After all, we are witnessing the Waterloo of Wall Street. So, ironically, it was in the Canadian province of Ontario, in the small town of Waterloo, that a meeting was convened to shed new light on the world’s financial debacle. In a densely packed conference schedule, the general approach was to take measure of the crisis not only in a new way, but with instruments never used before. Even the venue for event, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, was itself programmatic, though invitations to participate were sent far beyond the boundaries of economics and physics to mathematicians, lawyers, behavioral economists, risk managers, evolutionary biologists, complexity theorists and computer scientists.
THE ECONOMIC MANHATTAN PROJECT — THE VIDEOS
In December, Edge published “Can Science Help Solve the Economic Crisis?” by Mike Brown, Stuart Kauffman, Zoe-Vonna Palmrose, and Lee Smolin. The paper was prompted by a suggestion by Eric Weinstein for an “Economic Manhattan Project”.
This led to the Perimeter Institute conference: “The Economic Crisis and its Implications for The Science of Economics”. According to the organizers, “Concerns over the current financial situation are giving rise to a need to evaluate the very mathematics that underpins economics as a predictive and descriptive science. A growing desire to examine economics through the lens of diverse scientific methodologies — including physics and complex systems — is making way to a meeting of leading economists and theorists of finance together with physicists, mathematicians, biologists and computer scientists in an effort to evaluate current theories of markets and identify key issues that can motivate new directions for research.”
Eric Weinstein Nouriel Roubini Richard Freeman Nassim Taleb at Perimeter
The conference began on May 1st, with a day of invited talks by leading experts to a public audience on the status of economic and financial theory in light of the crisis. I was pleased to be invited and to listen to the first day of public talks.
Among those participating were Nouriel Roubini, Nassim Taleb, Emanuel Derman, Andrew Lo, Richard Alexander, Eric Weinstein, introduced by Theoretical Physicist Neil Turok, who recently moved Cambridge to become the Executive Director of Perimeter, and Lee Smolin, a founding member and research physicist. Doyne Farmer of the Santa Fe Institute, and one of the original Edge contributors, was also in attendance.
Nassim Taleb at Perimeter: there’s too much in the fourth quadrant to clean up.
Eric Weinstein set the stage with a statement on his talk, which began the proceedings:
An unexpected economic crisis provides an excellent opportunity to better understand the state of Economic theory as a science. While there appears to have been a broad systemic failure within the community of professional economists to predict the current collapse, it must be noted that there have been scattered successes which appear striking and demand our attention. The goal of this conference is to bring together economists, biologists, mathematicians, physicists, programmers, and financial professionals to explore the opportunities for bringing economic theory into closer contact with the more traditional sciences as the basis for ongoing work, partnership, and collaboration. Eric Weinstein: Success is not an option
Jordan Mejias, arts correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and frequent Edge contributor, attended as well. His interesting report ran on the front page of the FAZ Feuilleton.
I am pleased to present the video presentations of Eric Weinstein; Nouriel Roubini; Nassim Taleb, a panel discussion of Eric Weinstein, Nouriel Roubini, Richard Freeman, and Nassim Taleb; Emanuel Derman, Andrew Lo, Richard Alexander; a panel discussion of Emanuel Derman, Andrew Lo, Richard Alexander, Bill Janeway, Zoe-Vonna Palmrose; and Doyne Farmer.
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