Most researchers on the border of CS and economics (aka algorithmic game theory) seem to come from a CS background, as do I. While the technical definitions and results of economic theory are quite easily understandable to us, the wider point of view of economists is often harder to grok. Just like autodidacts often miss the traditional context of what they have learned, many of us in the algorithmic game theory community have our own narrative of the game-theoretic and economic notions that we use. While this is necessary to some extent, as a novel scientific narrative is a required basis for a new scientific area, it is clear that we often miss a useful wider point of view that has been developed by a large economics community over a long time. I personally try to understand the economists’ point of view, even on topics where I do not accept it and prefer my CS-ey point of view (examples abound: worst-case analysis, approximation, discrete models, focus on structure, and much more.)
Jeff Ely, an Economics Professor in Northwestern, has recently been publishing on his blog some notes as well as slides from his intermediate micro-economics course. These seem to be quite helpful to me for bridging the “narrative-gap” for two main reasons. First, as Jeff explains, the organization of the course is not the classical one for teaching micro-economics but rather his unique “institution-free approach”. So far he has published notes for the first 3 lectures and I find this approach to blend very well with the CS-ey point of view. (Is this somehow related to the strong cs-econ group in Northwestern?) Second, the lecture slides are presented within his own ars-economic commentary about what he teaches, which I find even more fascinating. These lectures are probably not the right place for a computer scientist to learn micro-economics, as the slides are rather high-level and miss much detail. Being an intermediate course, their mathematical level would also likely be too low for the taste of most CS or Math students. Yet, as a vehicle for getting some feel for the “mind of an economist” they seem excellent.