Re: poly: Modeling Economic Singularities

From: Perry E. Metzger <>
Date: Tue Apr 14 1998 - 12:37:01 PDT

Robin Hanson writes:
> Perry responds to me:
> >> As I've told you before, I'm open to questioning specific points, but
> >> I can't effectively respond to unfocused requests to justify everything.
> >
> >Hey, you made an extraordinary claim: that a short set of very well
> >behaved (largely linear, as I recall) equations could tell us
> >considerable useful information about the state of the economy into
> >the far future. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
> All standard results in all fields consistitute extraordinary claims
> to those who don't know those fields.

But I *do* know the field. Not as well as you, admittedly, but I know
it well enough to know 1) that similar models have never been shown to
have significant predictive power and that 2) you personally have no
experimental evidence for the model you are proposing.

This is not pure math where you just invent some axioms and rules of
inference and go. You are making a claim about the real world. It
requires experimental justification at the very least. You have, to my
knowledge, no experimental justification.

> I have not said this! These are not quotes from me. I have not placed
> a value judgement on your level of skepticism. I merely note that I do
> not have time to effectively respond to it. Effective response to
> strong broad skepticism requires a slow careful review of many standard
> results, discussing for each the reasons people accept them. The more
> things you question, the longer this takes. And the stronger your
> skepticism on each point, the longer this takes. Can't you see that?

Sure, I can see it, but it strikes me as a cop out. I'm capable of
explaining standard results in my field in a compact form
understandable by laymen. I can even do a passable job in fields I am
not a specialist in -- I've succeeded in describing Cantorian set
theory to people who've never finished even high school math, and I've
taught programming to film majors.

You seem pretty intransigently uninterested in exploring the
assumptions of your own field. Hell, you wouldn't go so far as to make
the concession (requested by someone else other than me!) of
expressing the terms in your equations as english words rather than as
single letters.

I don't know about you, but I personally find doing things like
explaining Turing Machines to laymen to be reasonably fun, and its not
all that hard. In my case, you wouldn't even have to explain the
basics of economics to me -- I understand concepts like supply and
demand, time discounts on the value of money, etc. I even grok partial
differential equations. "Try me!" Give me the reasons you think your
model has predictive power, even without doing any experiments with

Received on Tue Apr 14 19:43:48 1998

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