Friday, November 9, 2018


So, you might ask, what is it that I propose to do with all of this knowledge of economics once I finish my studies in the Spring? Well, I have some thoughts about that.

I believe that the world economy will be remade in our lifetimes by machine learning, deep learning, and other technologies broadly characterized as "artificial intelligence". This is not an uncommon belief among technologists but seems to be extremely uncommon among economists and therefore policymakers. That's a dangerous disconnect.

If this AI revolution does indeed come to pass, those who stand to benefit most from it—AI-enabled companies and their shareholders—will be well-prepared for it, while those who stand to be most negatively affected by it—workers—won't even have seen it coming. I therefore see two opportunities for myself, one related to business and the other to public policy.

The business opportunity is clear: create an AI-enabled company. I'm working on that now.

The other opportunity is to have a hand in informing, or at least imagining, policies that will help mitigate the deleterious effects of this economic transformation. When capital can perform an ever-greater share of the work previously done by labor, and the cost of that capital is ever smaller, labor is screwed. This is not an especially novel idea (cough... Marx... cough). But recent advances in AI mean that substitution of capital for labor will accelerate, and in an increasingly broad swath of the economy. Policymakers need to get up to speed.

But before all that I still have one more Labor Econ midterm and a Masterworks of World Drama final to get through. :)

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Beginning of the End

I just registered for classes for my last semester at UT. I have mixed feelings about that.

On the plus side, I only have one more required class to go after this semester: an upper-division Economics elective that has ECO 420K as a prerequisite. I'll satisfy that requirement with either ECO 328 Industrial Organization or ECO 351M Managerial Economics.

I had hoped to satisfy it with Behavioral Economics, but the description for that course has been changed and 420K is no longer a prerequisite for it. Doh! I still want to take it though, so that means I need to take two courses in the Spring.

So I've registered for all three of them:

Meeting TimeTitle

I'll check out both 328 and 351M and drop the one that looks less promising (also taking into consideration the convenience of their meeting times) after a few class meetings.

But like I said, my feelings are mixed. This has been a really fun and rewarding experience. I can see why people become professional students. I'll miss it when I'm gone. That said, after 10-ish years (with a 7-ish year break in the middle), it's time to move on.

[Update]: After learning a little more about all three courses and professors, I dropped 328 and 330T. I could have retained some optionality by waiting to drop them until after a few class meetings, but that seems unfair to other people wanting or needing those classes. 351M sounds like it will be fun.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Coefficient of Static Friction

Once you stop, getting started again is the hardest part. That’s just physics. So let’s get started again.

We’re now almost halfway through the Fall 2018 semester. I’m taking Labor Economics and Masterworks of World Drama. Assuming I can get a couple of administrative issues worked out, I’ll have one more course to take next semester. I’m almost finished, and find myself starting to look back and take stock.

I have lots to say, maybe a whole book’s worth, but for now just a couple of thoughts.

First, economists aren’t great at considering change over time and they’re completely unequipped to handle an ever-increasing rate of change. Even Tyler Cowan was taken completely by surprise by AlphaGo. Much, much more to say on this later.

Next, the University could do a much better job at providing community for its students. It’s disheartening but not at all surprising to learn how many kids feel totally lost and alone on this campus of 50,000.

Finally, going back to school has been really rewarding, if a little awkward. I’m fairly comfortable being uncomfortable so the awkwardness hasn’t been much of a problem—and the reward has been even more than I was expecting. Every time I tell someone who’s years out of college what I’m doing they say, “Oh! I’ve thought about doing that!” But none of them ever has. Which is too bad. They should. You should.

More to come. Promise.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Payoffs, Tastes, and Preferences

It looks like I managed to write exactly one blog post last semester. Huh. Let's try to improve upon that.

Last semester ended up much as it started, with my Macro Theory class a total disappointment and my statistics class an interesting (if a bit dry) intellectual challenge. Hopefully this semester will be a bit more satisfying.

This time around I'm taking ECO 354K Game Theory with Dale Stahl and ECO 341K Econometrics with Stephen Trejo.

Econometrics has a reputation as a fairly easy class, especially when compared to the 329 Stats class I took last semester. So far that seems to be true, but we're only a couple of weeks in, so the jury is still out.

Game Theory, on the other hand, has a reputation as a difficult course, a fact Dr. Stahl mentioned in the first class meeting. But so far the only challenging aspects have been understanding what the professor is trying to convey in his lectures—he sometimes rambles and gets tangled up in explanations—and what he's trying to elicit in his homework assignments—they're sometimes imprecise and ambiguous. I find this worrisome. In fact, I've considered dropping the course altogether. After all, I'm doing this not for the degree but to satisfy my own intellectual curiosity. Right?

Actually, I'm not completely convinced of my own motivations. Understanding one's own tastes and preferences is one of the most difficult things we as consumers do, I think.

When I decided to go back to school, it was simply because I was interested in economics and wanted to be taught (and graded) instead of having to create my own curriculum and discipline myself to follow it. But now I'm near the end. After this semester and one more course I'll be able to say I have degrees in computer science and economics, which appeals to me. (Actually I'll still have one degree but with a double major. Whatever.)

So unless something changes between now and 5pm Wednesday (the deadline to drop a class) I'll stick with the Game Theory class, suboptimal though it may be.

[Update]: I dropped it. Upon reflection, I didn't have confidence in the professor or his ability to deliver what I paid for. If there's one thing I learned from running a startup, it's to fire fast.