In 1980, three television stations provided entertainment, telephones were stuck to walls, computers took up entire rooms, and people found facts in books and consumer goods in a store. Today, the Internet of things (IoT) can be used to see inside your Samsung refrigerator from the grocery store, allowing you to purchase only what you need. Amazon’s Alexa can order your dinner. Annual mobile payments now exceed trillions worldwide and are more than $5 trillion in China alone. Google Maps plus Waze, its crowd-sourced traffic app, reduce commutes for millions of people, increasing business productivity globally, and Uber and Lyft use machine learning to determine the price of a ride, minimize your wait time once you request a ride, and minimize commute time. Information, food production and distribution, public health, and medicine have all advanced drastically, extending average life expectancy by over 33 years today relative to individuals born in 1900. And Google, through its mail app Gmail, now uses “smart reply” to automatically suggest three different brief, customized (and annoying – proving that not all innovations are improvements!), responses to answer your emails. These situations and statistics illustrate some of the many effects of technology and innovation on businesses and economies throughout the world.
This course analyzes economic effects of advances in technology, incentives, and innovation. Economics confronts these questions by looking at how individuals and firms make decisions to allocate their limited resources. The instructor will provide students with an introduction to the concepts of economics in a global world, including supply and demand, rational individual and business decisions, types of firms and incentives for them to innovate, intellectual property rights, the role of government in research and development funding and policy, and other technological trends and policies and their effects on economies. Students will explore questions such as: What will be the likely path a company will take in technology innovation and advancement? How will an innovation change a person’s life? An industry? The world? What will be the effects of continuous advances in innovation, inventions, and globalization? How do technological changes affect economic growth and development? How do economic factors and development affect technology? Will advancing technology make society as a whole more wealthy? More powerful? What government policies might make sense as technology continues to advance? Theoretical material given during lecture sessions will be supplemented by discussion sections and group work.
Students will engage with the instructor and one another in problem solving and project work. Each student or team of students will choose a topic to analyze in further detail and present as a final project. Students are encouraged to bring their own electronic devices (laptops, phones, etc.); however, these are not required.
By the end of the class, students will leave with an ability to analyze research, data, headlines, and news articles better, and will be prepared to think more quickly and critically about economics and technology. Students will take away important economic tools and problem-solving skills that they will build upon in college and find useful in understanding the world around them and a greater appreciation for technology and innovation in economics, industry, and the world.
Prerequisites: The course does not require any prior training in economics, but does require basic training in mathematics, particularly in understanding and applying graphs.
Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2020.Visit Program Page Information Sessions Learn How to Apply