March 31st, 2010

Paul Krugman Isaac Asimov Science Fiction

This new Newsweek profile of Paul Krugman has a bit about how science fiction got him interested in economics:

Born of poor Russian-immigrant stock, raised in a small suburban house on middle-class Long Island, Krugman, 56, has never pretended to be in the cool crowd. Taunted in school as a nerd, he came home one day with a bloody nose—but told his parents to stay out of it, he would take care of himself. "He was so shy as a child that I'm shocked at the way he turned out," says his mother, Anita. Krugman says he found himself in the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, especially the "Foundation" series -- "It was nerds saving civilization, quants who had a theory of society, people writing equations on a blackboard, saying, 'See, unless you follow this formula, the empire will fail and be followed by a thousand years of barbarism'."

His Yale was "not George Bush's Yale," he says —- no boola-boola, no frats or secret societies, rather "drinking coffee in the Economics Department lounge." Social science, he says, offered the promise of what he dreamed of in science fiction -- "the beauty of pushing a button to solve problems. Sometimes there really are simple solutions: you really can have a grand idea."