I wrote what follows several years ago, as a grad student. Now I'm working happily at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C.
My name is Peter Benjamin Meyer. I grew up in Palo Alto, California, which in retrospect turns out to be paradise. Soon I start my third year as a graduate student at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. My PhD in economics is under construction.
Before grad school I worked as a software engineer and in a couple of other capacities at Symantec Corp, a software company, in Cupertino, California. That is in Silicon Valley, and it was truly dramatic and exciting to be there. Before that I went to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which in retrospect turns out not to be all that cold in the winter.
Quotes I happen to like The only known picture of me on the Web
I wish I had more energy and perhaps time to follow the impact of technology; for example I'd love to spend more time figuring out how people are using the Web. I think it's really important and will change a lot about life and interaction for many of us. My favorite project is expanding my online glossary of terms in economics (elsewhere on in this homepage tree), meant to make like easier on the graduate student for whom not everything is clearly defined in class (e.g. myself) or those who are finding terms used in the research literature without clear definition (ditto). I have tried to make such glossaries of computer and networking terms, and of obscure Northwestern University lingo, but my time and energy and disk space are finite and they are of no general use yet.
Eventually I have to formally 'propose' to write a dissertation on a specified subject. Ideally (for funding reasons) this would occur in or before July, 1997. Perhaps more importantly it needs to be something I want to work on, otherwise it won't get done. Subfields that seem to be of likely interest: labor, finance, public finance (that is, taxing and spending). Of somewhat less interest: industrial organization (behavior of firms and industries); theoretical econometrics (theory, regressions, and statistics of developing new methods of drawing conclusions from data); macro theory (which in practice seems to require extreme, uncomfortable assumptions and breathtakingly simplified aggregation of people and firms who in other contexts seem to be dramatically different from one another); micro theory (in which the things I think of as "content" are often excluded). Unfortunately, perhaps, there is no subject in which I have zero interest or my decisions would be simpler.
Often, it is said, one chooses to incline toward theory or toward empiricism. In principle I'd go for both but contributions to theory that are considered welcome (e.g., publishable) in economics disagree with me, (not so much because of their conclusions as the unpleasantness and mystery of their methods), and I think of knowing the facts as pretty important. So 'empirical' will be just fine, if such work seems feasible. Because of my experience developing software and my difficulty absorbing the hard stuff in this field through classwork, I'm immediately interested in any use of the computer in achieving understanding (or, failing that, publication) in economics. Simulations are what I've done so far, and there's some payoff in it. No long run niche is apparent there so far. Statistics and regression are the most common use for computers, and I look forward to accumulating this sort of experience although it has been frustrating that after two years, I just plain haven't. I still don't know the relevant programs, of which there seem to be five important ones. I still haven't done any but the most basic regressions. I've still never arrived at any real conclusion that way, only solved precooked problems.
Jobs, it is said, exist in applied fields, meaning more empirical, and more in, say, finance, than in history. Both would be interesting. Should the presence of employers make a difference in my thinking? Hmm. It might be a distraction, since I hoped to find a calling.
I talk constantly with my fellow economics students to better understand the game we're in and the various strategies and tactics to survive in, thrive in, and understand this field.