Santa Fe Institute Workshop  (SFIW) Session 2

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Time and Date: 14:15 - 18:00 on 21st Sep 2016

Room: N - Graanbeurszaal

Chair: Stefan Thurner

46003 Predicting the evolution of technology [abstract]
Abstract: Technological progress is the ultimate driver of economic growth, and forecasting technological progress is one of the pivotal issues for climate mitigation. While there is a rich anecdotal literature for technological change, there is still no overarching theory. Technology evolves under descent with variation and selection, but under very different rules than in biology. The data available to study technology are also very different: On one hand we have historical examples giving the performance of a few specific technologies over spans of centuries; on the other hand, the collection of information is much less systematic than it is for fossils. There is no good taxonomy, so in a sense the study of technological evolution is pre-Linnaean. This may be due to the complexities of horizontal information transfer, which plays an even bigger role for technology than it does for bacteria. There are nonetheless empirical laws for predicting the performance of technologies, such as Moore’s law and Wright’s law, that can be used to make quantitative distributional forecasts and address questions such as “What is the likelihood that solar energy will be cheaper than nuclear power 20 years from now?”. I will discuss the essential role of the network properties of technology, and show how 220 years of US patent data can be used as a "fossil record” to identify technological eras. Finally I will discuss new approaches for understanding technological progress that blend ideas from biology and economics.
J Doyne Farmer
46004 Understanding of power laws in path dependent processes [abstract]
Abstract: Where do power laws come from? There exist a handful of famous mechanisms that dynamically leadto scaling laws in complex dynamical systems, including preferential attachment processes and self-organized criticality. One extremely simple and transparent mechanism has so-far been overlooked. We present a mathematical theorem that states that every stochastic process that reduces its number of possible outcomes over time, leads to power laws in the frequency distributions of that so-called sample-space-reducing process (SSR). We show that targeted diffusion on networks is exactly such a SSR process, and we can thus understand the origin of power law visiting distributions that are ubiquitous in nature. We further comment on several examples where SSR processes can explain the origin of observed scaling laws including search processes, language formation and fragmentation processes.
Stefan Thurner
46005 TBA Geoffrey West