BOE Chief Economist Looks to World of Warcraft for Data Future

(Bloomberg) -- It’s no longer all about economic models for the Bank of England’s chief economist. When it comes to understanding the impact of policy, Andy Haldane is looking to entire virtual worlds.

Multi-player games, such as CCP Games’ EVE Online or Activision Blizzard Inc.’s World of Warcraft, offer economists the potential to explore behavior such as how narratives shape spending or saving, or reactions to monetary and regulatory policies, Haldane said in a speech published by the BOE on Monday.

“Because this is a virtual rather than real world, with shocks controlled and regulated, that could make it easier to address issues of causality and identification in response to shocks, including policy shocks,” he said. “The game could serve as a test-bed for policy action -- a large-scale, dynamic, digital focus group.”

In the comments, which were delivered at the launch of a new data analytics center at King’s Business School in London on April 19, Haldane said he believes the use of big data in questions in finance and macro holds great promise for economics and finance. “It provides the raw material for a new wave of productivity and innovation, an embryonic Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Referring to concerns about data privacy thrown up by recent controversy regarding Facebook Inc., Haldane said that safeguarding is a “key preoccupation” for the BOE. Yet he remains optimistic that the central bank can play a “catalytic role” in bringing together the expertise of statistical authorities, policy makers, the commercial sector, research centers and academia.

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