Paul A. Samuelson, 84
1970 Nobel laureate in economics; institute professor emeritus in economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"The major symphony for the last 300 years has been, and for as far as we can envision will be, the advancement of knowledge and technology and the law of diminishing returns . . . It's a constant, never-ending struggle between new knowledge and diminishing returns. I kind of think new knowledge will win the battle.
"But with new knowledge comes dynamite. We see that with derivatives. If you want to insure and reduce risk, derivatives are a valuable tool. But it's a tempting tool to augment risk. In ancient times, arrogance of power was reflected in the Tower of Babel. Today, it's reflected in modern capital management. You wouldn't get Barings or rogue traders if they weren't using new and powerful knowledge. Today, one can blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. It's the same nitrogen farmers use. We're not going to keep nuclear weapons knowledge from spreading."