Andrew Odlyzko is a brilliant mathematician who has done important work on deep topics such as the Riemann Hypothesis (cf. PrimeObsession, Music of the Primes, ...). He also writes engagingly about gullibility, financial bubbles, and the history of irrationality. Among his recent essays:
These are detailed stories of massive social failures to think. They're well-written but quite long; I've only had time to skim a couple of them so far. Odlyzko mainly blames human emotional failure for these economic booms and busts. Perhaps there are other factors, complex nonlinearities in big systems that make prediction virtually impossible? That's a topic for another time.
(Personal note: I met Odlyzko ~30 years ago when, as a Bell Labs researcher, he was a consultant for some technical studies I was involved in. We didn't get to interact much but I remember him being as charming and precise in person as he now is in print. Cf. OnSingularities (1999-06-07), HopefulRejoinders (2001-06-23), AllYourBaseAreBelongToUs (2002-08-28), BadArithmetic (2004-02-24), NextEconomy (2005-01-31), Back to Normal (2008-11-13), ...) - ^z - 2012-01-25