Eric Brian / Senior Professor, EHESS, PSL Research University

Last updated on profile page : November 3rd, 2016

BIO

Eric Brian is full professor at Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. He is studying uncertainty and regularity of social phenomena, and in particular how scientists have caught and conceived them as objects of mathematics or social and economical sciences. He is the head of the Department of History in the French National Institute for Demography (INED) and the editor of the Revue de synthèse (Springer).

A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, he completed PhDs in applied mathematics (Orsay, 1986) and social sciences (EHESS, 1990). He has been fellow of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University (1984-1987), of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (1994), of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2002-2003), and guest professor at the University of Vienna (1997-2002), at the Technische Universität Berlin (2003-2004) and the University of Geneva (2010).

Among his publications are La Mesure de l'Etat. Administrateurs et géomètres au XVIIIe siècle (Albin Michel, 1994), The Descent of Human Sex-ratio at Birth. A Dialogue between Mathematics, Biology and Sociology (Springer, 2007), Le Sexisme de la première heure. Hasard et sociologie (Raisons d'agir, 2007) and Comment tremble la main invisible. Incertitude et marchés (Springer, 2009).

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By Eric Brian on Paris Innovation Review

On s'interroge aujourd'hui avec une certaine inquiétude sur la forme et la nature de l'incertitude financière. Est-elle seulement exacerbée pendant une crise passagère ? Ou bien, par principe, le plus inattendu étant toujours possible, toute prévision est-elle vaine ? Les deux lieux communs escamotent l'essentiel : l'incertitude financière est permanente, malléable, résistante – ce n'est pas une abstraction que l'on pourrait évacuer au détour d’un calcul. Loin d'être constante, sa structure varie au cours de l'histoire : elle dépend des cadres institutionnels qui permettent la circulation et l'enregistrement de l'information économique.
Concern is on the rise regarding financial uncertainty, its form and its nature. Is it merely exacerbated during a temporary crisis? Or, with the most unexpected phenomena always possible, is any attempt at forecasting doomed to be vain? It turns out both commonplace statements are missing the point: financial uncertainty is permanent, malleable, and resistant - it is by no means an abstraction that could be dismissed through means of calculation. Far from being constant, its structure varies throughout history: it depends on the given institutional frameworks that allow the flow and recording of economic information.
Ni la morale ni la théorie ne donnent cher du spéculateur contemporain. Ce cyclothymique n'est pas raisonnable: il confond la bourse et la roulette. La science économique peine à le comprendre, sauf à dire qu'il est guidé par le profit. Une théorie du spéculateur est pourtant possible.
Whether it comes from ethics or from theory, the impression is that the days of the contemporary speculator are numbered. For this moody character is reckless: he is one to confuse the stock market and roulette. Economic theory has a hard time understanding him. Nevertheless, a theory of the speculator is possible.

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