Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mathematics

Dani Rodrik states that:
....we use math not because we are smart, but because we are not smart enough.

Okay, granted. But also because it is quick, convenient, and highly reproducible. I can describe a consumer in only a few lines - it takes much longer verbally. Similarly, mathematics has shorthand for numerous things that are difficult or tedious to express in words.

Perhaps more importantly, it's a heck of a lot easier to remember a proof and deduce what it stands for than it is to memorize a lecture. An equation, while not a thousand words, is at least generally a hundred or so.

The only thing that concerns me is bumping into mathematical walls - when the profession, by and large, is limiting their work because of infamiliarity with the mathematics, or because the needed mathematics doesn't exist. I'm pretty sure the latter is not a concern, but the former may be (though it's well beyond my scope to evaluate, since I don't know the math).

ADDENDUM: All things equal, shouldn't the gap in knowledge of math between economists and mathematicians widen over time? Since we have to learn math+economics, while they are not so hindered? Or is this offset by diminishing marginal returns, i.e. each successive piece of math less useful and more difficult to learn?

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