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Why Math Can't Bail Us Out

I don’t think mathematical models can do much to get us out of the mess that we’re in.  There’s a limit.  The mess that we’re in currently in the United States and maybe in the world in general, I don’t think it’s really a mess brought about by mathematics or curable by mathematics.  

You get a lot of quantitative people who imagine that if you just have a better risk model or if you just had a more sophisticated mathematical description or quantification of risk and everybody used it, then everything would be fine.  But it’s kind of also pragmamorphic and simplistic in a way.  There isn’t one way to solve all of this. I think the problem we’re in is much more a qualitative one than a quantitative one: too much leverage and too much reliance or hope for continued growth and not thinking enough about what other people do or the consequences of one’s actions.

The one thing is, the financial sector has gotten too big. It wasn’t like this 25 years ago and maybe it won’t be like that in the future.  But there are a lot of qualitative things that can be done.  Not so much growth, less leverage.  But none of them are going to depend on writing down a formula.

 

60 Second Reads is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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