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    ECONOMICS IS NOT NATURAL SCIENCE [8.11.09]

    By Douglas Rushkoff


    An Edge Original Essay

    DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF is a media analyst; documentary filmmaker, and author. His latest book is Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back.

    On "Economics Is Not a Natural Science"

    George Dyson: ...How to best transcend the current economic mess? Put Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar, Elon Musk, Tim O'Reilly, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Nathan Myhrvold, and Danny Hillis in a room somewhere and don't let them out until they have framed a new, massively-distributed financial system, founded on sound, open, peer-to-peer principles, from the start. And don’t call it a bank. Launch a new financial medium that is as open, scale-free, universally accessible, self-improving, and non-proprietary as the Internet, and leave the 13th century behind.

    ECONOMICS IS NOT NATURAL SCIENCE

    The marketplace in which most commerce takes place today is not a pre-existing condition of the universe. It's not nature. It's a game, with very particular rules, set in motion by real people with real purposes. That's why it's so amazing to me that scientists, and people calling themselves scientists, would propose to study the market as if it were some natural system — like the weather, or a coral reef.

    It's not. It's a product not of nature but of engineering. And to treat the market as nature, as some product of purely evolutionary forces, is to deny ourselves access to its ongoing redesign. It's as if we woke up in a world where just one operating system was running on all our computers and, worse, we didn't realize that any other operating system ever did or could ever exist. We would simply accept Windows as a given circumstance, and look for ways to adjust our society to its needs rather than the other way around.

    It is up to our most rigorous thinkers and writers not to base their work on widely accepted but largely artificial constructs. It is their job to differentiate between the map and the territory — to recognize when a series of false assumptions is corrupting their observations and conclusions. As the great interest in the arguments of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens shows us, there is a growing acceptance and hunger for thinkers who dare to challenge the widespread belief in creation mythologies. That it has become easier to challenge the supremacy of God than to question the supremacy of the market testifies to the way any group can fall victim to a creation myth — especially when they are rewarded to do so.

    Too many technologists, scientists, writers and theorists accept the underlying premise of our corporate-driven marketplace as a precondition of the universe or, worse, as the ultimate beneficiary of their findings. If a "free" economy of the sort depicted by Chris Anderson or Clay Shirky is really on its way, then books themselves are soon to be little more than loss leaders for high-priced corporate lecturing. In such a scheme how could professional writers and theorists possibly escape biasing their works towards the needs of the corporate lecture market? It's as if the value of a theory or perspective rests solely in its applicability to the business sector.

    Whether it's being done in honest ignorance, blind obedience, or cynical exploitation of the market, the result is the same: our ability to envision new solutions to the latest challenges is stunted by a dependence on market-driven and market-compatible answers. Instead, we are encouraged to apply the rules of genetics, neuroscience, or systems theory to the economy, and to do so in a dangerously determinist fashion.

    MORE- http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/rush...f09_index.html
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