Quoted: on finance vs. tech and ‘programming some little gimmick’

“When you study finance, you are studying how to make things happen, on a big scale, on a lasting scale. That has to matter more than getting into Google and programming some little gimmick.”

Robert Shiller, winner of a Nobel Prize in economics, during a debate put on by the Economist called “Goldman Vs. Google: A career on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley.” Shiller was debating a fellow academic who’s also a tech entrepreneur, Vivek Wadhwa. Wadhwa’s fighting words: “Would you rather have your children going and cooking up the financial system, engineering the financial system, and creating more bubbles for us? More bubbles like the ones my esteemed friend is famous for? Or would you rather have them saving the world?”

Wadwha noted Google’s innovation so far that includes enabling research like never before and its work on self-driving cars. Shiller also said “every human activity that matters has to be financed.” Maybe he hasn’t heard that Google co-founder Sergey Brin has put money into Parkinson’s research, or into lab-grown meat. Or that, as the Mercury News’ Dana Hull has reported, Google has invested more than $1 billion in renewable-energy projects.

By the way, the outspoken Wadhwa is no cheerleader for all things tech: He recently criticized the lack of a woman on soon-to-be-public Twitter’s board, and called out who he refers to as the Silicon Valley “mafia” — “nerdy white males” — and accused them of racism and sexism.


Photo: Robert Shiller, Yale professor, was one of three Americans awarded the Nobel Prize for economics earlier this month. (Associated Press archives)


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