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The merger of engineering and economics

  1. Sep 9, 2018 #1
    I couldn't fit it in the title, but I think the merger of engineering and economics is going to be important going forward. I feel most economists look down on engineering economics (just thinking of variable/fixed operational costs and investment costs, etc), and most engineers think that economists are naive in the characterization of physical domains (like economic policy analyses of energy systems not fully capturing physical principles).

    I think MIT started a multi-disciplinary program tying those two fields.

    There is no more relevant field for this than "energy economics". Energy is a physical principles that economists often trivialize... and economics contains ideas that most engineers haven't come across. Yet, most quantitative literature in energy economics shows a stagnating field in terms of new ideas; all papers either do econometrics (statistics applied to economic data), or energy systems models that are surely but slowly merging the two fields.

    For example, these three papers: 1, 2, 3. 1 does econometrics, and 2 does energy system modeling, while 3 is a recent paper that merges heat transfer principles with microeconomics.

    I think engineers, with their math skills over many economists, can flood this field with content merging both disciplines.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2018 #2


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    "Science/Thermodynamics and Econ.?" Never the twain shall meet.
  4. Sep 9, 2018 #3
    I don't understand the last sentence. Why can't they meet? We live a multidisciplinary universe, where everything is influencing our decisions.
  5. Sep 9, 2018 #4


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    This is not new. Before retiring in 2005, my last project was to integrate the real time engineering control of the New York State power grid with the economic energy futures markets and auctions for services. There's a third leg to this stool; law. We had to publish a tariff that says in lawyer language exactly how everything works. The software had to do exactly what the tariff says, and the tariff my say exactly what the software does.

    Adding features such as consumer price/consumption elasticity is an incremental change.

    Of course professional software must also have vital ergonomics and cyber security properties. It is very much multidisciplinary.

    Academic multidisciplinary things I saw in the past were very crude on the physics and engineering aspects. There is a long-standing truism that many people in industry believe. It is easier to teach an engineer how to program, than to teach a programmer how to do engineering. I think that is analogous to economics. Engineering is most difficult, so students need first and foremost a sound engineering education; especially excellent calculus and differential equation skills. Economics and social behavior topics can be added later.
  6. Sep 12, 2018 #5
    Well. There is an anecdotal animal (an illustration) in my country called 'the vet's horse'. That is a horse which has every possible horse disease.

    'Energy economics' is kind of a vet's horse. It is so popular topic that littered with crackpots: it is so deeply influenced by ever changing politics//law that hard to find any solid basis: it is such a helpless victim to any 'pure' economics' that barely any engineer dares to touch it.
  7. Sep 12, 2018 #6


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    I think we have seen an parallel to that in media discussions of energy, power, etc. Do you ever see them bring in anyone actually in the industry being discussed? I sure haven't.
  8. Sep 12, 2018 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    Ted Koppel wrote a terrible book (in my opinion) about the grid. In it, he interviewed politicians, managers, CEOs, other journalists, survivalists, but net one single engineer.
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