I don’t often write about economics, but this essay from Harpers by Marilynne Robinson is not just about that subject.
Orangutans apparently can learn to use “currency”. Money quote:
Researchers from the University of St Andrews found orangutans could learn the value of tokens and trade them, helping each other win bananas.
An article in Biology Letters, claims it is the first evidence of “calculated reciprocity” in non-human primates.
Here’s a really interesting Op-Ed piece in today’s NY Times that I think is a perfect follow up to Rob’s blogpost.
Sadly, the academic economics profession remains reluctant to embrace this new computational approach (and stubbornly wedded to the traditional equilibrium picture). This seems decidedly peculiar given that every other branch of science from physics to molecular biology has embraced computational modeling as an invaluable tool for gaining insight into complex systems of many interacting parts, where the links between causes and effect can be tortuously convoluted.
Something of the attitude of economic traditionalists spilled out a number of years ago at a conference where economists and physicists met to discuss new approaches to economics. As one physicist who was there tells me, a prominent economist objected that the use of computational models amounted to “cheating” or “peeping behind the curtain,” and that respectable economics, by contrast, had to be pursued through the proof of infallible mathematical theorems.
If we’re really going to avoid crises, we’re going to need something more imaginative, starting with a more open-minded attitude to how science can help us understand how markets really work. Done properly, computer simulation represents a kind of “telescope for the mind,” multiplying human powers of analysis and insight just as a telescope does our powers of vision. With simulations, we can discover relationships that the unaided human mind, or even the human mind aided with the best mathematical analysis, would never grasp.