Global Poverty and the Cell Phone

A magazine article in the New York Times of April 13th has the rather mistaken and misleading title “Can the Cell Phone End Global Poverty?” (Hat tip: Abhishek Sarda). The article title is misleading because it doesn’t even remotely attempt to answer that question. It is instead about what is called a “human-behavior researcher” or “user anthropologist,” in this case someone who works for Nokia and essentially tries to figure out how people actually use their phones and thus how phone companies should design phones for greater usability.
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Casting Spells to Fix the Broken Car

Folk wisdom captures very succinctly the idea that life is about tradeoffs in the saying that one cannot eat one’s cake and have it as well. If you eat the cake, it is gone and you no longer have it. Economists call it opportunity cost . The opportunity cost of eating the cake is not having it; conversely, the opportunity cost of having the cake is that of not eating it.

Remarkable results follow from exploring the idea of opportunity costs. The whole theory of comparative advantage — the fundamental reason why trade is a win-win game — pivots around the idea. One could do worse than to sit and consider opportunity costs whenever one contemplates doing something.
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