Building Better Ecological Machines: Complexity Theory and Alternative Economic Models

Jess Bier, Willem Schinkel

Abstract


Computer models of the economy are regularly used to predict economic phenomena and set financial policy. However, the conventional macroeconomic models are currently being reimagined after they failed to foresee the current economic crisis, the outlines of which began to be understood only in 2007-2008. In this article we analyze the most prominent of this reimagining: Agent-Based models (ABMs). ABMs are an influential alternative to standard economic models, and they are one focus of complexity theory, a discipline that is a more open successor to the conventional chaos and fractal modeling of the 1990s. The modelers who create ABMs claim that their models depict markets as ecologies, and that they are more responsive than conventional models that depict markets as machines. We challenge this presentation, arguing instead that recent modeling efforts amount to the creation of models as ecological machines. Our paper aims to contribute to an understanding of the organizing metaphors of macroeconomic models, which we argue is relevant conceptually and politically, e.g., when models are used for regulatory purposes.


Keywords


complexity; modeling; macroeconomics; machine; ecology; emergence; crisis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17351/ests2016.72



Copyright (c) 2016 Jess Bier, Willem Schinkel

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