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TrevinPeterson comments on For progress to be by accumulation and not by random walk, read great books - Less Wrong

35 Post author: MichaelVassar 02 March 2010 08:11AM

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Comment author: TrevinPeterson 02 March 2010 11:52:59PM *  1 point [-]

Rediscovering is not as prestigious as discovering, because it is not as difficult and does not signal intellectual greatness.

There is a difference between rediscovering and old idea, and adapting an old idea to a new situation. Simply rediscovering an old idea does not grant much prestige. Austrians are constantly coming across Hayek quotes and parading them around as definitive solutions to current problems. The problem is that these ideas are every bit as untestable as they were on the day Hayek wrote them. A confirmation bias leads Austrians to see them as Truth, while Keysians remain skeptical.

When old ideas are adapted into a testable form they endow a great deal of prestige. There are all sorts of anecdotes about this happening, such as Henry Ford taking the idea of an assembly line from Oldsmobile and mixing it with his observations from a meat factory, to create the moving assembly line. The difference is that this is a testable idea that creates immediate results.

Comment author: Karl_Smith 03 March 2010 03:13:04AM 0 points [-]

So clearly adapting the new idea is useful.

However, it may also be the case that there is an old idea which if re-examined will be seen to be useful in and of itself.

The problem with the Austrians is that their ideas are being considered and they are being rejected. See Byran Caplan's Why I am Not an Austrian Economist. (link seems not to be working)