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May 27, 2009

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The New Psychohistory

Paul Krugman reminds us of the awesome fact that he got into economics because he read the Foundation series as a kid. In the series, there’s a character named Hari Seldon who studies psychohistory — the imaginary super-socio-economics that allows you to predict mass-scale human behavior using quantitative models. He shows up as a hologram at various point in the series’ long chronology, long after he’s dead, saying: “I pretty much predicted what you will be doing right now.” And he’s always right!

Anyway, it made me remember seeing, in the new issue of Wired, that Google’s chief economist Hal Varian admitted the same thing!

“In Isaac Asimov’s first Foundation Trilogy, there was a character who basically constructed mathematical models of society, and I thought this was a really exciting idea. When I went to college, I looked around for that subject. It turned out to be economics.”

This makes me want to come up with some new, imaginary discipline and write a series of books around it, expressly in order to inspire a generation of smart young people to find ways to do it in real life. They will fail, but they will do such cool things along the way!

Posted May 27, 2009 at 6:39 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


Robin! I've got a great idea! Why don't you call on the collective power of the Snarkmatrix to come up with imaginary disciplines for a future world!

No, in all seriousness, I'm in for the NLA fiction follow-up! Big time.

Hari Seldon and Paul Atreides ftw!

Yeah, but these nitwit economists don't talk about the planned obsolescence of automobiles.

How much have Americans lost on the DEPRECIATION of automobiles since the Moon landing. It will soon be 40 years since then. Americans went into debt for crap designed to become obsolete and economists can't get their grade school algebra correct.

When do you hear them talk about Net Domestic Product?

They only subtract the depreciation of capital goods.

Like the laws of physics are different for identical cars because one is a capital good and the other is a consumer good. Economists just think they are smart and need to hide information to fool everybody else.

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