Lee Smolin: Can Physics Save Economics?
It was actually "physics envy" that got us in trouble in the first place.
Lee attended Harvard University for graduate school receiving a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1979. He held postdoctoral positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, The Institute for Theoretical Physics (now KITP) in Santa Barbara and the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago. This was followed by faculty positions at Yale, Syracuse and Penn State Universities, where he helped to found the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry. In September of 2001 he moved to Canada to be a founding member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, where he has been ever since.
Lee's main contributions to research are so far to the field of quantum gravity. He was, with Abhay Ashtekar and Carlo Rovelli, a founder of the approach known as loop quantum gravity, but he has contributed to other approaches including string theory and causal dynamical triangulations. He is also known for proposing the notion of the landscape of theories, based on his application of Darwinian methods to Cosmology. He has contributed also to the foundations of quantum mechanics, elementary particle physics and theoretical biology. He also has a strong interest in philosophy and his three books, Life of the Cosmos, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity and The Trouble with Physics are in part philosophical explorations of issues raised by contemporary physics.
When the theoretical physicist Lee Smolin was asked to join a research group to work on economics his first response was "I don't know anything about economics." That's okay, said Mike Brown, the former CFO of Microsoft, "because nobody does and the whole system is about to collapse."
That was 2007, and the rest is history. And yet, according to Smolin, he found that it is very easy for a physicist to understand economics "because it’s very mathematical." Moreover, it was actually "physics envy" that got us in trouble in the first place.
Smolin, the author of Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe, tells Big Think that economists were seduced by physics because it made their arguments for deregulation seem scientific. They believed, for instance, that an equilibrium was possible. In other words, an equilibrium was supposed to make it impossible "to profit from trading around a circle of goods or a circle of currencies without actually producing anything." Of course, that is possible, and that did happen, and that's because, as Smolin tells us, "you’re never really at equilibrium."
This video is part of the series of the most popular videos of Summer 2013.
Watch the video here:
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.