“You think the odds look right, that they are in your favour ?
This is a billiard table. An easy, flat, green billiard table. And you have hit your white ball and it is travelling easily and quietly towards the red. The pocket is alongside. Fatally, inevitably, you are going to hit the red and the red is going into that pocket. It is the law of the billiard table, the law of the billiard room.
But outside the orbit of these things, a jet pilot has fainted and his plane is diving straight at that billiard room, or a gas main is about to explode, or lightning is about to strike.
And the building collapses on top of you and on top of the billiard table. Then what has happened to that white ball that could not miss the red ball, and to the red ball that could not miss the pocket ? The white ball could not miss according to the laws of the billiard table. But the laws of the billiard table are not the only laws in this particular game.”
- Extract from the novel From Russia with Love, by Ian Fleming.
“In the 1970s, the Yale economist Herbert Scarf determined that the time to equilibrium scales exponentially with the number of products and services in the economy to the power of four. The intuition behind this relationship is straightforward: the more products and services, the longer it takes for all the prices and quantities to adjust.. if we optimistically assume that every decision in the economy is made at the speed of the world’s fastest supercomputer (currently IBM’s Blue Gene, at 70.72 trillion floating-point calculations per second), then using Scarf’s result, it would take a mere 4.5 quintillion (4.5 x 1018) years for the economy to reach general equilibrium after each exogenous shock. Given that shocks from factors such as technological change, political uncertainty, weather and changes in consumer tastes buffet the economy every second, and the universe is only about 12 billion (1.2 x 1010) years old, this clearly presents a problem.”
- Eric Beinhocker, The Origin of Wealth.
Up and down the land, hundreds of thousands of students have been receiving their A-level grades. Some of them will doubtless plan to read PPE at Oxford. Others will doubtless aspire to studying Economics at Cambridge (note: at the time of writing, the Cambridge economics web page was broken, much like the spirit of its students soon will be). In any event, in each of these cases, those economics-minded students will be flushing three irreplaceable years of their young lives down an intellectual toilet.