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Thread: Econ and sci-fi

  1. #16
    Economics that voodoo science? I'm surprised the hard sci-fi purists don't turn their noses up in snotty disdain. 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.

    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.
    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 by Bond; August 28th, 2009 at 11:40 PM.

  2. #17
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bond View Post
    Economics that voodoo science? I'm surprised the hard sci-fi purists don't turn their noses up in snotty disdain. 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'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?
    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-avera.../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/vie...ode/68180.html

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

    psik

  3. #18
    Statistician Luonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bond View Post
    Of course there is also econometrics which seems like statistics-lite and would make practitioners of physics guffaw.
    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

  4. #19
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luonas View Post
    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
    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.

    GlobaLIES

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

    psik

  5. #20
    Of practioners of physics behave that way with econometricians I think they have jumped on a higher horse than they can handle
    Well that's the feeling I get from reading something like The Predictors.

  6. #21
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Off the beaten track . . . .

    Don't miss Magnus Mills' little gem The Scheme for Full Employment--described by one newspaper review as "economic science fiction".

  7. #22
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    Peter F. Hamilton puts a lot of thought into the economics of how things work, particularly in the Night's Dawn Trilogy and Commonwealth Saga. Fallen Dragon is also an interesting take on what would happen if humanity developed enough technological ability to colonise other worlds, but if it just wasn't economically viable to do so.

    Unfortunately, a lot of SF tends towards the Kim Stanley Robinson model, where lots of people go and colonise Mars because, erm, they want to found a hippy commune, rather than because they can afford it or because it makes sense logistically.

    Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee's Rama Cycle depicts a massive global meltdown in the mid-22nd Century that makes the Great Depression look like a hiccup in comparison.

  8. #23
    Statistician Luonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bond View Post
    Well that's the feeling I get from reading something like The Predictors.
    Well they probably uses time-series analysis or other models, which is econometrics.

    Time-series is in my mind a little bit like astrology

    I think that both Kim Stanley Robinson and Hamilton deals with economic and social issues in good ways, albeit very different. Robinson is a bit sharper a political mind and know a bit more about how societies are shaped

  9. #24
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luonas View Post
    Well they probably uses time-series analysis or other models, which is econometrics.

    Time-series is in my mind a little bit like astrology

    I think that both Kim Stanley Robinson and Hamilton deals with economic and social issues in good ways, albeit very different. Robinson is a bit sharper a political mind and know a bit more about how societies are shaped
    Really? I think Robinson is an idealist, and his SF societies are very much wish-fulfilment and not particularly realistic. They're fun and interesting, sure, and give rise to good stories, but they're not very likely to happen.

    Hamilton I think hits the more difficult spot of being optimistic about the future (which some would no doubt say is unrealistic) but he is also more than aware of the potential weaknesses and the chances for crime and corruption. He writes flawed utopias unlike the bleak dystopias of a lot of SF or the unlikely hippie utopias of KSR's work.

  10. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Luonas View Post
    Well they probably uses time-series analysis or other models, which is econometrics.

    Time-series is in my mind a little bit like astrology
    It is isn't it? What's more from what I can tell those in the financial field were using incorrect assumptions. They were using many of the standard statistical tools that were based on a normal distribution despite the fact that financial time series usually conform to a fat-tailed cauchy distribution. Econometrics is also rather fond of least squared regression lines. It's only maybe in the last couple of decades that nonlinear tools made an appearance in financial time series analysis. The physicists must have been smirking at the pre-graduate level of statistics employed.

  11. #26
    Statistician Luonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    Really? I think Robinson is an idealist, and his SF societies are very much wish-fulfilment and not particularly realistic. They're fun and interesting, sure, and give rise to good stories, but they're not very likely to happen.

    Hamilton I think hits the more difficult spot of being optimistic about the future (which some would no doubt say is unrealistic) but he is also more than aware of the potential weaknesses and the chances for crime and corruption. He writes flawed utopias unlike the bleak dystopias of a lot of SF or the unlikely hippie utopias of KSR's work.
    Some SPOILER


    Well I don't think that the Mars-state is a hippy utopia, some might think so perhaps but it seems a little bit to violent for me. But to be more on the point, I think the development of the system of government is handled pretty good, given the starting field as well as the military conflict with earth.

    Robinson are good on other things than Hamilton ( prefer the later ), political development and low-level conflict.

  12. #27
    Statistician Luonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bond View Post
    It is isn't it? What's more from what I can tell those in the financial field were using incorrect assumptions. They were using many of the standard statistical tools that were based on a normal distribution despite the fact that financial time series usually conform to a fat-tailed cauchy distribution. Econometrics is also rather fond of least squared regression lines. It's only maybe in the last couple of decades that nonlinear tools made an appearance in financial time series analysis. The physicists must have been smirking at the pre-graduate level of statistics employed.
    That's why I usually try to differ between time-series and the rest of the statistical field... Even if I'm going to be working with such models soon enough...

    I'm pretty young and more focused on the social sciences than financial mathematics. Incorrect use of statistics is often not done by statisticians or econometricians but by some who have just started to grasp the top layer of statistics. Most engineers I have met have the same problem, but then they're physicists and not experts in the field of statistics...

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