Econ and sci-fi

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by nquixote, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    I'm a (budding) economist, and I'm interested in sci-fi that tries to get the economics right. Any suggestions?

    I'm currently reading Accelerando, which A) is a good book, and B) makes a valiant attempt to deal with the econ. I think it gets a bunch of things wrong...then again, so do most economists! I am a little annoyed by the idea of "post-scarcity"...unless we have godlike AIs providing for our every whim (a la Iain M. Banks' "Culture" universe), it's a bit hard to imagine people everywhere being completely and utterly satiated. The idea of "solving the calculation problem" - calculating how much of what people will want at every point in the future, based on their observable characteristics - is a bit far-fetched without Banks-style Minds doing unfathomable amounts of work for the benefit of a lowly humans.
     
  2. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    ROFL

    That assumes economists get the economics right.

    http://discussions.pbs.org/viewtopic.pbs?t=28529

    Try:

    The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20727/20727-h/20727-h.htm

    Shorter but more strange:

    Subversive by Mack Reynolds

    "Subversive" is, in essence, a negative term—it
    means simply "against the existent system."
    It doesn't mean subversives all agree ...

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23197/23197-h/23197-h.htm

    psik
     
  3. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    No it doesn't. Try reading the next two sentences of my post. :rolleyes:
     
  4. beniowa

    beniowa Registered User

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    The first thing that springs to mind is Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books. It's been a loooooong time since I've read them so I don't remember many of the details. I seem to recall that the second and third books, Green Mars and Blue Mars, dealt a fair bit with economics. Robinson explored a system not built (at least not entirely) on capitalism and even had a debate on it in one of the books. Of course, he also had a ton of political, technological, and socialogical stuff too. Sorry I can't remember anything in more detail.
     
  5. Seli

    Seli Registered User

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    I do not pay that much attention to the economics, but the following authors economics did at least seem to make some sense.

    Peter Hamilton, especially in the commonwealth novels
    Greg Egan, for example in permutation city
    David Louis Edelman
     
  6. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Here is part of a review of The Cosmic Computer

    http://www.troynovant.com/Franson/Piper/Junkyard-Planet.html

    I consider the information and ideas presented in sci-fi stories to be a major reason for reading them. Even if a story is great entertainment if that is all it is then I don't really consider it to be first rate. There is an aspect of the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov in Cosmic Computer but it takes a while to get to that.

    psik
     
  7. sredding

    sredding New Member

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    econ near future

    Since you mention Accelerando, I'm going to mention another Stross book that addresses the economic issues in a near future scenario: Halting State. Very economics-focused, one of the main characters is an auditor! Addresses the economics of virtual worlds on internet, but has stuff behind it that slices into economic hegemony through hacking. I recommend it.
     
  8. Siberian

    Siberian Too many books to read...

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    Heinlein's Moon is a Harsh Mistress has some interesting ideas about a nearly anarchic economy with private currency and law.
     
  9. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    Yeah. As does The Dispossessed. Both are highly fanciful, though. ;)
     
  10. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    I guess what I'm really hoping for is some sci-fi that deals with some of the "market failures" that economists have studied in more recent (post-1930) decades...public goods, negative externalities, asymmetric information, coordination games, etc. Technology could change (has changed!) the way a lot of those things impact society (e.g. if information can't be locked up, what's the incentive for anyone to do research? And would reputations be sufficient to solve the asymmetric information problem, or could false information be disseminated quickly enough to foil the market?).

    Unfortunately, modern economists haven't done a very good job of bringing these concepts into the mainstream. People in the general public who think about econ often still think about really old stuff, like the Austrian school or socialism or pure neoclassicalism.
     
  11. beniowa

    beniowa Registered User

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    Hm, maybe Market Forces by Richard Morgan? Note, I haven't read this book so I can't say if it might be something you're looking for or not.
     
  12. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    This was a great tale involving asymmetric information.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWQWs6Z3NNc

    http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/DS9/episode/68180.html

    So when have economists said that EVERYBODY should know accounting?

    Where is a culture like that portrayed in sci-fi? What would the effect be?

    Here is a little economic satire from 50 years ago:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/24864/24864-h/24864-h.htm

    psik
     
  13. Luonas

    Luonas Statistician

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    Peter F. Hamilton deals, in the background, with what happens when it is impossible for the state to guard against the free sharing of information (movies, books etc.) in his commonwealth duology. Might be a bit interesting even if I would say it is very light otherwise, it is after all space opera.
     
  14. Siberian

    Siberian Too many books to read...

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    I'm pretty sure it's heavily based on Old West (which wasn't as lawless as Hollywood wants you to think). Private banking and law certainly existed in history and even today, in some forms.
     
  15. creemore

    creemore C A L D I

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    Play some EVE Online for some economics and sci-fi. :)
     
  16. Bond

    Bond Registered User

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    Economics that voodoo science? :p I'm surprised the hard sci-fi purists don't turn their noses up in snotty disdain. :D Of course that could be a useful excuse to mask ignorance of the subject. Easier to focus on the politics rather than the economics which is what most authors tend to do.

    I'd like to fancy myself as slightly more well-versed than your average layman on the subject, but let's face it the jargon economics spouts is as bad or worse than what one would find in other fields. I have little idea what pure neoclassicalism is supposed to be other than some vague feeling that it is Adam Smith/David Ricardo laissez-faire classicalism updated to account for stuff like the Great Depression. What separates Adam Smith/David Ricardo laissez-faire classicalism from Austrian School economics anyway? A focus on money supply? Is that then again the only difference with Friedman's monetarism? Then there is Keynesianism, Neo-Keynesianism, New Keynesianism, and Cambridge Keynesianism and stuff named after Keynes that probably wouldn't reflect what he himself believed. Of course there is also econometrics which seems like statistics-lite and would make practitioners of physics guffaw. Hard to follow developments within economics when many terms are not properly and clearly defined and you have ignorant political demagogues and operatives muddling up most conversation further. Is it surprising ideas seem to slip between the cracks as they seem to when even Krugman seems to suggest that pertinent knowledge dealt with by an even well-known economist like Ohlin has been ignored and gathers dust?

    I'm having trouble recommending an economics book on economics. Maybe it is too much to ask of science fiction to provide one on the subject? :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2009
  17. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    I think serious science fiction is about what technology does to society. But a significant factor in that is how much people know about technology. So we end up with lots of stories that focus on the cool things that a few characters do against a social background of people that don't have a clue.

    But double-entry accounting is 700 years old and people today are expected to make decisions about which computer to buy even though von Neumann machines today that cost less then $1000 are more powerful than mainframes that cost upwards of $1,000,000 in 1980. We live in a sci-fi society where knowledge is out of phase with technology.

    There are science fiction stories from the 50s and 60s that make more sense on the subject of economics than plenty of economics books written in the last decade.

    Cost of Living, 1952

    Subversive, 1962

    Economics makes more sense if you regard it as a power game in which some people are kept ignorant to make sure that they lose.

    This is the best book on economics:

    http://www.amazon.com/screwing-average-man-David-Hapgood/dp/B0006W84KK

    And because of it I wrote this:

    http://www.spectacle.org/1199/wargame.html

    One PhD economists said I am correct and the textbooks are wrong and another called me a Loony.

    I think Star Trek gave us an excellent example of economics:

    http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/DS9/episode/68180.html

    When was the last time you heard an economist say that accounting should be mandatory in the schools?

    psik
     
  18. Luonas

    Luonas Statistician

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    Econometrics are statistics applied specifically to economics and have a special mindset with what it uses just like biometrics, psychometrics. Of course, it is just to show that the statistician working with it is specialized, in reality the math is the same. Econometricians usually work with theory more than biostatisticians and pure statisticians.

    Econometrics is the most sound part of economics, have som phd-friends that can that stuff better than me.

    Of practioners of physics behave that way with econometricians I think they have jumped on a higher horse than they can handle ;)
     
  19. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    There is a little problem with which statistics get collected and which get totally ignored.

    What have you ever heard about Depreciation of Durable Consumer Goods or Demand Side Depreciation? Our economists treat automobiles just like bananas unless they are purchased by Hertz. :D

    GlobaLIES

    Defective algebra for an entire planet with almost 7 billion people. It sounds like something out of science fiction.

    psik
     
  20. Bond

    Bond Registered User

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    Well that's the feeling I get from reading something like The Predictors.