Interview with Ariel Pakes


Ariel Pakes is the Thomas Professor of Economics at Harvard, where he teaches courses in Industrial Organization and Econometrics. His research has focused on developing methods for empirically analyzing market responses to environmental and policy changes, and has done work for a number of consultancies, government agencies, and large firms. Much of his methodological work has been incorporated into the way government agencies evaluate the likely impact of policy changes. Ariel has mentored over fifty doctoral students, many of whom are now leading researchers at prestigious institutions. He received the Frisch Medal of the Econometric Society in 1986, was elected the Distinguished Fellow of the Industrial Organization in 2007 and in 2017 received the Jean-Jacques Laffont prize, after which he was kind enough to spare the time for this interview. 


Intelligent Infrastructure: The Future of AI

“It is not enough to build an AI [Artificial Intelligence] system that makes a robot work across the screen, do computer vision problem or beat someone in chess contest. We have to work on these things like good engineers do, to solve problems,”  Michael I. Jordan (Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at University of California Berkeley) said this in a recent lecture on perspectives on AI. Building a creative problem- solving AI brain has fascinated and frightened people for several decades now. The invention of the programmable digital computer in the 1940s–a machine based on mathematical reasoning–inspired a few scientists to begin thinking of building an electronic brain. While scientists would subsequently create robots, these machines would rarely have any sort of intelligence.


TSE Junior Etudes Note

TSE Junior Etudes is a mix of a student organization and a company, which allows our members to develop their professional skills before entering the job market. Our Junior Etudes belongs to the national movement of Junior-Entreprises (JE) led by the Confédération National des Junior Entreprises (CNJE). Our JE is currently working on data analysis, legal information, modelling of annual revenue, or even on the testing of economic models. Last year we had a mission that helped the offshoring of a company to another country, and we advised them to find new jobs for their employees taking into account their skills, area preferences, and family lives.

On campus

Say It Aloud! Note

Say It Aloud was founded on a rather simple idea: TSE needed a forum where students could share their beliefs and discuss them. This way a small group of friends–pretty shy at first–gathered together and created Say It Aloud. They were thinking big. They decided it would be fun to organize conferences on various topics, to create a debating society and to run a public speaking workshop.

On campus

Nothing to Hide

Government surveillance has been a hot topic for a while now, particularly after the National Security Agency (NSA) leaks in the US. One of the main questions in the public debate is how much privacy can be forfeited in the name of security, as Benjamin Franklin said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

A common defence for the increasing amount of government surveillance is that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. However, this argument can be very harmful to a society and its economy. After all, the base of all social interactions and exchanges is trust, and without trust the economy cannot prosper.


Are Economics and Sociology Two Poles Apart?

You probably know the definition of a Pareto optimum—otherwise you ought to study hard before your end-of-term exam—but did you know that V. Pareto wrote a book on sociology entitled Treatise on General Sociology? In this book, where he develops a systematic method of approaching sociological inquiry, he tries to base the difference between sociology and economics on the distinction between logical and non-logical actions of human beings. To better understand how the gap between sociology and economics has widened over time, one can focus on a turning point in the history of economics: the triumph of marginalism.


Merkel Ceteris Paribus? 

Whereas the international media considered the German election boring and prearranged, the outcome in fact contained dramatic results. At first sight, nothing much changed: Chancellor Angela Merkel will stay in office and appears to be a constant in German politics. The person Merkel seems to matter whereas the other parties appear to be negligible variables and the distribution of seats in parliament a sideshow. Building a new government will prove a challenge however, with a far-right party in the parliament for the first time since 1949 holding nearly 12.5% of all seats.

No economics in the title