Dominic Basulto
The Washington Post
March 13, 2012

Many of the bestselling business books of the past decade, such as “Freakonomics” and “The Undercover Economist”, started with an implicit, fundamental premise: “If it can’t be quantified or calculated, it can’t be true.”

These books often reduced baffling and complex scenarios — everything from global warming to why there are so many Starbucks stores in your neighborhood — to simple explanations supported by basic economic thinking. Sometimes these explanations contained charts, graphs and little diagrams that made the world appear neat, tidy and orderly. A decade ago, in fact, Google made news when they hired UC Berkeley economics professor Hal Varian as their first in-house economist. Varian was charged with modeling consumer behaviors and consulting on corporate strategy. The announcement further projected the belief that, in short, economics was the key to market success.

Today, Google should be looking for a prize-winning neuroscientist.

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