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W. Brian Arthur

W. Brian Arthur

W. Brian Arthur

Economics
Santa Fe Institute
Fellow, 2019-20 Study #9

At CASBS Brian Arthur will explore Combinatorial Evolution. This is a mechanism for evolution that occurs particularly in technology. Radically new technologies don’t come into existence by the cumulation of small changes in earlier technologies—the jet engine did not emerge from small changes in air piston engines. Rather, they spring from combining or integrating earlier technologies, and go on to become building blocks for yet further technologies. Arthur will explore this mechanism for evolution, how it works, and how it acts to create a hierarchy of modular forms.

Arthur is currently External Professor at Santa Fe Institute. He earlier led a group at the Santa Fe Institute to develop an alternative approach to economics— “complexity economics.” The standard framework sees behavior in the economy as in an equilibrium steady state, with people in the economy facing well-defined problems and using perfect deductive reasoning to base their actions on. The complexity framework by contrast sees the economy as always in process. People try to make sense of the situations they face using whatever reasoning they have at hand, and together create outcomes they must individually react to anew. The resulting economy is not a well-ordered machine, but a complex evolving system that is imperfect and perpetually constructing itself anew.

Arthur’s website is www.santafe.edu/arthur