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The First Year - Transience Divine
May 14th, 2011
05:20 pm

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The First Year
The first year of my PhD is done, and it was everything I could have hoped for! The economics classes were as challenging as any at MIT, and combined with research, this last semester ranks as one of my most intense. The School of International and Public Affairs is practically gift-wrapped in fliers about interesting looking talks and actions of which I went to very few, but I did have the opportunity to give talks of my own, facilitate some internal foment, and help organize our fabulously successful sustainable development conference. For all the opportunities lost-- missed activities, under-studied classes, and under-researched papers-- I think there were more hard-won satisfactions and useful milestones set.

My friends here are as kind as they are sharp. My colleagues are passionate about research topics ranging from New York air quality to Nigerian agriculture, and their backgrounds are even more widespread. I'm starting up a "Tuesday Evening Experiments" meeting for the summer so we can get together and poke at random data, try out funky models, and generally collaborate together on some cool projects.

The usefulness of the economics I've learned remains in serious doubt. Some of the ideas are powerful, but it's not clear that they are any more than a biased shorthand for the obvious. Hours after my final in microeconomics, I was talking outside in the beautiful sun, and a friend asked why everyone else was indoors. It was a Nash equilibrium, I quipped. But even if it looked like one, it couldn't be-- like so many economic models, the assumptions of game theory are so divorced from reality that all they can do is give answers to rhetorical questions.

But now, with some summer money for research and a part time job for the rest, I think I finally have a chance to delve into my own navel and see where it goes!

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