beholden to any politicians was that his various projects were self-financing from office/housing rental income and from bridge/tunnel tolls.”

What is your authority that he built the WTC?

Your friend,


---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Re: Q&A-17’s Claim Robert Moses Built The World Trade Center
Date: Tue, October 6, 2015 11:53 pm
To: Pat

Dear Pat,

Thank you very much for your e-mail.

Brief Digression on The Walk (The Movie)

I am guessing that your query was sparked by The Walk, a movie that was released last Friday (10/2/2015) about Philippe Petit and his famous 45-minute unauthorized high-wire eight-pass walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on 8/7/1974.

I saw The Walk earlier today because I was curious about whether the movie would mention two aspects of Philippe Petit’s association with NYC during that era.

Spoiler Alert = the movie did NOT mention one and FAILED to explain the most interesting aspect of the second.

First Item.

Every NYC devotee of the performing arts was well aware of Philippe Petit before his 8/7/1974 spectacular performance at the WTC.

Because for several years, he had been performing at Lincoln Center!!!

Not inside the new Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall (The NY Phil’s new home after abandoning Carnegie Hall, much to its later regret!!!) or the NYS Theater (home of NYC Ballet and recently renamed Koch Theater as in Koch Brothers, vs. as in former NYC Mayor Ed Koch who, incidentally, pronounced his name as "Kotch" rather than the way the Koch Brothers pronounce their last name as "Coke.").

But in Lincoln Center Plaza which the three theaters surround on three sides.

During intermissions for the Met, Philippe Petit would amuse its audience with his outstandingly-expert and highly-entertaining acrobatic and mime performances. And would be highly rewarded when his assistant “passed the hat” for contributions.

And as soon as the NY Phil had an intermission, he would move in front of Avery Fisher to entertain their audience with another highly-remunerated performance. Ditto NYC Ballet and NYS Theater.

None of this was mentioned in the movie. Indeed, the movie made it seem like Philippe Petit arrived in NYC for the first time only months before his 8/7/1974 WTC exploit.

But that wouldn’t be the first time Hollywood was historically inaccurate!!!

Second Item.

Philippe Petit was arrested after his 8/7/1974 WTC exploit and prosecuted for trespass.

After all, NYC and the WTC had to deter copycats from killing themselves attempting what Philippe Petit had accomplished.

The Judge sentenced Philippe Petit to perform free of charge for children a tight-rope walk over Belvedere Lake (aka Turtle Pond) which is right next to Belvedere Castle and next to the Delacorte Theater, famous for Joe Papp’s free-of-charge Shakespeare-In-The-Park performances.

Why did the Judge specify Belvedere Lake - Turtle Pond???

Because it is, in effect, a stage that can be seen from anywhere on The Great Lawn, a large open area in which crowds exceeding 250,000 regularly enjoy pop concerts, open-air performances in the summer of the Metropolitan Opera & the NY Phil, etc., etc.

Why was Belvedere Lake - Turtle Pond significant???

Because Philippe Petit and his lawyers protested the sentence on the grounds that Philippe Petit could NOT swim!!!


No worries about tight-rope walking for 45 minutes in stiff winds 110 stories above Manhattan pavements!!!

But 10 feet above a lake???

And no, the Hollywood movie did NOT mention anything about the protest of Philippe Petit and his lawyers!!! Or about his inability to swim!!!

They simply said that Philippe Petit was content with the justice of his sentence (which he was, except for his inability to swim).

Indeed, the Hollywood movie even has Philippe Petit performing on a tight-rope while learning the art back in France over a shallow lake in which he falls into knee-deep water.

If Hollywood did not invent that event, Philippe Petit must have known that the lake was only knee deep.

Unless, of course, he and his attorneys were perjuring themselves before the NYC Judge!!!

Enough already about the movie!!!

Robert Moses “Building” The World Trade Center

You are probably going to accuse me of parsing terms like the Clintons!!!

But let’s begin with a reasonable definition of “building”!!!

Obviously, no single person could possibly do all of the work to construct the WTC which was erected as the result of thousands of workers on site and thousands of workers elsewhere who manufactured various things that were incorporated into the buildings (for example, the I-beams forming the skeleton of the WTC were certainly not made of steel that was manufactured on the WTC site).

So perhaps you could forgive me for using the term “building” in the sense of “responsible for”!!!

After all, in the Pulitzer-Prize Winning 1162-page biography of Robert Moses entitled The Power Broker by Robert Caro, Caro credits Moses with “building” virtually all of NYC’s major bridges and tunnels, sports stadiums, state parks (including Coney Island), and virtually all of NYC’s famous parkways.

Even calling him the “Master Builder.”

And you should be willing to admit that Robert Moses did not “construct” any of those projects, but instead “was responsible for” their existence.

A brief digression.

MBA programs usually include courses on organizational theory.

And the most important principle taught in those courses is to IGNORE formal organization charts AND INSTEAD focus on who controls the raise of a particular executive!!!

For 1162 pages, Robert Caro describes how Chairman Mao was wrong!!!

Actually, Caro does NOT mention Chairman Mao who was famous for his constant mantra “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”!!!

But Caro DOES DESCRIBE how Robert Moses demonstrated for five decades that “power grows out of” such things as labor unions which benefit from your projects, ditto automobile companies, ditto companies that manufacture the materials for your projects, ditto the banks and other financial institutions that finance your projects, etc., etc.

And, just as importantly, all those lowly politicians whose careers depend upon your viewing them kindly HAVE NO POWER WHATSOEVER.

So just like the country’s best MBA programs teach you to ignore formal organization charts, properly assessing what Robert Moses “was responsible for” must also be unconstrained by the formal titles that Robert Moses had.

So how did The WTC come into being???

Many superficial analyses recite that Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman and CEO David Rockefeller proposed the idea to Austin Tobin, the Executive Director of the Port of New York Authority (the precursor of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey).

The picture is further muddled by the fact that The WTC was owned by The World Trade Corporation.

However, if you consult The World Trade Center’s own website (, it says that in 1946 “the New York State Legislature created the World Trade Corporation to develop the proposed World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan” and in 1952 “The World Trade Corporation nominated one of the nation's premier architectural partnerships, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) to develop a plan for a ‘new Lower Manhattan’.”

Yes, David Rockefeller was Chairman and CEO of the Rockefeller Family’s Chase Manhattan Bank from 1969 to 1981, which was built on the Rockefeller Family’s various Standard Oil Companies (Exxon which is the old Standard Oil Co of NJ, Mobil which is the old Standard Oil Co of NY, Chevron which is the old Standard Oil Co of California, Amoco which is the old Standard Oil Co of Indiana, British Petroleum which is arguably the old Standard Oil Co of Ohio, etc., etc.).

But becoming Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank in 1969 was long after the 1946 creation of The World Trade Corporation and long after the 1952 selection by The World Trade Corporation of the architectural firm to develop the plan for Lower Manhattan.

Now go back and look at the fingerprints of Robert Moses.

He had been responsible for virtually every governmental project in the NYC area since the 1920’s.

And Robert Caro chronicles how it was THE VISION of Robert Moses that was responsible for his power, as much as his support from labor unions, manufacturing corporations, financial institutions, etc., etc. [And NOT SO MUCH his formal posts heading various Authorities with powers of eminent domain, issuing bonds, etc., etc.]

Would the New York State Legislature have been so audacious as to create The World Trade Corporation in 1946 if it had not been Robert Moses’ idea???

Robert Caro does NOT address the question.

But Yours Truly would Bet Dollars To Donuts that the 1946 legislation WAS a Robert Moses brainchild!!!

And what happened after The World Trade Corporation’s architectural firm hired in 1952 to produce the plan for Lower Manhattan completed its work???

Robert Caro chronicles how in 1955 most of Robert Moses’ own Authorities were “tapped out” in terms of borrowing capacity.

Whereupon Robert Caro reports that in 1955 Robert Moses effectively took control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey WITH HIS VISION AND IDEAS because he recognized that the Port Authority had zillions of dollars of untapped borrowing capacity BECAUSE THE PORT AUTHORITY WAS SO BANKRUPT FOR VISION AND IDEAS!!!

A “look ma, no hands” operation if there ever was one!!! [Please see the footnote below concerning the quoted phrase.]

Which should be featured in any self-respecting MBA Program’s courses on organizational theory which lecture on ignoring formal organization charts and charting instead REAL POWER based on such things as backing from labor unions, manufacturing corporations, financial institutions, etc., etc.

So back to The World Trade Center’s official website ( --

It reports that on 9/20/1962, The Port Authority (NOT The World Trade Corporation) selected the actual site for The WTC, and that in March 1965, The Port Authority (NOT The World Trade Corporation) “began obtaining property at The World Trade Center site” PRESUMABLY USING ITS POWER OF EMINENT DOMAIN AND ITS OWN FINANCIAL RESOURCES.

And further reports that in 1966 “Demolition at the site began with the clearance of thirteen square blocks of low rise buildings for construction of the World Trade Center” and in February 1967 “Tishman Realty and Construction was hired to oversee the construction of the World Trade Center project.”

It is true (again per the WTC official website) that actual construction did NOT begin until August 1968.

Which is AFTER Robert Caro reports that Robert Moses was removed from power by David Rockefeller’s brother, NYS Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in February 1968.

And Yours Truly would be willing (again) to Bet Dollars To Donuts that there is an incredible gap in Robert Caro’s 1162-page Power Broker for any History PhD thesis to re-construct and report THE BACK STORY on what actually happened here.

First Straw In The Wind

One might wonder about the relationship between The Port Authority (which seemed to be the legal entity that was the moving force behind the project, certainly in terms of acquiring the property by eminent domain, etc., etc.) and The World Trade Corporation (which was created by the NYS Legislature in 1946 and which held title to the WTC).

Any attorney “reading between the lines” will immediately recognize The World Trade Corporation as nothing but a device to achieve NON-RECOURSE FINANCING for which The Port Authority was NOT legally liable.

And no, I do not have the stomach to “chase that rabbit” to confirm that the WTC financing was non-recourse!!!

But it most certainly was, judging from the legend surrounding what happened with the WTC.

Yes, the WTC was a massive project -- containing more square feet of office space than all of San Francisco (this per the Executive Director of the California Ski Industry Association who was a close personal friend of Yours Truly at the time of 9/11 and reported that the San Francisco Chronicle stories in the wake of 9/11 reported this factoid).

But the WTC, massive as it was, was almost a rounding error in terms of total office space in Manhattan’s Wall Street Business District.

And Manhattan’s Wall Street Business District is and was dwarfed by Manhattan’s Mid-Town Business District.

The reason for mentioning all this is that even though the WTC might have been a reasonable idea in terms of the normal single-digit growth in demand for Manhattan office space, it turned out to be a short-term disaster!!!


Because (again according to WTC legend), the World Trade Corporation was having trouble renting office space in the WTC!!!

And the Rockefeller Family’s Chase Manhattan Bank, which had provided the financing to construct the WTC, was facing bankruptcy itself because of its over-commitment to the non-recourse financing of the WTC!!!

So what does WTC legend say CMB Chairman & CEO David Rockefeller did???

He called his brother, NYS Governor Nelson Rockefeller!!! [NB: Brother Nelson later served as U.S. Vice President under Gerald Ford.]

And told him that the family’s bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, was facing imminent bankruptcy because of the inability of The World Trade Corporation to lease its office space.

And, per WTC legend, brother Nelson (as expected) said no problem!!!

That he would simply order the relocation of all NYS employees from Albany NY to the WTC!!!

That, incidentally, is why none of my friends at the Harvard Club of NYC (which has 15,000 members) seemed to know anyone who worked in the WTC at the time of 9/11.

And why, macabre as it sounds, if you or your company had any NYS Tax Audits at the time of 9/11, the audits disappeared.

Back to Straws In The Wind.

Second Straw.

Yes, the First Straw was that The World Trade Corporation was a device for achieving NON-RECOURSE financing for which The Port Authority would NOT be liable.

So the Second Straw In The Wind is the just-described maneuver of NYS Governor Nelson Rockefeller to save the Rockefeller Family’s Chase Manhattan Bank at the request of its Chairman and CEO David Rockefeller.

The Third Straw In The Wind

The February 1968 cashiering of Robert Moses by Nelson Rockefeller!!!

Was it because Robert Moses, as the moving force behind the WTC, was responsible for the near-death experience of the Rockefeller Family’s Chase Manhattan Bank???

Or was it because NYS Governor Nelson Rockefeller was interested in taking over all of Robert Moses’ domain (much of which was incorporated into the new Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA) SO THAT GOV. ROCKEFELLER COULD HIDE FROM THE PUBLIC THE COST OF ALL OF HIS MASSIVE PROJECTS AS DEBT OF THE NEW MTA???

Or was it a combination of both???

Have at it History PhD candidates!!!

Thank you again, Pat, for your inquiry!!! It was a lot of fun to recall all those memories!!!

Your friend,

John K.

Reading Liberally Editorial Note Re Origin of “look ma, no hands”

After Pat posted the foregoing exchange of e-mails on 10/7/2015, it occurred to Yours Truly that in recent years the phrase “look ma, no hands” has been given some rather bizarre meanings by various pop artists who have incorporated it into their lyrics.

Exhibit A = Elton John who even had a song titled “Look Ma, No Hands” as the third track on his 2001 album “Songs From The West Coast.”

But the top hit for an Advanced Google Search of [must include “origin” and must include the exact phrase “look ma, no hands”] provides a reasonably accurate description of the original meaning BUT ERRONEOUSLY claims that it only dates to 1968!!!

Yes, the top Google hit is correct that if you go back half a century, “look ma, no hands” was what any kid called out excitedly to her/his mother upon becoming able to ride a bike without any hands on the handle bars.

But Yours Truly, who was born in 1942, can testify that the term was in common usage with that meaning in the 1940’s, two decades before Google’s “authority” seems to think.

However, the important point is not the timing of the phrase’s origin, but its original meaning.

Which fits perfectly what Robert Moses was accomplishing with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over which he exercised considerable control without having a formal relationship with it. IN OTHER WORDS, NO HANDS ON PORT AUTHORITY’S HANDLEBARS!!!

Yes, Robert Moses undoubtedly caused in 1946 the New York State Legislature to create “the World Trade Corporation to develop the proposed World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan.”

And yes, Robert Moses undoubtedly caused in 1952 the World Trade Corporation to hire “one of the nation's premier architectural partnerships, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) to develop a plan for a ‘new Lower Manhattan’.”

And yes, beginning in 1955 as chronicled in Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Robert Moses did effectively take over The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by force of Robert Moses’ VISION AND IDEAS!!! Without any formal Port Authority title!!!

So what about the reports that Chase Manhattan Bank’s David Rockefeller (who served as Chairman and CEO 1969-1981) suggested the idea of the WTC to Austin Tobin, Executive Director of the Port Authority.

First, the official site of The World Trade Corporation (as previously reported) chronicles that The Port Authority selected the site for the WTC in 1962 and by 1965 was already busy acquiring the various parcels that would compose the site, presumably using its own power of eminent domain and its own financial resources, so David Rockefeller must have made the suggestion to Austin Tobin long before Rockefeller became Chairman and CEO.

Second, it would fit quite nicely with Robert Moses’ “look ma, no hands” modus vivendi for Moses to choreograph the actions of one of the large financial institutions that had been financing many of his projects, to approach Austin Tobin and his Port Authority on behalf of one of Robert Moses’ projects that had been around since 1946 and, ever since, gathering steam.

So third, why was it any surprise that in 1954, Chase appointed David Rockefeller to chair a special committee that would select the location of Chase’s new worldwide headquarters???

Or any surprise that in 1955 David Rockefeller’s special committee would decide to locate the new worldwide headquarters DOWNTOWN at One Chase Manhattan Plaza one block north of Wall Street and three blocks east of what would become the WTC site -- all in accordance with the 1952 plan for a “new lower Manhattan” developed by the architectural firm of Robert Moses’ World Trade Corporation???

[One Chase Manhattan Plaza served as the worldwide headquarters of Chase until 1996 when it was acquired by Chemical Bank whose headquarters was in the Mid-Town Business District -- all of which is confusing because Chemical Bank changed its name to Chase Bank following the acquisition and, for history buffs, Chemical cum Chase then acquired JP Morgan in 2000 and put JP Morgan at the beginning of its new name = JP Morgan Chase.]

So fourth and lastly, there is no reason to doubt that in 1955 special-committee chairman David Rockefeller had a conversation with the Port Authority’s Austin Tobin.

But they were mere bit players in an orchestra that was already being conducted by Robert Moses for nine years!!!

Enough already!!!

And I apologize for starting out merely to explain the origin of an old phrase, and wound up wallowing in the weeds!!!

Respectfully submitted,

John Karls – 10/9/2015

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