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David Orrell - Four Way Interview

David Orrell is a writer of general audience books on science and economics, and an applied mathematician in his spare time. He has written books on topics including the science of prediction The Future of Everything, the relationship between science and aesthetics Truth or Beauty, and the problems with economics Economyths. His most recent book is Quantum Economics: The New Science of Money.

Why science (and economics)? 

I came into science through mathematics. My university offered undergraduate mathematics as part of an arts program, so you had to take half mathematics courses, but the rest could be from arts or sciences. So I combined subjects like set theory and topology with philosophy and art history. One thing I always liked about mathematics is that, being abstract, it can be applied to many different things and doesn’t lock you into a particular way of seeing the world. I became interested in economics after writing a book (The Future of Everything) about the science of prediction. I thought economics sounded completely crazy!

Why this book?

Quantum Economics is my attempt to make economics a little less crazy (though the title suggests otherwise!). The idea is that the money system shows the characteristic properties of a quantum system, including duality, indeterminacy, entanglement, and interference. It draws on areas such as quantum cognition, quantum finance, and quantum social science, where researchers use the quantum formalism to model human behaviour. But the main idea is that economics needs to focus more on the complex properties of money, which have been curiously neglected until now.

What’s next?

I would like to follow this quantum thread a little further, though not sure yet exactly where it will lead ... somewhere exciting I hope!

What’s exciting you at the moment?

Quantum ideas seem to be having something of a moment in the social sciences, which until now have been based on a firmly classical model of behaviour. I recently attended a workshop on quantum international relations at Ohio State University, which had an incredible mix of people from different backgrounds including political science, anthropology, physics, mathematics, and so on. As with my undergraduate education, it was a combination of sciences and humanities, so I felt right at home.

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