Diane Coyle’s The Soulful Science

In all I have enjoyed the book very much. I have read books three times as long that said less—she does not repeat herself. It is in the form of a survey of economics but she finds room for many interesting points of her own. It is very well written.

Endogenous Growth

In the Air

It is said of Silicon Valley that one is first an engineer and only then an employee of Intel, whereas on Route 128 (Boston) it is the other way round. While there are trade secrets in Silicon Valley and developments that are private to a company, there is also a greater atmosphere of ambient ideas. Boston was and is very inventive, yet more guarded in revealing ideas before they become products. IBM is well within the Boston paradigm and their California outposts are tentative in their interaction with the rest of the area. (P.S. 2011: I think that IBM is changing its spots.)

EE380 is a seminar at Stanford where some industry specialist speaks each week about some up coming technology. Many technology business plans require early buy-in by other companies.

Amar Bhidé suggests that the spinoff of inventing a transistor does not accrue uniquely to the citizens of the nation where it was invented, but to anyone anywhere who can figure out what it is and how to use it. These users are indeed often in the same country but developing these sorts of people may be more important than the invention itself to the country where they live.

There are besides the ‘in the air’ ideas, products in production and available worldwide. Africa is being transformed in part by cell phone technology which is not endogenous growth. Indeed African cell technology is ahead of ours in some ways. I have not seen these phenomena included in growth models.

Notes by Coyle: Market setbacks fail to hold down the weightless economy

Very hazy—more rhetoric than logic:

McLuhan called it marching backwards into the future. McKay said the way to predict the future is to create it. Those who create the future do so with a cloudy vision informed by the past only thru metaphor. To avoid appearing as fabulists, economists concentrate on the past. Innovators with weaker vision, concentrate on the future. They do not see eye to eye!

I am on page 150 and considering the notion by Stigler that there is a cost to acquiring information. Can we expect to share such information freely—if so there is a free rider problem? If two of us are about to bid against each other to buy the same large parcel of land do we each explore or share the cost? Sharing the cost might make sense if it can be turned into a positive sum game as may happen if attributes of the land, yet unknown, may make it more valuable to one of us than the other.

Coyle speaks of price as information. Indeed this is more than a metaphor but still less than an identity. Price coerces. Information may remain secret—price seldom does. What other sorts of information are there? Idea futures come in here.

Douglass North’s Nobel Prize Lecture says in the introductory paragraphs: Markets as we know them work poorly in Africa. Cell phones as we know them work well there. The historical development of cell phones seems unnecessary for practical deployment in Africa. What is the difference? By the way I think that North is onto something important.
The section on “social capital” (p. 217) is very interesting. I agree that it is quite important and also complex to define and measure. I object to using “selfish” as the opposite of “cooperative”. Here are my antonyms:
selfish altruistic
insular cooperative