Freakonomics, Bionomics, Nanonomics, Whaaa?

Did crime in the 1990s go down because the number of abortions in the 1970s went up? If drug dealers make so much cash why do they live with their moms? Why do kids of high income parents do better on tests than those from less privileged backgrounds who get exposed to learning and carted off to museums just as much if not more? Questions like these and more are the result of some extensive empirical evidence studies by economist Steven Levitt who wrote "Freakonomics". Do I find it interesting? Obviously. Does it really explain causality as Levitt presents it? It’s somewhere in the realm of "I’m not sure" to "probably not" in my mind.

Why? Largely because of my belief in Bionomics; the study of economics from a biologically interconnected model of cause and effect. I’m more certain of bionomic theories because our planet’s ecosystem already runs on it. It’s a fairly uncrashable OS (for you techie types). Freakonmics is intriguing because it seems to make causation and correlation indistinguishable. After all it has unbiased measurements, so what else can it be?

The problem isn’t with validity the measurements, but the isolated context of how science measures things today. Without feeling the full impact of an interconnected economy, scientific thought to date has largely been de-constructive when it comes to gathering empirical data. If we isolate and study the parts and then put it back together we can understand it right? That may have been true in a pre-connected world, but as we get clearer understanding of the impact of every variable at play, it begs the question of whether or not we might be putting the "right things" back together? Hmmm…

Perhaps a better measure is yet to come. True cause and effect may be best presented as a situational case than a rule. There may be patterns that are consistent, but does that really mean they are true in your unique case? Should you go by general rule, or know for certain? Do you ever really need to?

It may be a bigger question than just considering the risk of missing the mark in a marketplace where customers want unique relevance in real time…but it’s probably one worth asking. My guess is that these models will be called something like "Nanonomics" where it can cross reference billions of variables in real time much like predicting what happens next in the real world. How valuable is that prediction? Well, that all depends on the premise of whether or not you believe we need to understand everything about the customer or just be equipped to listen and react to all the customer has to say….

I think its somewhere in between…that too I’m putting way too much importance in the importance of commerce in the larger quest for purpose.

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