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Oil Capital: The History of American Oil, Wildcatters, Independents and Their Bankers: Clark, Bernard F: 9780692817322: Amazon.com: Books

Open Thread

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Last week, a subscribers-only piece ($) talked about BMW's decision to charge a monthly fee for heated seats. This comment from Levi Ramsey was a spin on it that I hadn't thought of:

For BMW, heated seats and the like are something that has to be standard in markets where cool mornings are normal, but in other markets almost nobody is willing to pay for them. On the other hand, making this an option or having a cold-morning version of each model with heated seats and a version without heated seats dramatically complicates the manufacturing process, so it's plausible that having heated seats be a global default saves enough in supply chain and manufacturing complexity that it comes close to covering the cost of the hardware to heat the seats.

But in markets where they've previously not shipped cars with heated seats, suddenly making them standard leads to buyers assuming that the feature they never use is built into the price and trying to negotiate down (ask a Hampton Inn front-desk agent how often they get a guest trying to knock $5 a night off the rate with a promise that they won't have the free breakfast in the morning). So putting a subscription on the feature sends a message that the MSRP hasn't been increased to reflect even partially the added cost of the hardware (it probably has been, though by far less than the option typically retails for).

And last week’s open thread has some good thoughts on which jobs will be automated and which ones won’t.

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  1. It's kind of funny that one of the earliest functions of computers was keeping track of lots of details that humans would be prone to forgetting: "Remind me of what every single employee's salary and tax withholding is" was one of the earliest businesses asked computers to do. Computers excel in structured memory tasks but have a ways to go for unstructured memory tasks—not just learning things, but keeping track of what’s important.