Help make Min­sky eas­ier to use

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I’ve just put A$10,000 of my own money towards improv­ing Min­sky, the Open Source pro­gram I have designed to enable econ­o­mists to cre­ate dynamic and mon­e­tary mod­els of the econ­omy. If you sup­port the work I’m doing to help eco­nom­ics escape its 19th cen­tury equi­lib­rium fetish, please con­sider also mak­ing a dona­tion to Minsky’s devel­op­ment via Dr Rus­sell Standish’s Pay­Pal account (or via direct debit, using the account details you’ll find below):

Keep Rus­sell Stan­dish on the Min­sky Project



Other Amount:



Your Email Address (and com­ment if you wish to add one) :


Min­sky has been pro­grammed almost exclu­sively by Dr Rus­sell Stan­dish, and $10,000 will buy 100 hours of Russell’s pro­gram­ming time. About A$230,000 has been spent on it so far–with US$128,000 com­ing from an ini­tial INET grant (when the US$ was worth less than the A$), US$78,000 from a Kick­starter cam­paign, and sundry other amounts from sup­port­ers like Bruce Ram­say, who runs the End­ing Over­lend­ing page that is linked to from this blog. This fund­ing enabled Rus­sell to build the basic func­tion­al­ity Min­sky needed, along with a lot of inno­v­a­tive “smarts” that set it apart from its much more estab­lished rivals in sys­tem dynamics–programs like Matlab’s Simulink, Ven­sim, Stella and Vis­sim that cost thou­sands of dol­lars a copy and have been around for decades.

MinskyFlowchart

For exam­ple, Min­sky is the only sys­tem dynam­ics pro­gram that lets you use Greek char­ac­ters and sym­bols, super­scripts and sub­scripts; it runs plots dynam­i­cally while a sim­u­la­tion is run­ning (which only Vis­sim also does in the sys­tem dynam­ics prod­uct space), it’s the only pro­gram that lets you insert vari­ables and oper­a­tors by typ­ing directly onto the can­vas rather than hav­ing to use the mouse and tool­box palettes; and of course it’s the only pro­gram that sup­ports dou­ble-entry book­keep­ing to allow com­plex inter-related finan­cial accounts to be sim­u­lated dynam­i­cally.

But the pro­gram is still incom­plete. Some basic things like an IF/THEN/ELSE block are miss­ing; some aspects of group­ing don’t work prop­erly yet, you can’t save part of a Min­sky file as a toolkit, and so on. I’m putting $10,000 of my own cash in to get these things done now–and there are many other fea­tures that should be added. These range from sim­ple things like adding short­cut keys for “Save As” to the final ambi­tions I have for the program–enabling it to model mul­ti­ple sec­tors and mul­ti­ple economies at once.

If we can raise another $30,000 or so, we can also address one of the main com­plaints that I hear about Min­sky: to quote my good friend Tom Fer­gu­son, INET’s Research Direc­tor, from our din­ner together in Lon­don last month, “Why is Min­sky so hard to use?”.

MinskyTables

As I told Tom over din­ner, part of the rea­son is that econ­o­mists have almost no expe­ri­ence with sys­tem dynam­ics soft­ware.

This was com­i­cally illus­trated by Noah Smith’s ques­tion to me “Tell me what the ‘wires’ do in the tool?” on Twit­ter about two years ago, when Minsky’s devel­op­ment had just begun: like most econ­o­mists, Noah had appar­ently never seen sys­tem dynam­ics soft­ware before, and thought I had invented the idea of using “wires” to lay­out equa­tions visu­ally (and he thought I’d made a log­i­cal error too, though I must say Noah seems to have cot­toned on to dynamic mod­el­ling since). Engi­neers find using Min­sky easy, because the flow­chart metaphor for equa­tion design has dom­i­nated engi­neer­ing now for over 3 decades.

But the other part of why Min­sky is “so hard to use” is that “so lit­tle money has gone into its devel­op­ment”. There’s just over one man-year’s worth of cod­ing in Min­sky, so in some ways it’s amaz­ing that it does any­thing use­ful at all–let alone enough to win SourceForge’s “Pro­gram of the Month” award back in Jan­u­ary 2014. My orig­i­nal appli­ca­tion to INET asked for US$250,000; I received US$128,000; with that money expended, Min­sky just worked but had lots of bugs and many incom­plete fea­tures. With the addi­tional $100,000 raised from the pub­lic since, it now works rea­son­ably well, still has some bugs, but needs lots more fea­tures to be com­plete. Addi­tional money from you now will help add some desir­able “ease of use” features–such as direct entry of equa­tions, lay­ing out causal loops prior to build­ing a model, bet­ter graph­ics, export­ing mod­els in vec­tor graph­ics for­mats for doc­u­men­ta­tion, etc. An absolute bomb of funding–if some hedge fund out there that uses my eco­nomic ideas (you know who you are) decides to give some­thing back–will enable data import­ing, fit­ting mod­els to data using non­lin­ear para­me­ter esti­ma­tion tech­niques, and so on.

So please, if you’ve read this far, and you sup­port what Min­sky is try­ing to achieve–giving eco­nom­ics the capac­ity to build real­is­tic mon­e­tary, dynamic mod­els of the economy–then go that lit­tle bit fur­ther and make a dona­tion via this wid­get, or via direct credit into Russell’s accounts using the info in my invoice below:

Keep Rus­sell Stan­dish on the Min­sky Project



Other Amount:



Your Email Address (and com­ment if you wish to add one) :


KeenInvoice

About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.
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  • wel­tys­par­row

    Hi Steve, can you give the but­ton a recur­ring option? I can’t give a lot in one go but would be happy to con­tribute a reg­u­lar monthly dona­tion.

  • Good sug­ges­tion. I’ll see what I can do. You could also set up such a sys­tem just using direct debit from your bank to Russell’s account BTW–see the details in the image of his invoice to me.

    And thanks!

  • wel­tys­par­row

    Hi Steve, as my bank is in £s I’m unable to send directly with­out very hefty fees (they make Paypal’s look rea­son­able!).

    I’ve also scanned online and it seems that only a mer­chant can request a reg­u­lar pay­ment from Pay­pal, I as a user can’t set one up as far as I can tell.

  • Bhaskara II

    Car­toon:

    Pro­fes­sor Keen, book mar­ket­ing? Per­haps with NinjaEconomic’s avi­tar?

    Try out this summer’s hot nov­els in a beach set­ting”

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/lowres.cartoonstock.com/literature-library-book-read-reads-scene-jmp080811_low.jpg

  • Bhaskara II

    RE: Macro-dynam­ics and sta­t­ics

    Thought 0: Sta­t­ics might be a great replace­ment for equi­lib­rium in some sit­u­a­tions. And, it is also used in math, sci­ence, and engi­neer­ing.
    Thought 1: Use of words sta­t­ics and dynam­ics might be good.
    Thought 1.5: Thus Macro­dy­nam­ics and Macro­sta­t­ics might be good descrip­tors.
    Thought 2: If one wants to avoid putting econ­o­mists on the instant defense of equi­lib­rium, sell dynam­ics. Maybe not teach sta­t­ics. (I would think there would be a crav­ing for the abil­ity to under­stand dynam­ics bet­ter.) Would crit­i­cism of sta­t­ics be eas­ier to accept crit­i­cism equi­lib­rium? How many econ­o­mist think they have a stake in sta­t­ics?

    I was just look­ing at a part of a Richard Good­win text. Instead of using the word equi­lib­rium he used the word sta­t­ics. Sta­t­ics is a word which is used in intro­duc­tory physics and civil engi­neer­ing has an intro­duc­tory course called sta­t­ics too. It is used to describe non-dynamic analy­sis. Good­win taught physics.

    For instance the the sta­t­ics course in civil engi­neer­ing is pred­i­cated on noth­ing mov­ing. Thus accel­er­a­tions are all 0 and in the famous equa­tion, sum of forces = mass*acceleration, just changed to sum pf forces =0. And there are no deriv­a­tives in time. But, please note the civil engi­neer­ing stu­dents learn the dynamic equa­tions first! In high school and their col­lage physics classes.

    I saw a cool word the book title, “The Macro­dy­nam­ics of Cap­i­tal­ism”. So, I think I will con­sider say­ing macro­eco­nomic sta­t­ics, macro-sta­tic-eco­nom­ics or macro-sta­t­ics.

  • Bhaskara II

    cor­rec­tion:

    Last para­graph:
    I saw a cool word in the book title, “The Macro­dy­nam­ics of Cap­i­tal­ism”. So, I think I will con­sider say­ing macro­eco­nomic sta­t­ics, macro-sta­tic-eco­nom­ics, or macro-sta­t­ics.

  • Bhaskara II

    Oh my. I should not have made up an oxy­moron, macro-sta­tic-eco­nom­ics. I was think­ing of a descrip­tion of the the­ory rather than empir­i­cal or real world eco­nom­ics.

  • Bhaskara II

    Pro­fes­sor Keen,

    I just saw this book title that hits on at least two things you work with. Good­win cycle and mon­e­tary eco­nom­ics. I don’t have time to look at it on google book. 

    Dynamic Macro­eco­nom­ics: Insta­bil­ity, Fluc­tu­a­tion, and Growth in Mon­e­tary Economies”, Peter Flaschel, Reiner Franke, Willi Semm­ler, 1999

    (I was search­ing for the quan­tity of macro­eco­nom­ics text book cov­ers Goodwin’s growth cycle.)

  • Tim Ward

    I’m sup­port­ing Min­sky because it is an impor­tant way to improve eco­nomic com­pre­hen­sion and lit­er­acy. And because it is becom­ing a first class mod­el­ling pack­age. Its a great way to advance the field.

    Right now, for peo­ple with USD, you can get more for your money, because the Aus­tralian exchange rate has fallen so that one USD = ~1.35 AUD. I’ll try to send more over time.