Charlie Stross and Paul Krugman talk science fiction and economics at the WorldCon

One of the highlights of this year's World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal was sf writer Charlie Stross chatting with sf fan and Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman. Charlie's work touches on many economic themes, and Krugman's reputation for finding economic lessons in everyday life is well deserved; the combination was dynamite.

Krugman: Let me show my age here. What you came out believing if you went to the New York's World Fair in 1964 was that we were going to have this enormously enhanced mastery of the physical universe. That we were going to have undersea cities and supersonic transports everywhere. And there hasn't been that kind of dramatic change. It's not just that airplanes are no faster. My favorite test, which shows something about me, is the kitchen. If you walked into a kitchen from the 1950's it would look a little pokey, but you'd know what to do. It wouldn't be that difficult. If someone from the 1950's walked into a kitchen from 1909 they'd be pretty unhappy – they might just be able to manage. If someone from 1909 went to one from 1859, you would actually be hopeless. The big change was really between 1840 and the 1920's, in terms of what the physical nature of modern life is like. There's been nothing like that since. So we can do fancy information searches in a way that no one envisioned 30 years ago – as one of my colleagues at the Times, Gail Collins, likes to say all the time where are the flying cars?

A fireside chat