Loose talk about truth is bound to make most people, and many economists, skittish in the extreme. Talk about information, by contrast, would seem far less threatening; and rest assured, most of this book will be couched in the more soothing idiom of infor- mation because that is how our protagonists preferred it. But we would be shirking our duty to the reader if we did not admit that just beneath the surface of our narrative lurks the suspicion that the surfeit of talk about information serves to obscure something more essential, which for purposes of this introduction we will intermittently call knowledge, or more brutally, Truth.
The fact that information has transformed the natural sci- ences from the 1940s onward is a proposition now widely taken for granted among scientists and historians. Some of the more philosophically inclined, dissatisfied with a basic trinity of matter, energy, and information, go so far as to attempt a further reduction of all three into the One True Entity. We need not defer to its enthusiasts to that extent in the current context; it is enough to paraphrase the popular historian James Gleick, who said that after the 1940s, information was the axis around which the entire world began to spin.
A century ago, information did not have much cultural resonance as a concept. It was a nondescript word: An item of training; an instruction. Yet we now find ourselves poised and pinioned in the Information Age. Which, by the way, the OED defines for us in its dry prose: the era in which the retrieval, management, and trans- mission of information, esp. by using computer technology, is a principal (commercial) activity. Its original referent had been derived from the ancient Latin precursor: the verb informare - to give form to; to shape; to mold.
Information at its birth was the act of infusion with form. Where, and how? he Market as the central province of economics, has it not? Assuming so would be premature, as some high-profile ortho- dox economists have noted: It is a peculiar fact that the literature on economics contains so little discussion of the central institution that underlies neoclassical economics—the market. And, Although economists claim to study the market, in modern eco- nomic theory the market itself has even a more shadowy role than the firm.
Any acknowledged differences in market structures where agents congregated would be treated as second-order complications (viz., perfect competition vs. monopoly) or else collapsible to commodity definitions (the labor market, the fish market); and therefore The Market in neoclassical economics came to be modeled as a relatively homogeneous and undifferentiated entity. Whether justified as mere pragmatic modeling tactic (for reasons of mathematical tractability) or a deeper symmetry bound up with the very notion of the possibility of existence of laws of econom- ics, market diversity was effectively suppressed, as one can still observe from modern microeconomics textbooks.