Thursday, June 23, 2011


I'm teaching myself about economics through some textbooks I finagled from Asia Foundation. Don't worry, if I figure this stuff out maybe some Cambodian students can eventually benefit. But, I've gone through chapter 1 and so far it just seems like a bunch of jargon used to talk about a bunch of theoretical graphs that use fake data that doesn't seem to really explain much about the world that I didn't already know, but maybe the "how to get actual useful data" part is coming soon. Of course, I decided to start with macro so maybe its my fault and really i just want to understand what people are talking about. I don't think these tools will particularly change how I analyze the world but it'll go far in helping me understand all the talking going on by people that make policy decisions.

I have noticed the amount of redundancy between fields and the subtle differences in definitions or practice. For example, there's something called the "Other-things-equal" assumption which most scientists just call holding things constant...I don't really understand the name either since the other factors are not equal. They are just constant. Do we really need to name this assumption a misleading name? Really I don't think it needs a name at all.

I think syntax and wording is the most frustrating aspect of any science because we insist on using an inexact system to explain things in exact terms. I think the field of learning and memory in neuroscience is a prime example of how syntax and wording holds the field back. Depending on the researcher, the definition of working memory changes. Depending on the researcher, the term working memory may never even be used, but instead is replaced by a number of other terms. This is a result of scientists trying to use words to define, what is currently, an abstract concept. The problem with this is that you then have to use an inexact term to conduct stringent experiments and assign specific cause and effects and exact facts to this term.The intrinsic vagueness in the term then creates debate when trying to explain the results. And then if you crossover fields you get the same concepts with different terms and slightly different interpretations. Even the "scientific method" was different in the Economics book. Typically, in a science class you learn that you ask a question first. That is usually step one in the scientific method. Apparently in economics you make observations and you jump straight to the hypothesis. Sort of skips the whole scientific curiosity/inquiry part of things.

I've noticed that lately I think about things much more critically than before. And yet I think I'm also much more of an idealist/optimist than before. I'm not sure how this paradox came about, but I definitely believe in an ideal and I believe the ideal can happen. At the same time, I think it's important to constantly assess and change in order to reach this ideal. A realistic optimist. Hopefully, someone that gets things done.

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