Real time connectivity and the tools that allow it (smartphones, high-speed internet and further) have changed diverse aspects of human life. If before sceptics saw social-media and other products of the tech giants as mere new superfluous gadgets, today it is undeniable that they are at the core of business decision-making, personal relations, advertising, etc. In the 2018 Forbes list of most valuable companies, the first to appear that is not directly connected to this process is placed sixtieth. In this new hyper-connected world, data has become an extremely valuable commodity.
A consequence of this massive amount of data available is of our interest: the possibilities it generates for science. Big data transforms scientific practice. In economics this is no different. As Einav and Levin claim in their “Economics in the age of big data” (published in Science in 2014), big data is a further step in economics’ empirical turn. One that allows access to private data (form individuals and companies); to look into the “black-box” and draw more robust conclusions. These advances, however, raise questions that deserve philosophical scrutiny. For instance, how more reliable, or not, are the results from these new methods in comparison to others? How does this change the interests of economists for certain research questions? And, are the incentives of economists distorted by their collaboration with private companies to access the data? More generally, how is the objectivity of economics and the social sciences threatened? Or perhaps, should we entertain the possibility that this “data revolution” is only likely to spark a modern version of the “measurement without theory” debate?
The philosophy of economics working group invites contributions on these questions and any other that involves the effects of big data on scientific practice to be presented at the YSI North America Convening, on 22-24 February.
Research on other topics of the philosophy of economics will also be considered.
Questions may be forwarded to the organisers, Julia Marchevsky, Melissa Vergara Fernández, and Ian Almeida at firstname.lastname@example.org
Apply here: https://ysd.ineteconomics.org/rc
Deadline: 18 December, 2018.