Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Emergence and Complexity in the Resource-Patterns Model of Life

During the past 30 years much focus has fallen upon emergence and complexity. In 1995 I got a view of this field when my late good friend Donald R. Rhodes gave me a copy of Complexity: the Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, by M. Mitchell Waldrop. I had already taken a few small steps in this area. But the Waldrop book gave me my first awareness that a field had started to organize under the labels: emergence, complexity, and chaos. The Resource-Patterns Model of Life (RPM), the subject of this blog, owes much to that field.

In 1995 I had started to grasp some of Friedrich Hayek's work. Now a post by Emily Skarbek at EconLog, Hayek's Views on Emergence, reminds me that I should show the parallels between the Resource-Patterns Model of Life and those views of Hayek.

Concerning emergence in RPM, recall the starting assumptions of the model:
  • We poor and initially stupid living things (LTs) live in a universe in which there are resources distributed in patterns (RPs).
  • Many of these RPs are vast or complex, such that an individual LT has no hope of exploiting such an RP.
  • Such difficult RPs can be exploited, however, by communities of LTs which have figured out modes of cooperation which enable them as groups, with each individual LT working in a specialty, to exploit the RPs.
But, as it often happens, we LTs do not know where these RPs are until we have discovered them. Often we do not even know what they are until after we have discovered them through our networks of LT-to-LT trade.

So what emerges in RPM is communities of specialized LTs shaped by the preexistent RPs. These communities, as Hayek would say, have been shaped by human action but not by human design. We acted, motivated by self interest and recognizing the benefits of trade, and thereby built industries conforming to the RPs which existed in the environment apart from human design.

What emerges often appears complex, to our initially uneducated perceptions, because we were ignorant of the underlying RPs until our trading networks built industries which conform, by necessity, to the complexity of the underlying RPs.

See my draft Chapter 5, The Learning of Rules.

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