Monday, March 19, 2018

Economics Needs New Theories Not Bounded by Pure Empiricism

Empiricism is like looking at a problem with a microscope to prove a phenomenons existence. As we dig deeper and deeper we start to forget about the overall framework by which these discoveries are found. We may have lots of empiricism but not enough new theories to explain these ideas. A great article on Theory and Empiricism in the Bloomberg helps define this problem better.

I've been taking this Macro-Economics class at Harvard to try and understand the inner workings of economics from the experts. What I have noticed is that there are lots of formulas, data, numbers, and relations between variables. Yet, when I read the news it is noted that we are often wrong about economic outcomes.

Why is this a problem? means we aren't explaining something as well as we should. If we had a strong grasp on the inner economic workings we would be more right than wrong. Listening to a program on the news, please don't ask which one, an economist came on and said economists are sort of right 20-maybe 40% of the time. The projections are often off.

Ok....that just sort of highlights a problem.

If we are not often right, this means there is plenty of reasons to generate new theories. As the economy changes and more information becomes available we should continuously update and adjust our existing theories; or change them all together. But "flipping the switch" on theories is very difficult and risky academically so people prefer to focus on what they can show empirically.

I think this problem has become more prevalent because over the past hundred years we were led by a few great thinkers. Most of us are followers, while only a few people are leaders. The rest of the economists just sort of started prescribing to a particular school of thought and "prove" little pieces of the theories without looking at the overall picture. The advent of empiricism limited our ability to just think about the possibilities and explore ideas freely.

Paradigm shifts happen when something doesn't work well and something new comes along to replace it. New theories are often criticized heavily but as they begin to be accepted and reviewed they gain "believers". There will be those who refuse to accept the new theory and those that won't. The overall review, challenge, and eventual acceptance of a new theory can be brutal on the theorist who feels they must justify every question.

Our indoctrinated beliefs is what limits our ability to come up with better theories.

Philosophers and theorists should explore the potential of new ideas but should not be criticized for "thinking out of the box". Maybe not every idea is a good one, or can be supported empirically, but higher academia should be about exploring new ideas. The microscope can come later and empirical evidence can help show whether or not these ideas will have long-term merit. We begin our early careers learning but should spend the rest of it unlearning ideas to free our thoughts and be creative.

Non-Traditional Education Leaders Contribution to Universities

Non-traditional education leaders have something to add to higher academia. There was a transition outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education when universities stopped focusing on their missions and more into big business. This transition has sparked a different mindset in universities and allowed some to grow much larger but may have impacted the focus of these universities.

Have you ever wondered why we build huge college arenas and not science centers or better academics? Part of the reason might be that sports pays money and acts much like advertising. Proving your academic merit is much harder than hiring high quality sports players.

It is much like a business.

Universities need revenue and state taxes sometimes create a budget shortfall. However, so does having too many administrators and not enough academics on hand. Sometimes universities get top heavy and more and more salary and power concentrates into administration than it does in teaching or science.

Not sure how I feel about it. Large universities are great for pooling resources if they are able to teach students useful skills as well as generate new knowledge. I love sports and I do believe they have a place in universities but should not be the major focus of universities.

Universities also need to balance their budgets. That seems to be getting more difficult so it is hard to blame them for doing what they need to to make ends meet. Sometimes I think this is of their own self making. Being as it is, the current model seems to be running at its maximum is likely to change as universities seek to overcome their budget constraints.

This is where non-traditional education leaders are needed. People of different backgrounds, some business backgrounds, and from different industries might just allow for new creative ways of doing things. Sometimes we get stuck in our way of thinking and universities don't adapt to the market as fast as they should. Diversity of thought and background might just help get new ideas to leak in.

Austin's Bombings-What is the Killer Trying to Say?

Chaos and destruction abound with Austin's serial bomber. The motivations are yet unclear as seemingly random with different types of victims. One has to wonder what the motivations are how to catch such a criminal? There are so many unanswered questions and too many places to look for clues. It is wise to look backwards from the scene and pick apart the pieces when discovered.

Such people always have a message but many times these messages are just sort of lost in the mix or you don't have enough information to evaluate them. There are times when partial insanity mixed with high skill would make these messages difficult to decipher to the rational mind. Nevertheless, there is always a meaning somewhere because all human behavior is goal directed.

If one were to investigate this I think they would look at the following things:

-Connection between victims, characteristics and locations.
-Online threats and messages.
-People in the area with military or overseas training.
-Radicals in the area.
-People who are disgruntled, lost their jobs, made threats, or have a history of anti-social behavior.
-Canvassing bomb making materials in the area and where they are being purchased from. Specifically those that are hard to get.
-Videos and pictures of people entering and leaving the area. It is possible they may have stalked the area prior to engagement.
-Recent police complaints, abuse victims, and others who may have pertinent information.
-Separatist groups and others who have a stake in chaos.
-Continual searching for clues and hidden messages in the methodologies and approaches.

Such behavior is destructive and focused on victims. If there was a connection between these people you could say cause but it seems at first light it is more of a chaos approach to put people in fear. One has to wonder if they are simply saying "look at me" and taking some sick pleasure from the media exposure. Ultimately they have a purpose but knowing what that is at this point is anyone's guess.

What bothers me about this is that people come to view the world in their way and think they should force those views on others. They are not "open to experience" and willing to accept different viewpoints of the same phenomenon. Instead they seek to push their will on others which is a sign of deeper aggression and anger.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Poem: Sailors Gathering

The dark gives hold to a new day
Figures appear that could cause fright.
Yet as the light begins to burn bright.
We see it was nothing but the night.
Cliffs and hills form in morning break.
Spring overtakes the winter.
The distance is near.
Long voyages as a daunting task.
As soon as we remove the fogs mask.
We see that sailing is smooth.
Just over the horizon to safe landing.
A resting place where sailors are brothers in banding.

China's Growing University Industry

As nations successfully compete on the global market and grow in wealth they also grow in academic stature. Likely one of the reasons why the U.S. has an academic crisis. China is becoming a destination for Asian students and fast becoming a regional intellectual power. This may also be part of the reason why they are also beginning to innovate versus just borrow and copy technology.

According to an article in Channel News Asia there are 80,000 students from Southeast Asia enrolled in Chinese Universities. That is an increase of 15 percent. The trend will likely continue as China seeks to push for regional dominance and become a super power.

Universities are a sign that an economy is doing well. When there is greater need to train the masses to fill jobs, new inventions, and intellectual activity ranging from the practical to the poetic you will find an economy growing. The height of civilization rests in the top crust of intellectual thinkers creating new and exciting things.

Most empires have a golden age that symbolizes their top. Growth in universities and growth in international students should be of concern to American leaders that we are slowly being overtaken by the large Asian nation. While it may not be a popular opinion it should spur action to do something different.