The next day, after a long-awaited visit to the Computer History Museum and a stroll around the Googleplex, I headed from Mountain View back to Cupertino. Walking down the avenue between the bus stop on the highway and the main entrance to the campus, I grabbed the badge out of my backpack and clipped it onto my jeans. Walking straight past all the tourists taking photos, I smiled at the receptionist, tapped the badge on a reader next to the door and sauntered right in. I felt cool and at home.
I’ve been walking around in a daze since I heard the sad, sad news about David Dreger this afternoon. I just wanted to jot down a few memories/stories and hint at the impact he’s had on me, not just eulogise.
A little while ago I used this blog to talk about what was actually going on in my life, and it seemed to go quite well. And then I came back from Vancouver, and had nothing to write about, so it all kind of fell apart. Well, now I’m back there, two years later, I’m returning to that tradition. Starting with this.
Here are my thoughts about the “Internet Explorer users have a lower IQ” story that turned out to be a hoax. Because you asked for them. Didn’t you?
My undergraduate dissertation. It involved a huge amount of research, as well as building and running an online experiment and analysing the results. I hugely enjoyed putting it together, and it has ended up being one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It was later described by my supervisor as “a genuine addition to knowledge” and given a mark of 91% — the highest amongst my year group of 300 at the University of Nottingham. I even won £1000 for it. You can read the full text and appendices here and a beginner-friendly introduction and explanation here.
The economist is often likened to the astronomer: one who is powerless to influence the forces they study and resigned to formulate their ideas based on observation alone. In an ideal world, an economist would hold everything in a market constant, change just one variable of interest and then observe the result. This approach is the only true proof of causality, but economists are generally considered powerless to do this – the closest they can come is when a ‘natural experiment’ is formed by chance, but these are never precise enough to truly isolate the effect of one change.