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A telescope for spotting global crises

Posted for Phil ‘Crystal’ Ball

The good news is that your future can be predicted. The bad news is that it’ll cost a billion euros.

That, at least, is what a team of scientists led by Dirk Helbing of the ETH in Switzerland believes. And as they point out, a billion euros is small fare compared with the bill for the current financial crisis – which might conceivably have been anticipated with the massive social-science simulations they want to establish.

This might seem the least auspicious moment to start placing faith in economic modelling, but Helbing’s team proposes to transform the way it is done. They will abandon the discredited and doctrinaire old models in favour of ones built from the bottom up, which harness the latest understanding of how people behave and act collectively rather than reducing the economic world to caricature for the sake of mathematical convenience.


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