Artificial Intelligence: An Easy Pill to Swallow

October 2nd, 2017

When discussing Artificial Intelligence (hereafter AI), many envisage computer systems that are able to take on similar cognitive functions to the human brain and worry that there will no longer be a place for many skilled workers in key industries. The image of mass unemployment due to robot Armageddon is a common one portrayed in the media. While, some of the potential benefits of the rise of intelligent computer systems, for example in the pharmaceutical industry, are often ignored.

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Autonomous Vehicles vs Conventional Car Manufacturers

August 24th, 2017

A self-driving car on the road in San Francisco.
Photo by Grendelkhan on Wikmedia Commons,

The huge increase in interest towards autonomous vehicles has caused concern for numerous vehicle manufacturers across the globe. Many now see technology firms as being better placed than carmakers to develop and profit from the software that will underpin automated driving (The Economist, 2016). Tesla is a key example, given that it did not originally set out to be a vehicle manufacturer but is now the most valuable car company in the US. But is this really a cause for concern for core vehicle manufacturers?

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The Rise of the ‘Gig Economy’: A Case Study of Uber

June 22nd, 2017

Image by IMS People, via Gig Economy Simplified

Gig workers are those who work small jobs, commonly referred to as ‘gigs’, instead of, or perhaps on top of, a full-time job and are paid for the amount of ‘gigs’ they undertake. Their employment status is somewhat confusing to many. Given the digital revolution, it is becoming hard to avoid articles discussing the so-called gig economy given the increasing amount of new companies operating under such a casual structure. Certain couriers, Deliveroo, Uber and AirBnB are just some examples of companies which fall under the gig economy category and there are increasing reports discussing the legal rights of those ‘employed’ by such companies. Indeed, Uber is a prime example: a recent ruling declared that its drivers cannot be classified as self-employed, as Uber wanted, and are thus entitled to the national living wage and holiday pay. Airbnb is also undergoing legal action in New York given a new law which enables the escalating of fines on homeowners who rent out their property for less than 30 days. As court cases and employment tribunals against such companies are on the rise, this blog discusses how regulatory rules are affecting these companies. It also takes account of the huge tax windfall that the UK government could gain as a result.

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Universal Basic Income: Debunking the Scaremongering

March 14th, 2017

Image by Mike Ramsey, via
Scott Santerns on Flickr, CC-BY-SA

Studies into the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) have recently gained visible traction in academia and much more prominence in the media, following the introduction of pilot schemes in Finland and California. Scotland is also set to see trials in two Labour-run areas, following the party’s establishment of a new working group to look into its viability. As well as these examples, Namibia has considered the introduction of UBI, the Netherlands will be holding an experiment on UBI this year, Brazil continues to hold trials (it has been on the cards since the 1980s), 10,000 people have signed up in support of basic income in Canada, and India’s 2016-2017 Economic Survey has identified that the Indian Government believe UBI is a better approach to reducing poverty than current state benefits. In light of this, this blog post explores why UBI is gaining support from policy strategists, governments and entrepreneurs alike, and whether it could be a viable solution to some of the big issues of our time.

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Interview with Professor Sir Charlie Bean

February 20th, 2017

Ashley Lait interviews Professor Sir Charlie Bean, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.

Charlie Bean is a professor of economics at the London School of Economics and former president of the Royal Economic Society (2013–15). He was deputy governor of the Bank of England from July 2008 to June 2014. Prior to that, he was executive director and chief economist from October 2000. Charlie has also held positions at HM Treasury and Stanford University. In addition, he has published widely — in both professional journals and more popular media — on European unemployment, on European monetary union, and on macroeconomics generally.

AL Where did you first study economics?

CB I did economics as a subsidiary subject at school (my main subjects were mathematics, further mathematics and physics). I started out by doing mathematics at Cambridge University but switched to economics in my second year after I had discovered that quantum mechanics was very beautiful and elegant, but I didn’t have the foggiest notion what was going on!

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Undergraduate Video Competition: RES

January 31st, 2017

The Royal Economic Society and the Economics Network are starting an annual video competition, aimed at undergraduates, in order to improve the learning of how economics applies to the real world.

Students have free rein to choose topics and videos should take the form of a three-minute mini-documentary, aimed at a non-specialist audience. The aim of the video is to show an understanding of the real world and to communicate economic insights in a clear and intelligible way. Humour is encouraged! Read the rest of this entry »

Examining the Case for Selective Admissions

January 30th, 2017

By Charles Shaw

The Prime Minister recently announced her intention to reinstate grammar schools and bring back selective admissions. A key issue of contention is the claim that the shift from a selective to a comprehensive school system had a deleterious effect on social mobility in Great Britain.

It is possible that certain changes to the status quo are needed, perhaps even a centrally coordinated response. But one must proceed with a great deal of caution. Any informed response to such questions must draw on the knowledge, experience, and consensus of those in higher education, and on their understanding of what knowledge is fundamental for subsequent progress. Read the rest of this entry »

Game Theory: Two Real World Examples

January 30th, 2017

By Konstantinos Dagklis

Game Theory uses mathematical tools to find solutions in situations where interdependent parties make strategic decisions. Many developments in this field are quite recent and there is a wealth of material for curious minds. In looking at game theoretical applications in the real world, two models from Schelling and Shubik will be discussed. The first one shows why racial segregation is difficult to combat, and the second illustrates why people can be compelled to make irrational decisions. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview with Economist, Tim Harford.

November 28th, 2016

Tim Harford is the author of The Undercover Economist. tim-harford-photo He is a columnist for the Financial Times and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s More or Less. In this interview with Ashley Lait, he talks about the way he sees economics and reveals something about his approach to the subject.

AL Where did you first study economics?

TH Brasenose College, Oxford. I studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics and later returned to do Oxford’s 2-year Master’s degree in economics, the MPhil.

AL What attracted you to the subject?

TH I was sceptical about the subject at first — philosophy seemed much more interesting — but I was drawn in by game theory. I suppose I loved the odd combination of strategic thinking, mathematics and psychology. At undergraduate level, game theory felt like half storytelling and half puzzle solving. I loved it. Read the rest of this entry »

Heathrow Expansion: What About the Local Economy?

November 14th, 2016

While the news of Heathrow airport’s expansion came to sore ears for green activists who have campaigned against it since as early as 2006, the aviation industry appears to finally have a victory. Indeed, globalisation and technological innovation are driving an increase in cross-border flows of goods, services and people ( and to stay on top of this, increased connectivity is needed. Those supporting the expansion argue that a third runway will enhance the UK’s economic growth by connecting the UK with growing world markets which will enable UK businesses to have better access to traders. While a boost for UK business, the third runway will also benefit passengers by offering more destinations and greater a choice of airlines. As a result, competition will be boosted which could perhaps lower air fares. Indeed, the Airports Commission has stated that “The position of the UK within the global aviation market is critical to its economy: it is central to ensuring increased productivity, growth and employment opportunities”. Nonetheless, while most analysis has been so heavily focused on the UK’s boost in terms of business openness and connectivity, many economists forget to mention the multiplier effect this will have on the local area and the UK as a whole.

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