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The Solow Paradox

Uploaded by palma on Oct 09, 2000

Sam Vaknin's Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites


The PRODUCTIVE HARDWARE

The world is debating the Solow Paradox. Named after the Nobel laureate in economics, it was stated by him thus: "You can see the computer age everywhere these days, except in the productivity statistics". The venerable economic magazine, "The Economist" in its issue dated July 24th, quotes the no less venerable Professor Robert Gordon ("one of America's leading authorities on productivity") - p.20:
"...the productivity performance of the manufacturing sector of the United States economy since 1995 has been abysmal rather than admirable. Not only has productivity growth in non-durable manufacturing decelerated in 1995-9 compared to 1972-95, but productivity growth in durable manufacturing stripped of computers has decelerated even more."

What should be held true - the hype or the dismal statistics? The answer to this question is of crucial importance to economies in transition. If investment in IT (information technology) actually RETARDS growth - then it should be avoided, at least until a functioning marketplace is there to counter its growth suppressing effects.

The notion that IT retards growth is counter-intuitive. It would seem that, at the least, computers allow us to do more of the same things faster. Typing, order processing, inventory management, production processes, number crunching are all managed more efficiently by computers. Added efficiency should translate into enhanced productivity. Put simply, the same number of people can do more, faster, more cheaply with computers than they can without them. Yet reality begs to differ.

Two elements are often neglected in considering the beneficial effects of IT.

The first is that the concept of information technology comprises two very distinct economic activities: an all-purpose machine (the PC) and its enabling applications and a medium (the internet). Capital assets as distinct from media assets are governed by different economic principles, should be managed differently and be the subject of different philosophical points of view.

Massive, double digit increases in productivity are feasible in the manufacturing of computer hardware. The inevitable outcome is an exponential explosion in computing and networking power. The dual rules which govern IT - Moore's (a doubling of chip capacity and computing prowess every 18 months) and Metcalf's (the exponential increase in a network's processing ability as more computers connect to it) - also dictate a breathtaking pace of increased productivity in the hardware cum software aspect of IT. This has been...

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Uploaded by:   palma

Date:   10/09/2000

Category:   Technology

Length:   10 pages (2,195 words)

Views:   1656

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