Benchmark Blog

Is data nonrivalrous?

A recent paper published in the American Economic Review has reignited interest in data property rights. In “Nonrivalry and the Economics of Data,” economists Charles I. Jones and Christopher Tonetti generate insights on data property regimes by beginning first with a simple model of data. After articulating the idea within a model of the economy, the authors […]

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Re-thinking nuclear waste disposal

In March, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposed some changes regarding the disposal of radioactive waste in the US. Two months later, an article from The Guardian asserted these proposed changes could “allow dangerous amounts of radioactive material to be disposed of in places like municipal landfills, with potentially serious consequences to human health and the environment.” This […]

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DIY vaccines and citizen science

In 1717, Lady Mary Montagu was living in Turkey as the wife of the British ambassador. There, she witnessed Turkish women practicing variolation, a method of smallpox inoculation that involved transferring fluid from an infected person’s smallpox pustules into an uninfected person’s open wound. Though the practice was common throughout Africa and Asia, it was uncommon in Europe. Before […]

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What The Office teaches us about immigrants

Hidetoshi Hasagawa, or Hide, is a warehouse worker in NBC hit comedy, The Office. Of course, fans may better know him as the number one heart surgeon in Japan. As Hide reveals, he left Japan to escape from the Yakuza after killing one of the Yakuza’s bosses. The warehouse foreman, Darryl Philbin, gave Hide a job working […]

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Xeriscaping the West

Air conditioning units and sprinklers are still humming across most of the U.S. as the dog days of summer start to wind down. For the driest areas in America, sweltering days with soaring temperatures mean high rates of water use. And the future will likely bring even more demand for water. Western states like Idaho, […]

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Let’s become a nation of bettors

If we are going to improve public discourse, we must at the outset confront a tricky question: What if people prefer their polarized beliefs? If they are going to line up behind their preferred ideas no matter the facts, we aren’t going to get very far by better educating our ideological opponents. There will always […]

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A modernized approach to nuclear energy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) wants to help colonize space, and they want to do it with nuclear energy. Late last month, DOE released a notice that they are seeking information about the challenges and feasibility of using reactors to power future missions. The goal is to design a microreactor — with greater than 10 kilowatts […]

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Tracing the impact of automation on workers and firms

Policymakers worry about the impact on workers from robots and other automation techniques. COVID-19 has pushed many companies to consider automating or embracing robots for public health. Workers worry that after the pandemic, they’ll find a robot in their place. Those fears are overblown. After all, it took a global pandemic for many companies to embrace automation. […]

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Round 2 of Cash vs. Covid-19

August recess is set to begin this week for the House and next week for the Senate, and lawmakers are still negotiating on an aid package meant to help businesses, states, and individuals cope with the economic effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While they may disagree about the specifics of unemployment benefits and aid […]

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What can we expect at the tech antitrust hearing, an FAQ

CEOs from Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple are set to appear before the House Antitrust Subcommittee today to discuss competition on their platforms. This hearing will vary dramatically in the key questions and policy remedies posed to each company. The following FAQ helps cut through the noise. Why is the Antitrust Subcommittee hauling in these tech CEOs? […]

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Everybody in politics hates how social media works

This is the second installment in a series, find the first here. We hear a lot about “censorship” by online platforms. A certain vocal segment of right-of-center politicians and commentators regularly accuse Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms of bias against Republicans. Indeed, the Trump Administration recently issued an executive order to determine whether the […]

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The problem with today’s tech hearing, in 6 charts

The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are testifying before Congress today in a hearing billed as crucial for the future of both antitrust law and Big Tech’s relationship with Washington. Putting these companies under the glare of a national spotlight isn’t new, and is just the latest episode in Congress’ ongoing efforts to increase the […]

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Children don’t belong in immigrant detention centers

Recent reports have exposed just how bad life is for the children who find themselves in detention centers along our southern border. The New York Times has described filthy conditions lacking food and basic health care. Investigations have uncovered overflowing toilets, extreme heat, bedbugs, and days without showers. At a detention center in Clint, Texas, “the stench of children’s dirty […]

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Towards an era of human-oriented computing

Power relationships can be deceptive, even those with inanimate objects. Who is in charge, you or your computer? I am old enough to remember booting up a DOS or Linux computer straight to a command line. The black screen displayed some apparently random symbols followed by a cursor, beckoning the entry of exactly the right […]

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Consumers value Facebook to the tune of $1 trillion a year

On June 16, former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang took to Twitter to call out Facebook, “Facebook is now worth $650 billion largely due to the monetization of our data. How much of that value are users seeing? At this point Facebook should be paying users for the privilege of using our data.” Yang asks an […]

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Remotely satisfied

Pandemic-related changes in travel and commuting patterns, global carbon emissions will drop by an estimated 8 percent this year.
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The Post-COVID world needs micromobility

*This is part 2 of a 2 part series on micromobility after COVID. Read part 1 here. Among its widespread impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we get around. One of the biggest changes has been a decrease in the number of people who use public transportation. With people seeking to avoid exposure to COVID-19, they […]

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Micromobility in a post-COVID world

*Part 1 of a 2 part series on micromobility after COVID Ascities struggle to return to normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a looming fear that traffic will be worse than ever. To prevent the impending Carmageddon, cities around the world are backing micromobility. E-scooters, E-bikes, bikes, mopeds, and other forms […]

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It may finally be time for unstoppable social media platforms

There’s never a dull moment with Donald J. Trump. Twitter’s fact check of our esteemed President last week reignited a wonky debate over a law called Section 230, a longstanding pillar of U.S. Internet policy, as Trump and his allies such as Sens. Rubio and Hawley take aim at the provision. 47 USC 230 was originally […]

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A dangerous game

President Trump is, by all accounts, the first social media president. His use of these platforms allowed him to side-step political insiders, win the GOP nomination, and find his way into the oval office. The megaphone that sites like Facebook and Twitter have provided the president is unprecedented, and announcements traditionally made from rose gardens […]

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The surprising leaders in the fight against climate change

In the months since Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez released the Green New Deal (GND), Democratic presidential hopefuls have been promoting their own climate proposals. Some have thrown their full support behind the Green New Deal, while others like former Representative Beto O’Rourke have unveiled plans that take a more measured approach than the GND. O’Rourke has been both […]

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Remote work and the screen-time debate

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the country are working from home at unprecedented levels. Although remote work has been on the rise for some time now, up until the pandemic, the trend was relatively slow. Gallup found that from 2012 to 2016, the percentage of workers who did at least part of their […]

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Which jobs and industries are most affected by COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create an unprecedented effect on the economy, increasing unemployment to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Many jobs have been lost, and claims for unemployment insurance have surpassed by far the all-time high. In fact, as figure 1 shows, over the last seven weeks, more than 30 million Americans […]

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The Apple Google API is a supplement to manual tracing, not a substitute

This week Apple and Google rolled out a new application programming interface (API), which is meant to help in the fight against COVID. The “Exposure Notification API” gives public health officials and other selected developers the ability to create new mobile applications that would alert users if they came into contact with someone positively tagged as […]

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The value of sanctuary

Even before he was elected, President Trump campaigned on anti-immigration issues. And since he took office, Trump has fought immigration more than any other recent President. He has made out immigrants to be “bad hombres” — criminals who are disrupting the American way of life. His efforts to reduce immigration include building a border wall with Mexico, increasing immigration […]

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We’re finally doing telehealth the right way

Renewed discussions this week surrounding the next wave of relief efforts for COVID-19 have also reignited discussions surrounding telehealth. Telehealth is the use of technology, including interactive telecommunication, to deliver medical and other health services via virtual platforms. The CARES Act appropriated $200 million to help expand telehealth, but some say more is needed. The […]

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Scrap DACA In Favor of Long-term Reform

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling on the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) any day now. Whatever the ruling, it will affect a little under a million migrants. DACA protects immigrants who were brought to the United States as children without authorization. It provides employment authorization and peace of […]

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Unemployment vs. direct cash payments

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new estimates for the number of Americans who are now jobless. The news isn’t good. Unemployment in America has now reached rates not seen since the Great Depression, with 14.5 percent of workers unemployed. These high levels of unemployment have largely been driven by the response to COVID-19. States across the […]

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