There is a new and fun article on this topic and it turns out Varian had the same favorite novel as did Paul Krugman:
It's a satisfying development for Varian, a guy whose career as an
economist was inspired by a sci-fi novel he read in junior high. "In
Isaac Asimov's first Foundation Trilogy, there was a
character who basically constructed mathematical models of society, and
I thought this was a really exciting idea. When I went to college, I
looked around for that subject. It turned out to be economics."
The article focuses on why Google needs a chief economist. By the way, a few weeks ago Varian and Google were kind enough to invite D.C.'s top bloggers (a stellar line-up) to a free-for-all session at Google's D.C. offices. Being mischievous, I wondered whether a more frequently sampled version of Google Trends could be used to predict (earn?) excess returns. The quality of the bread in the sandwiches was high and the only dessert available was a chocolate chip cookie.
I thank Chris F. Masse for the pointer.