Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science / Edition 1

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Overview

This is the first cross-over book in the history of science written by an historian of economics, combining a number of disciplinary and stylistic orientations. In it Philip Mirowshki shows how what is conventionally thought to be "history of technology" can be integrated with the history of economic ideas. His analysis combines Cold War history with the history of the postwar economics profession in America and later elsewhere, revealing that the Pax Americana had much to do with the content of such abstruse and formal doctrines such as linear programming and game theory. He links the literature on "cyborg science" found in science studies to economics, an element missing in the literature to date. Mirowski further calls into question the idea that economics has been immune to postmodern currents found in the larger culture, arguing that neoclassical economics has surreptitiously participated in the desconstruction of the integral "Self." Finally, he argues for a different style of economics, an alliance of computational and institutional themes, and challenges the widespread impression that there is nothing else besides American neoclassical economic theory left standing after the demise of Marxism. Philip Mirowski is Carl Koch Professor of Economics and the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame. He teaches in both the economics and science studies communities and has written frequently for academic journals. He is also the author of More Heat than Light (Cambridge, 1992) and editor of Natural Images in Economics (Cambridge, 1994) and Science Bought and Sold (University of Chicago, 2001).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As history, Machine Dreams is a remarkable achievement. It is hard to imagine a historian who was not an economist (as Mirowski is) being able to encompass the economics of the second half of the 20th century in its diversity and technicality." London Review of Books

"Phil Mirowski reminds me of an investigative reporter with a world-class story. He has gone straight to the heart of a really interesting problem—the emergence of economics' modern era in the crucible of World War II—and come back with a detailed account of events at The Cowles Commission and the RAND Corporation. It is news, the best that can be said quickly. It is opinion: cyborg economics (meaning purely cognitive economics) is not the sort of science Mirowski wants to see. And it is sensationally interesting. You don't have to agree with his conclusions to recognize that Mirowksi is the most imaginative and provocative writer at work today on the recent history of economics. Machine Dreams is a real-time cousin to The Difference Engine .". David Warsh, The Boston Globe

"Machine Dreams is an astonishing performance of synthetic scholarship. Mirowski traces the present-day predicaments of economic theory to its intellectual reformulation and institutional restructuring by military funding and in the crucibles of World War II and the Cold War. His demonstration that the mathematical economics of the postwar era is a complex response to the challenges of "cyborg" science, the attempt to unify the study of human beings and intelligent machines through John von Neumann's general theory of automata, is bound to be controversial. His critics, however, will have to contend with a breathtakingly wide range of published and unpublished evidence in fields ranging from psychology to operations research he presents. This noir history of economic thought will change its readers' understanding of twentieth century economics profoundly." Duncan Foley, New School University

"Machine Dreams is an astonishing performance of synthetic scholarship. Mirowski traces the present-day predicaments of economic theory to its intellectual reformulation and institutional restructuring by military funding and in the crucibles of World War II and the Cold War. His demonstration that the mathematical economics of the postwar era is a complex response to the challenges of "cyborg" science, the attempt to unify the study of human beings and intelligent machines through John von Neumann's general theory of automata, is bound to be controversial. His critics, however, will have to contend with a breathtakingly wide range of published and unpublished evidence in fields ranging from psychology to operations research he presents. This noir history of economic thought will change its readers' understanding of twentieth century economics profoundly." Duncan Foley, New School University

"In Machine Dreams the most exciting historian of economic thought of our time takes on one of the most fascinating themes of the intellectual history of the 20th century—the dream of creating machines that can think and how this has affected the social sciences. The result is an extraordinary book that deserves to be read by everyone interested in the social sciences." Richard Swedberg, University of Stockholm

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521775267
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
1 Cyborg Agonistes 1
Rooms with a View 2
Where the Cyborgs Are 4
The Natural Sciences and the History of Economics 7
Anatomy of a Cyborg 11
Attack of the Cyborgs 18
The New Automaton Theatre 23
2 Some Cyborg Genealogies; or, How the Demon Got Its Bots 26
The Little Engines That Could've 31
Adventures of a Red-Hot Demon 43
Demons Who Came in from the Code: Cybernetics 54
The Devil That Made Us Do It 77
The Advent of Complexity 88
3 John von Neumann and the Cyborg Incursion into Economics 94
Economics at One Remove 99
Phase One: Purity 105
Phase Two: Impurity 116
Phase Three: Worldliness 136
4 The Military, the Scientists, and the Revised Rules of the Game 153
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? 153
Ruddled and Bushwhacked: The Cyborg Character of Science Mobilization in World War II 161
Operations Research: Blipkrieg 177
The Ballad of Hotelling and Schultz 190
SRG, RAND, Rad Lab 199
5 Do Cyborgs Dream of Efficient Markets? 232
From Red Vienna to Computopia 232
The Goals of Cowles, and Red Afterglows: Getting in Line with the Program 241
Every Man His Own Stat Package: Cowles Unrepentant, Unrecursive, and Unrecusant 271
On the Impossibility of a Democratic Computer 302
6 The Empire Strikes Back 309
Previews of Cunning Abstractions 309
It's a World Eat World Dog: Game Theory at RAND 319
The High Cost of Information in Postwar Neoclassical Theory 370
Rigor Mortis in the First Casualty of War 390
Does the Rational Actor Compute? 415
7 Core Wars 437
Inhuman, All Too Inhuman 437
Herbert Simon: Simulacra versus Automata 452
Showdown at the OR Corral 479
Send in the Clones 503
8 Machines Who Think versus Machines That Sell 517
Where Is the Computer Taking Us? 520
Five Alternative Scenarios for the Future of Computational Economics 523
The Hayek Hypothesis and Experimental Economics 545
Gode and Sunder Go Roboshopping 551
Contingency, Irony, and Computation 560
App. 8.1 Double Auction and Sealed Bid Encoded onto Automata 567
App. 8.2 Sealed-Bid Auction with Accumulation Rule 572
Envoi 575
References 577
Index 645
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2003

    Undecidable economic Behavior versus Perfect Rationality

    I stongly recommend that anyone with an interest in economics and finance should read this fantastic book. The basis for the text are the contributions of Shannon, Turing, von Neumann, Wiener, Koopmans, Marshak, and Arrow. Mirowski tells us the main story of the interaction of the Cowles Commission with RAND, which Bernstein does not at all hint at in his Capital Ideas. Having praised the book, I will now concentrate mainly on a few points of disagreement. Undecidability should not be confused with noise in stochastic processes. Systems at the transition to chaos can define automata that can perform simple arithmetic. That 'cyborg' has it's origin in the physical sciences seems farfetched (the connection between Turing and physics is supposed to be via Maxwell's demon, but was Turing really motivated by the idea of Maxwell's demon?). Nonlinear dynamics and fractals ('chaos' and fractals) certainly did not evolve from cybernetics or 'system theory' ('system theory' was based at best on an awareness of equilibria and limit cycles of differential equations, and made vague, unjustifiable allusions to holism). Cybernetics cannot really be seen as the midwife of what is now loosely called 'complexity' either, rather, that (still undefined) field grew out of nonlinear dynamics, neural networks, computability theory and molecular biology. Mirowski is right that many scientists confuse simulations with experiment and observations. I have argued against this confusion in papers and books. Mirowski paints an intriguing picture of (Gödel-influenced) von Neumann, RAND, researchers with awareness of information and computability limitations leading to agent-based modelling with some respect for empiricism on the one hand, and then, on the other hand, Arrow, the Cowles Commission and their later rejection of empirics, instead with emphasis on Bourbaki-style existence proofs leading to infinte demands on information requirements on Walrasian agents and noncomputable equilibria. We now know that agent-based modelling can easily lead to fat-tailed price distributions (as observed empirically), whereas in contrast the origin of the systematic head-in the-sand philosophy of the neo-classical economic theorists is made quite clear in this work. One can summarize the neo-classical economic agent as follows: his dynamics are trivial (equilibrium, including Nash equilibria) but the information demands made on him to interact with other agents and locate an equilibrium point are impossible (noncomputable). Moreover, we now know that financial market statistics point toward the instability of Adam Smith's hand, so that the notion of dynamic equilibrium is complelety uninteresting so far as understanding markets is concerned. The suggestion made in the last chapter is to try to identify an automaton that describes a particular market. This program will not work because of lack of uniqueness, as is explained by the work on generating partitions in nonlinear dynamics. Given any sttistical distribution, one can find infinitely-many different automata that can be programmed to generate that distribution. Mirowski's suggestion cannot be carried out in any meaningful sense for that reason. In finance theory we have recently (with Gunaratne) deduced a particular stochastic dynamics from market histograms, and there we also have faced nonuniqueness in identifying the underlying dynamics. The bigger and more immediate problem is to find nonfinancial economic data that are accurate enough to draw any meaningful conclusion from the purely empirical histograms. Now for the irritation. I find it academically irresponsible in this day and age to equate Newtonian mechanics with 'equilibrium'. From the beginning, Newtonian mechanics was about periodic and quasiperiodi

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