Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Doyne Farmer and Knowing the New Mexico Economy

Physicist Doyne Farmer of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Institute made the first paragraph of a Wall Street Journal Page one story yesterday. He also had the final paragraph of the 54.5 inch story all to himself as well as 11 inches in the middle.
Who is this guy and what the hell is he doing on page one of the Wall Street Journal?
To start, Farmer is local, a New Mexican. He grew up in Silver City with fellow physicist Norman Packard who actually was born in Silver City, according to Wikipedia. I first learned about Farmer from another big time media outlet, Smithsonian magazine. The article, adapted from a chapter in the 1987 book, Chaos, detailed the undergraduate exploits of Farmer and Packard at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Roulette was one focus and behind the game was a set of ideas that became important to the development of non-linear dynamics or chaos theory.
Now Farmer is a professor at the Santa Fe Institute in Santa Fe. The Institute spun out of Los Alamos National Laboratory in an intellectual sort of manner and is the center of a world-wide network of people working on non-linear dynamics.
Maybe Farmer is locally unknown because he never has joined the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce or the Association of Commerce and Industry. Maybe his work is difficult. Certainly it wouldn’t be due to cluelessness on the part of local media. No. Never.
Farmer has even created jobs and wealth. Sale of Prediction Company to the Swiss Bank UBS, where Farmer was a founding partner, brought him what the Wall Street Journal article called “a small fortune.” Prediction Company ( is still in Santa Fe.
The point of the Farmer history here is that he is part of the intellectual infrastructure around our national laboratories. We do not know the size of this infrastructure, but put it together with the labs and it add to a huge and well-paid piece of the New Mexico economy. To disparage the national laboratories simply because the government provides the money is wrong.
The Wall Street Journal cares about Farmer because he and his “agent based model” are smack in the middle of the search for new economic models in reaction to the global economic mess. And it’s happening in New Mexico. But we don’t know that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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