Episode 4: Colin Camerer
Dr. Colin Camerer is one of the pioneers of neuroeconomics, a combination of neuroscience, psychology, and economic theory. Our conversation began with a discussion of how neuroeconomics critiques the traditional economic belief that people are rational decision makers before moving into the relationship between our economic system and the environment. With each interview, I am developing a greater sense of how this project is going to work and the twists and turns unstructured conversations can take. The results are always fun and surprising, and my talk with Dr. Camerer ended by returning to the mind, the biological limits of knowledge, and the new challenge of sorting through an ocean of information.
Odd to hear the comment about not reading anything published before 1985. Was talking with Cory Palmer, an assistant math professor at U. of Illinois, who said in his research he rarely cites anything less than 50 years old.
Cory said this difference between the disciplines is also shown in the ‘impact factor’ of science journals – the rate other researchers cite articles in recent papers. Within two years of publishing, around 1-3% of the material in Mathematics papers are picked up and cited by others. Biology papers have a rate two to three times higher.
Dr. Camerer brought up a good point about better energy alternatives needing to be heavily subsidized by governments to get them off the ground. Brazil did that years ago with fuel from sugar cane. Even led to Brazil being able to stop importing fuel and become a nation of fuel exports (until recently when over-consumption and overpopulation has started to reverse that trend).
Yeah it seems governments have two paths to encouraging cleaner energy: they can take general tax revenues and use them to subsidize clean energy (solar, wind, biofuel) or they could impose a tax on dirty energy (coal, oil), making cleaner energy more desirable.
People probably prefer the carrot (‘free money’ from the gov) to the stick (taxes) but I don’t know which is more effective.
We could also think about taking away oil subsidies, then use those millions of tax dollars to invest in cleaner, renewable energy. Gas price would increase significantly (as oil companies would turn around and tell the public that they have to increase prices because they lost their subsidies – even though they would still be making good profits), putting massive public pressure on the government and corporations to rapidly pursue the cleaner, renewable energy.
Lots of cities use subsidies to attract energy companies. ‘Set up your research office / refinery / distribution center here and we’ll give you free rent / low taxes / pay for employee training!
Hopefully one goal, lowering unemployment, is achieved. But you’re right, these small individual subsidies add up to a large general handout to big established energy industries.