The trouble with economists

Posted in economics, finance, politics by thenextwavefutures on 22 April, 2009

I’m a fan of Nicholas Taleb, although more of Fooled by Randomness than his flawed notion of ‘black swans‘. But he always writes well, and his ten principles for a robust world, on the Edge website are trenchant and entertaining, and even if some are familiar they bear repetition. One principle calls for the dismantling of the economics establishment:

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. The economics establishment (universities, regulators, central bankers, government officials, various organisations staffed with economists) lost its legitimacy with the failure of the system. …

The trouble is that the news from people who watch neo-classical economists at play (including economists of the critical “real world” school) say that in the face of the crisis they are becoming increasingly fundamentalist and ever more detached from the rest of the world – while still being deeply entrenched in policy making.



The changing shape of surveillance

Posted in civil liberties, data, digital, emerging issues, social by thenextwavefutures on 10 April, 2009

It may not seem completely appropriate to make the link, but there’s a connection which runs from the McLaren fiasco in the Australian Grand Prix, through the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, to the death last week during the G20 demonstration of Ian Tomlinson. The connection is about information, how much of it there is, how it flows, and who has access to it under what circumstances.


‘Thinking in systems’ – review

Posted in books, methods, politics, strategy by thenextwavefutures on 6 April, 2009

Donella (‘Dana’) Meadows was almost certainly the most influential systems thinker of her generation. At barely thirty, she was the lead author of ‘Limits to Growth‘ and she remained an influential voice in the sustainability movement until her relatively early death in 2001 – which for me at least recalled an Adrian Mitchell couplet, ‘And God killed Aneurin Bevan/ And let Harold Wilson survive’.

The manuscript of ‘Thinking in systems‘ has been around in draft since the early ’90s, but never completed. Now her colleague Diana Wright has edited it for publication. In the circumstances, it ought to be something of a publishing event, even if a niche one. It is, I’d say, the best single introduction to systems work that is available, especially for non-specialists. But the book seems to have surfaced with little fanfare, and barely a review.