Thursday, February 28, 2008

Google Chief Economist Hal Varian on Data Analysis

Google's Chief Economist Hal Varian Answers Questions on the Freakonomics blog:

Q: What jobs would you recommend to a young person with an interest, and maybe a bachelors degree, in economics?

A: If you are looking for a career where your services will be in high demand, you should find something where you provide a scarce, complementary service to something that is getting ubiquitous and cheap.

So what’s getting ubiquitous and cheap? Data. And what is complementary to data? Analysis.

So my recommendation is to take lots of courses about how to manipulate and analyze data: databases, machine learning, econometrics, statistics, visualization, and so on.

(HT: Newmark's Door)

A few more:

Q: PC or Mac?

A: Linux.

Q: How close to “perfect information” can you get in your position at Google?

A: I sit one office away from our CEO, so I would say “about 12 feet.”


At 2/28/2008 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Manipulating and analyzing data sounds fine except for the legions of people overseas willing to do the same job a day faster and for a dollar less.

What would Hal Varian say to that?

At 2/28/2008 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”
Human Action: A Treatise on Economics
Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973)

At 2/28/2008 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon (10:32 AM):

You are so stupid. I am sure Hal Varian is not afraid of competition and if there is someone out there who can do his jost cheaper and faster then that person should get that job.

If tomorrow we were to discover a new type of AI technology that would allow us to make robots that can do all the jobs car assembly line workers can do 10x faster and 10x cheaper, there would be liberal morons out there like yourself who would say this is a bad thing for America because it would put a lot of auto workers out of work.

At 2/28/2008 3:38 PM, Blogger Shawn said...

machiavelli...i'm not sure that anon is being 'liberal' there, or saying it's 'a bad thing for america' simply is true; there are a lot of people overseas whose time is cheaper than ours, and who can manipulate data cheaper than we can: with that in mind, it seems foolish to point someone toward a data manipulation's simply not our comparative advantage.

so...yeah; get a degree in design, not number manipulation.

At 2/29/2008 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 10:32 here...

Thank you Shawn for extending the benefit of the doubt.

The truth is that I think Hal Varian's advice to seek employment in manipulating and analyzing data is crazy for most economics majors.

For the record I am a huge fan of automation, robots and some forms of AI. In fact if you stop to look at how robots are being increasingly used in manufacturing it becomes apparent that sometime in the near future robots will be manufacturing most goods right here in America. In fact some of the prototype robots I'm thinking about could be manufacturing goods for you right in your house--they'll be that cheap and that plentiful.


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