Monday, 14 June 2021

Another glory...

"The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in 'Metcalfe's law'–which states that the number of potential connections in a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants–becomes apparent: most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet's impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine's."

Paul Krugman (Of course it is).

But why are we surprised? This man has admitted that he got into economics because he believed in fairy stories. Specifically Asimov's cod science of 'psychohistory' which forms a key part of the plot of the Foundation Trilogy.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Hang about, 'psychohistory' is science fiction, it's a "what if" proposition, the same as "what if we could travel faster than light" or "what if we can time travel".

Asimov wasn't so daft as to say that this would ever be a real science and I don't think anybody believes in it any more than they believe in faster than light travel, so it's not true 'cod science' like global warmenism.

As it happens, in a vague and unprecise way, we DO use 'psychohistory' to try and guess the future... statistics, forecasts, data mining, recognising patterns (like the 18-year boom bust cycle, or why revolutions normally end up making things worse than before).

Lola said...

MW. Have you read The Foundation Trilogy? Asimov applies phsychohistory as a way of manipulating the population - a sort of behavioural econ on steroids. That's what attracted Krugman. The 'progressive' agenda - life would all be so much better if you all do what I say and if we have the data and calculation capacity we can do it. Well, he doesn't and he can't.

Of course, we are always seeking patterns. That's humans for you. But what we are / should be asking is why the patterns. Not that they exist. And mostly it's repeating human, or rather government (in the widest sense) failure.

I like Asimov. His robot series is very good. And he predicted the internet and Google. Go read 'Marooned off Vesta' and 'Return to Vesta'. Both written in about 1953.

Bayard said...

My recollection of the "Foundation Trilogy" was that Hari Selden worked out you could predict the future from the past behaviour of large masses of people, but powerful single actors messed the whole thing up ("The Mule"). To that extent, Georgism is the same.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L: "Have you read The Foundation Trilogy?"

Yes of course, it's everybody's favourite sci-fi trilogy.

As a kid, I assumed it was an allegory for the post-WW2 economic success of Japan - no natural resources, good at miniaturisation, good at exporting, government beholden to corporations etc.

It wasn't until later that I realised he wrote it decades before all this happened - so he get a big bonus point for that.

Also, Asimov didn't say that The Foundation or this sort of manipulation was A Good Thing, they were just less bad than permanent warfare and chaos.

Lola said...

MW. Trouble is Krugman does think it's A Good Thing'.

Not everyone is a scifi fan.

Although the Foundation Trilogy (all seven (?) books of it) is good, I really prefer THHGTTG.

Mark Wadsworth said...

In which case, PK is mentally ill.

I bought the other four books a few years ago, the prequels and sequels, and thought they were dreadful.

Lola said...

MW. Yes. The other four are not at all good. Very messy and obscure. IA was always sound on Robotics though.