tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7905515.post8230269780806462150..comments2021-10-21T05:46:41.890-05:00Comments on Falkenblog: The Great Risk Snipe HuntEric Falkensteinhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/07243687157322033496noreply@blogger.comBlogger9125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7905515.post-70828043225775345412010-06-23T13:57:52.993-05:002010-06-23T13:57:52.993-05:00Earlier this week I spontaneously chose string the...Earlier this week I spontaneously chose string theorists (in an argument about AGW on collide-a-scape) as an example of people who have a uniquely strong defense for screwing around with math without making connection (while claiming it's "without making connection *yet*") to physical reality.<br /><br />Arguably Maxwell, then certainly Einstein, then Dirac, then Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga were (eventually) able to triumphantly connect to reality by first staring at mathematical inconsistencies between successful incomplete physical theories, then Thinking Real Hard, then coming back with a mathematically elegant theory which managed to resolve those inconsistencies while remaining consistent with the older successful incomplete theories. Because that approach has paid off so well four times in a row in high energy physics, it's natural to try for a fifth. And since the inconsistencies between GR and QM are extremely mathematically gnarly, the string theorists can mess with it for a very long time returning only technical mathematical results, and still claim with some plausibility that what they're doing is analogous to Einstein messing with Mach's principle or Feynman messing with "it's all the same electron."<br /><br />Thus, I don't think the analogy to string theorists makes a particularly telling criticism of economists unless you carefully put it alongside a supporting argument like "but while advanced math has been famously effective in theories of physics which achieve real-world success, in real-world theories of economics it's been more like a famous distraction."<br /><br />(More precisely, advanced math related to the physicists' armamentarium of PDEs and tensors and perturbation theory and such hasn't been very important to economic theories which are useful in the real world. However, if math is sufficiently broadly defined to include other topics like game theory and information theory, then arguably the math needed merely to clearly specify the meaning of some usefully simple models (e.g., various kinds of bounds on rationality) is at least a little bit heavy by many people's standards. And it seems to me from looking at work in AI and CS on analyzing and optimizing systems involving multiple independent artificial actors, my opinion is that heavy math strongly tends to be important when analyzing the class of problems which includes economics. It's just that the useful heavy math doesn't look much like the usual physicists' math.)William Newmanhttps://www.blogger.com/profile/14336821309402794016noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7905515.post-61862137813680748692010-06-21T01:35:56.693-05:002010-06-21T01:35:56.693-05:00Hi,
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