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It is by now common wisdom that our current financial crisis is due in large part to misplaced incentives in our financial system. Analysts and fund managers were rewarded for short-term thinking and risk-taking. If we can rework our financial system to reward long-term, careful planning, it is often argued, we can avoid collapses like this in the future.

While I agree that misplaced incentives were a fundamental problem, the question of how to change this is rather more deep and complex than I think many people realize.

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IIASA

This is just a brief note to let everyone know I’m spending the summer at IIASA, a scientific policy research institute located just outside of Vienna. IIASA focus on systems analysis of global problems such as climate change, land use, demographic changes, public health, ecology, and energy. They don’t seem to use the phrase “complex systems” much, but they’re clearly talking about the same thing.

I happen to be one of 53 lucky graduate students to be selected for this year’s Young Scholars Summer Program, meaning I get to paid to live in Vienna and do research. Can’t really complain about that. Tomorrow I get to hear mini-presentations on everyone’s research proposals, which should be very interesting. My own project will be on the long term, gradual evolution of cooperation in spatially structured populations, using a mathematical framework known as adaptive dynamics.

I’m expecting to learn a lot here, and I’ll share as much as I can with you readers. Looking forward to it!

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Everyone seems to have an opinion on the future prospects of Facebook and Twitter. Some of us even feel strongly enough to want to bet on it. Unfortunately, the companies are privately held, and unavailable to be bet on in the traditional way, via the stock market. It is not just household names like Facebook and Twitter that people might want to bet on, but also smaller companies like Weebly, or the Universal Record Database (URDB.)

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This is a precursor to Singularity sort of argument:

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In the comments on this post, Rafe and I started a dialog on how well microeconomics will hold up as the world becomes more extreme.  We got a little off track and privately decided it was worthwhile taking the discussion up a level. So we are trying a little experiment.  We’re going to jointly write a Q&A post over time, bumping it to the top once one of us adds something.  The current state, which we shall try to reset as we update is:

Q.2: Microeconomics holds that people do more than simply respond to incentives.  Most animals do.  But people maintain sets of “likes” and “dislikes”. They form “plans” for increasing the amount of “likes” and decreasing the amount of “dislikes” they experience. Part of these “plans” includes engaging in “transactions” with other people (or groups of people) whereby an exchange instrumentally furthers a plan or terminally completes a plan.  So does a more extreme world change this?

The history is below the fold.

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