Economist 7/20/16

  1. Today there are more reasons than ever to treat nerds with respect: never mind the fact that every company is clamouring to hire them, geeks are starting to shape markets for new products and services.But nerds’ influence now goes well beyond technology. They hold greater cultural sway. “Silicon Valley”, a show on HBO which will soon start filming its fourth season.Nerds carry more clout in part because their ranks have swelled. IDC, a research firm, estimates there are now around 20m professional and hobbyist software developers worldwide; that is probably low. Geeky, addictive video games are drawing more into the fold. Each month at least 70m people play “League of Legends”, a complex multiplayer online game; that is more than play baseball, softball or tennis worldwide.As a result, companies had better pay attention to the rise of a “nerd economy” that stretches well beyond their direct technology needs.
  2. At the beginning of the convention, Donald Trump’s campaign manager said that his candidate was planning to copy Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign, presenting himself as the law-and-order candidate.The country described within the Quicken Loans Arena is very different. It is a lawless, borderless place, threatened by terrorists and run by crooks. The most memorable moments of the first evening came in painful speeches given by bereaved parents, whose children had been killed by illegal immigrants or by terrorists in Libya.This stuff was interspersed with bizarre moments from some formerly famous people, notable only for their willingness to say nice things about the nomineeThus far this convention has suggested that the Trump campaign is too strange, amateurish and pessimistic to triumph.The Republican nominee, he concluded, has the ability to create the conditions that favour him, by encouraging disorder and then promising to dispel it, in a way that no other candidate could.
  3. J.D. POWER, a market-research company, has released the 2016 results of its annual hotel satisfaction survey for the United States, Canada and Mexico.  Contentment among customers is at an all-time high, and has risen for four years in a row.But the report also contains some bad news. It is going to become increasingly difficult to impress guests with perks they have come to take for granted.The biggest problem for the hotel industry is a demographic one. According to the survey, satisfaction is significantly higher among guests who are members of a hotel’s reward programme.But while 66% of hotels’ baby-boomer clients are rewards members, and 56% of Generation Xers are, just 39% of millennial guests have signed up for a scheme.
  4. Call it the Airbnb effect, perhaps. As another Gulliver recently reported, the use of Airbnb properties by business travellers around the world more than tripled last year. Partly, that’s because hosts have become better at catering for those on corporate trips.But largely, it’s because the travellers themselves want a more engaging experience than hotels typically offer.They want to stay in lively neighbourhoods rather than hotel districts, and to be able to cook meals if they are staying for more than a couple of nights.The Ritz-Carlton was the most beloved luxury hotel group for the second consecutive year, earning the highest score in the survey’s 20-year history. It was trailed by Four Seasons and JW Marriott, with the Grand Hyatt and W Hotels receiving the lowest luxury scores. Omni got top marks among “upper upscale” hotels for the second year running, with Kimpton in second and Sheraton at the bottom. Hilton Garden Inn was the top choice among upscale hotels.
  5.  Although global defence spending grew by just 1% last year—after five years of severe budget cuts in many countries—the global market for missiles and missile-defence systems is racing ahead at around 5% a year.Mounting armed conflicts around the world, and the persistent threat of global terrorism, are partly responsible.But governments also see missiles as a way of reducing civilian casualties in warfare. While traditional aerial-bombing tactics often kill more civilians than hostile combatants, missiles are much more effective at hitting their target without collateral damage.America and China are developing competing hypersonic missiles that can travel at five or more times the speed of sound.And to avoid the need to carry bulky ammunition at sea and in the sky, directed-energy weapons (powered by electricity) that look like the laser guns from “Star Wars” films are being developed.

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