Review: Forecast

Mark Buchanan – Forecast: What Physics, Meteorology, and the Natural Sciences, Can Teach Us About Economics

I have a request, plz. More physicists write more books about things that are not physics. Please and thank you. I want to hug him, because he brings out new science metaphors. Not the same old ones we’ve all heard before, but brand new ones. Hugs. If he wants them, of course.

This guy is pretty smart, and he has some smart things to say about economics. Specifically, that most of economic theory is stupid, and that economists keep throwing good money after bad (see what I did there?).

Specifically: The belief that markets reach equilibrium and return to equilibrium when perturbed is bullshit. Markets are chaotic, unpredictable, and tiny perturbations can make them explode. Like the weather. And market predictions fail for the same reason that meteorological ones always used to, before meteorologists accepted that they even if they had 100% of all the information about all the mosquitos in the world, they were still not going to be able to predict the weather perfectly.

So, the book has some tools for prediction that actually work, and talks about how one would go about making additional tools. It also spends many, many words whining about how dumb social scientists are. If you’re a hard scientist, you’re used to that and it feels like home, but everyone else might find it a little off-putting.

I like and approve of this book.


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