poly: Re: GMU econ vs. UCB info

From: Robin Hanson <hanson@econ.berkeley.edu>
Date: Wed Feb 17 1999 - 12:02:55 PST

Curt Adams writes:
>> ... does it mean I finally have the credibility to bring
>> attention to my engineering ideas, and should go for that?
>..., theoretical work requires more credibility than experimental work,
>which in turns requires more than engineering work. If your credibility is
>low but your algorithm works, what can people say? Theory by low-credibility
>individuals generally just gets ignored. Do you think a lack of credibility
>has restrained you from getting engineering ideas implemented? ...
>"engineering" in economics is far harder - it tends to be expensive since
>so much is at stake and more often gets tied up in politics.

My job talk at UCB info had this theme: the potential for using markets to
better aggregate information has been neglected by economists because they
don't do "prototypes," i.e., designs lacking specific theoreticial models.
It's all right to construct models of specific institutions, and all right
to test such models in lab experiments, but its not all right to do lab
tests of institution designs w/o such models, even if these designs are made
using rules of thumb derived from more rigorous tests.

In other more engineering oriented disciplines, one is allowed to build
designs using accepted rules of thumb and then do lab tests of them.
In economics only a few senior people can get away with this. Thus the
long empirically-demonstrated remarkable ability of speculative markets
to aggregate information has not been followed up by attempts to
better design markets specifically for this purpose. Such markets are
too complex to do detailed models of with current tools. I pitched this
idea to UCB, so if they accept me, that will be an endorsement of my plan
to do such prototype testing in their department.

Robin Hanson
hanson@econ.berkeley.edu http://hanson.berkeley.edu/
RWJF Health Policy Scholar FAX: 510-643-8614
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884
Received on Wed Feb 17 12:05:33 1999

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