From Bob Cringely:
This is probably the last picture ever taken of our house in Santa Rosa, California. The time was 11:30PM Sunday and a neighbor had just pounded on our door. Fifty mph winds had been blowing all day but nobody expected fire. Yet the glow you see is from burning houses behind and beside ours. They, too, are gone.
We left with what clothes we could grab. I forgot my computer. I’m still blind and awaiting surgery so Mary Alyce drove one car and we left the other to burn.
By 8AM we were on the Mendocino coast with crappy Internet service and this iPhone. But we were all safe.
Certainly I’d been stupidly feeling a bit sorry for myself, but that ends now.
The schools are closed so with Fallon at my side we’ll buy a notebook and resume writing. Look for my next column as early as tomorrow.
The heading on this blog post is what caught my attention. “I Have No Boils” it read. Bob explains:
Finally, about the headline, my old neighbor Ella Wolfe complained to her doctor once that she was suffering all the trials of Job from the Bible (Ella was approaching 100). “You have no boils,” said her doctor.
Neither do I.
Heartwarming stuff. The good news is that he and his family are safe.
Further to the decision of the Nobel committee to give Richard Thaler this year’s prize for economics (about which I bloggeda few days ago), Frank Pasquale pointed me to an interesting critique by Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, who picks out “three problems in economics and its relation to the ‘real world’ it inhabits”.
Firstly, it skates over the fact that what Thaler is being rewarded for — realising “that people can be influenced by (mostly social) prompts to alter their behavior” — was, well, rather old-hat in other social science disciplines. So the Swedish recognition of behavioural economics is really just “a legitimation of economic imperialism: a finding is only truly relevant if published by an economist (corollary: being an economist from Chicago helps).” Ouch!
Secondly, though Thaler’s contribution might make economics “more human—and real”, the behavioural turn “doesn’t make away with the ontological commitments of discipline, privileging market processes and individual action as the fundamental sources of virtue.” Take the metaphor of the ‘nudge’, as articulated by Thaler and Sunstein. “Rather than questioning the economics of general equilibrium”, says Pardo-Guerra, “‘nudging’ is a proposal in calculated engineering: we can build policies that create outcomes similar to those of theory by gently walking slightly irrational, bounded economic agents through the correct ‘architectures of choice’”. But who conceptualises those architectures? And within what ideological constraints?
And finally, this year’s prize confirms that to win a Nobel prize in economics, it really helps to be male and white. To date, only one woman — Elinor Ostrom — has been recognised, and Amaryta Sen is the only non-white laureate so far. I don’t know much about the overall demographics of the economics discipline, but if the Nobel list is representative then one can see why it might be more problematic than the Swedes recognise.