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I didn't know there was a new Page book out. Very exciting. It goes on my Amazon Wish List right now!

I am also glad to see you cite Page. You say Hayekian ideas should be “presented in a persuasive form to the modern scientific mind.” Right on. In the first paragraph of Hayek’s 1920 manuscript, he said he wanted to “integrate” his explanation of consciousness, which he links to H. Berson, “into the worldview of the natural science.” I think he did something very similar with Mises. I like to think of Hayek as the scholar who integrated Misesian economics into the worldview of modern science. I think it was these two attempts at integration that led him to anticipate so much of modern complexity theory. And I think they led him to an epistemologically wiser and humbler theory of complex phenomena. I think modern complexity theory is a good way to get Hayekian ideas more traction with other scholars and, especially, to push Hayek’s program forward in new and unexpected ways.


I am toying with the idea of organizing my advanced topics course around the concepts of creativity, complexity and coordination -- what do you think?


The devil is in the details, Pete, but it sounds good to me. It has the advantage that it would be a bit different and thus suggest new connections and so on. I think there are interesting connections between complexity and creativity, as Adam Smith knew. In a simple world (such as imagined in the old socialism) coordination is easy, not in a complex world. Go for it.

On your recommendation, I just picked up Page's book on my kindle. I've been reading through the introduction on my phone (while I should be working), and I think this is one book I won't be able to put down.

As someone who is interested in creativity and complexity, I think it would be a great course. Especially insofar as you show how Hayek's ideas are being reiterated in network theory, complexity, self-organization, etc.


Sorry this post is coming a bit late, I hope you get a chance to see respond...

I think this would be a great course as I have been interested in both complexity theory and Hayek, but haven't seen many recent papers that explor their interconnections in detail (besides perhaps a short piece by Karen Vaughn, a longer one by Don Lavoie, and another by Rob Axtell). There is clearly more interesting work yet to be done, and it would be great if your students were became more involved in this research program. I think your organization of an advanced topic class exploring these interconnections would be great, and possibly very similar to the syllabus I saw online for Richard Wagner's public finance course.

I am familiar with Scott Page's work on complex adaptive systems, and I noticed you also mentioned Rob Axtell's work. What do you think about agent-based modeling of social complexity and other related simulation work? Do you see these applications as popular, trendy, and marketable dead-ends (similar to what Krugman's characterization of Bio-Babble), or are many of these modern complexity researchers like Page and Axtell onto something?

Do you think an aspiring economist would be wise to get into this type of interdisciplinary work (computational social science, cognitive science, etc...) while it is still in its relative infancy, or would one be better off looking at more formal economics programs?

Any other thoughts or papers you could share on what I find to be a fascinating topic? Perhaps Dr. Rosser could weight in as well.

Thanks in advance!


Here are some papers that take the intersection between AE and complexity theory seriously. I don't think any of the following merely nod to complexity or nod to AE. Rather, each paper seriously engages both.

Koppl, R. “Some Epistemological Implications of Economic Complexity,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2010, 76: 859-872.

Markose, S. M., 2005. Computability and evolutionary complexity: Markets as complex adaptive systems. Economic Journal 115, F159-F192.

Koppl, R. & J. B. Rosser, Jr. “All That I Have to Say Has Already Crossed Your Mind,” with Barkley Rosser, Metroeconomica, 2002, 53(4): 339-360.

Vriend, N. J., 2002. Was Hayek an ACE? Southern Economic Journal 68, 811-840.

Tsuji, M., daCosta, N.C.A., Doria, F.A., 1998. The incompleteness of theories of games. Journal of Philosophical Logic 27, 553–564.

Some readings here:

For those interested, it is perfectly feasible to study complexity and agent-based modeling while in an economics PhD sequence, particularly if you choose your school well. At some schools it will be easier to find faculty support for such a thesis. Plus, if you're a little less buried in neoclassical boot camp, there's mental room to learn some programming, complexity theory, etc. Don't skimp on the game theory and statistics, though - you're gonna need that!

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