Sunday, December 23, 2007

Review: The Social Atom

Mercedonius 2 after AUC 2760, Nones

Mark Buchanan has written an interesting book called the The Social Atom. As with most (successful) social science books it presents a very compelling narrative that carries the reader along to its conclusion. In this case that a great deal of Macroeconomic Theory is no different than other postmodernist theories that are intellectual exercises with of no use in the real world. I don't know that I yet buy the rest of his conclusions about computer models telling us a lot about how people self organize or do not as the case may be, but given the widely and wildly diverging views of economists I suspect he is correct about Macroeconomics being bunk.

Beyond the different results depending upon which way you slice the information problem that can turn up in all sciences modern economics seems not to have much in the way of experimental verification. This is not just a problem of not being able to bring the experiment down into the lab, Astronomy has overcome that, but a problem of basic assumptions of what people are like (rational) and political poisoning of scientific discourse.

I think I may want to get a copy of this book. Though not right away. I'd rather get one used inexpensively. But it would be very useful to me in creating realistic social situations in writing because its narrative rings truer to me than many other social theories of why wealth, power, racism, and so on happen.

Book Count: 2

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