Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians"

--- Hal Varian, passim, e.g. interview with McKinsey Quarterly Jan 2009, "Hal Varian on how the Web challenges managers"

Quote in context:

I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s? The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.

I think statisticians are part of it, but it’s just a part. You also want to be able to visualize the data, communicate the data, and utilize it effectively. But I do think those skills—of being able to access, understand, and communicate the insights you get from data analysis—are going to be extremely important. Managers need to be able to access and understand the data themselves.
Steve Lohr, "For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics", New York Times, August 5, 2009

Thursday, December 03, 2009

"To predict economic agents’ behaviors an economic theory does not have to be true; it simply needs to be believed by everyone"

--- Michel Callon paraphrasing a claim in G. R. Faulhaber and W.J. Baumol (1988) “Economists as Innovators: Practical Products of Theoretical Research,” Journal of Economic Literature 26:577-600.

Source: Michel Callon, “What does it mean to say that economics is performative?”, Chapter 11 in Donald MacKenzie, Fabian Muniesa & Lucia Siu (eds.), Do Economists Make Markets? On the performativity of economics, Princeton University Press 2007 (includes Google Book Search), p. 322

In context:
To predict economic agents’ behaviors an economic theory does not have to be true; it simply needs to be believed by everyone. Since the model acts as a convention, it can be perfectly arbitrary. Even if the belief has no relationship with the world, the world ends up corresponding with it.We can thus consider that the famous Black and Scholes formula has no truth value, that it says nothing of real markets, and that it is simply a coordination tool that allows mutual expectations. It constitutes a false but effective representation, and can be seen as pure convention. This is what Faulhauber [sic] and Baumol suggest in their article.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"Patina is the value that age puts on an object"

--- John Yemma, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, in his "open source" column for November 22, 2009, "On Thanksgiving: the memorial that time forgot"

Quote in context:
 "Monuments are anchors in time. Epochs pass, weather erodes, people lose interest. This cannot be helped. But patina itself is worth appreciating. Patina is the value that age puts on an object. It’s what makes an antique antique. It is experience, maturity, the soft sheen of time. Patina wasn’t present at the spanking-new creation. It comes from a life lived."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

“Development is a goal, not a tool”

--- Sheila Herrling, Center for Global Development, quoted in a story by Jesse Zwick in The New Republic, "The Downside of 'Smart Power'", 30 November 2009, second page

Quote in context:

“Smart power,” of course, is a perfectly reasonable idea. But foreign aid is a zero-sum game. Elevating it into a central strategic instrument of our foreign policy means that something else--something noble and altruistic, something embedded in the historic mission of foreign aid--could soon be lost. Sheila Herrling of the Center for Global Development puts it succinctly: “Development,” she says, “is a goal, not a tool.” A longtime foreign aid observer relays that Clinton, aware of some of the simmering discontent at USAID, asked a group of aid experts before her confirmation what she could say or do to make the agency’s career civil servants excited again--to inspire them. She could start by making a difficult admission: that “smart power,” whatever its merits, comes with a genuine downside.