Technology and the Global Economy

The digital revolution is transforming the way we work and rest. Smart phones are replacing newspapers, books, banks and classrooms. Robots, 3D printers, bitcoin, drones, big data and genetic testing are revolutionizing entire industries. Advances in biotechnology, renewable energy, artificial intelligence, and the spread of the internet will help us solve many challenges of civilization such as poverty, disease, wars and pollution. Yet the world will face new choices around security, surveillance and intellectual property. Will robots replace your job? Is the world entering the age of abundance or the era of mass unemployment? What makes a company innovative? Where can you find a new idea for business? In this course we will examine global technology trends and their impact on the world economy, local business environment, and your future. Instructor:

Modules, study links

1.  History of technology: 4 industrial revolutions 
2.  21st Century innovations 

3.  Robots, drones and superpowers

tech news sources:

4.  Disruptive business models
5.  Economic issues of the digital age  
6.   Innovations for developing countries 

Marginal Revolution University videos:

Other resources:

7. Can technology solve the old world problems? 
8.  Cyber-problems: crime, security, surveillance,  intellectual property rights

intellectual property:

 9. Final Project and 3-page summaries 

The goal of the final project is to develop expertise in a narrow issue related to technology and economy.   Options for the final project:

  1. A business plan for a $100 startup.

In this assignment you are asked to think of an idea for a $100 startup business. You can come up with an original idea or borrow an existing business model from an established company (for example from Air B&B, Uber, Twitter, PirateBay, HelpX, etc).  Alternatively, you can think of ways to transform an existing business with $100 and a new clever strategy.  Key requirements: your model must use the internet for transactions, customer reviews, advertising, and some interactions with customers. Your business may be built around a social entrepreneurship idea or a pure profit idea. Suggested resources are below.  Explain:

  • 1. What you will sell?
  • 2. Who will buy it?
  • 3. How your business will help people? (Why would people want to buy your service? How does it create value?)
  • 4. Why will your service be better than that of your competitors?
  • 5. How will you get paid- before, after, during service?
  • 6. How will you use the internet for transactions, customer reviews and advertising?
  • 7. How else will you make money from this project?
  • 8. How will customers learn about your business?
  • 9. How can you encourage referrals?
  • 10. The project will be successful when it achieves what number of customers (or what level of annual income)?
  • 11. What is one potential obstacle or challenge that you are most concerned about? How are you planning to address it?
  • 12. Add any other details that may be important for understanding your idea.

2. Choose an innovative  company that either promotes a sharing economy (Uber, Zipcar, WeWork, Instacart, Rent the Runway, ThredUp, Chegg), on demand service (Postmates, Seamless, UberRUSH, FreshDirect), or a company that is disrupting a “traditional” industry model (Casper, Warby Parker, even Netflix). Analyze the company’s business model –  sources of revenue, marketing strategies,  employee compensation schemes, who its competitors are, whether the new business model works better than the old-fashioned service that the company replaced, and what challenges might lie ahead.

3. Your project may focus on technology trends in a specific industry,  such as medicine, fitness, policing, finance, law enforcement, food,  transportation, city management, or something else.  Useful links:

4. Read the rest of the book “Free! The future of prices”.   Make up 10 questions based on this book and answer those questions.  Both questions and answers will be evaluated for depth and clarity.  Try to also think of interesting questions that ask for a comparison or analysis of different strategies.

5. Book discussion.  Read a book on the future of technology and record how the changes will affect the economy, our decisions or the way we do business. Share your thoughts. Many books are available  from the non-fiction shelf in your public library. For example:


Extra resources

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