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Reply to professor asking for help with learning economics through video games

Previous Politech message:
http://www.politechbot.com/2005/05/17/prof-asks-for/


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Prof asks for help with unusual idea: learning 
     economics by video game [econ]
Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 19:13:16 -0800 (PST)
From: Dan Fingerman <fingerman@aya.yale.edu>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
CC: Russell Roberts <rrobert2@gmu.edu>

Declan,

Richard Dawkins' writings on biological adaptive complexity may provide 
a good
example for Professor Roberts.  (However, most anologies between an economy
and biological adaptive complexity will break down if pressed too far.)

I just finished re-reading Richard Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker, in
which Dawkins discusses how adaptive complexity arises from mutation.  Genes
exert influence on the development of an individual organism through various
mechanisms, and changes in those genes can lead, over time, to complex 
changes
in a population of organisms.  (Dawkins further discusses how genes can 
reach
beyond individual organisms -- to affect populations and ecosystems -- in
other books, such as The Extended Phenotype and The Selfish Gene.)

In one example, discussed at length in The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins uses a
computer program to create "biomorphs" with nine "genes" that are programmed
to "mutate" once in each generation.  Each biomorph is a graphic whose shape
is determined by the values stored in its nine genes.  Since a gene 
mutates in
each generation, each biomorph is slightly different from its predecessors.
Over many generations, those unplanned, uncontrolled mutations cause
stunningly complex visual effects to arise in the "bodies" of the biomorphs.

Dawkins' biomorph example may provide Professor Roberts with the visual 
effect
he was looking for.

To add one more detail: John Allen Paulos is a mathematician at Temple
University who writes a monthly column called "Who's Counting?" for ABC 
News.
His September column addressed a similar analogy between biological adaptive
complexity and the economy -- albeit from a different angle:
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/WhosCounting/story?id=1077586

-- 
DTM :<|
www.danfingerman.com

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Nov 02, 2005 in category economics


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