butterfly economics

Currently reading Butterfly Economics: A New General Theory of Social and Economic Behavior. The books central central premise is that “… conventional economics is mistaken when it views the economy and society as a machine, whose behavior, no matter how complicated, is ultimately predictable and controllable.

On the contrary, human society is much more like a living organism — a living creature, whose behavior can only be understood by looking at the complex interactions of its individual parts.” The books chapters explore various sections of our society and world that support this premise, the most interesting of which might be the chapter abouts ants(!).

“Ants, faced with two identical food sources, were observed to concentrate more on one of these but, after a period, they would turn their attention to the other. The same phenomenon has been observed in humans choosing between restaurants. After discussing the nature of foraging and recruitment behavior in ants, a simple model of stochastic recruitment is suggested. This explains the “herding” and “epidemics” described in the literature on financial markets as corresponding to the equilibrium distributio n of a stochastic process rather than to switching between multiple equilibria.” (abstract).

Sounds scary! Succintly, ants, given a choice between A and B (where A & B are equal) don’t go to A 50% of the time and B 50% of the time; turns out that humans don’t either, which is why one particular restaurant will be packed for 3 months and then empty for 2… and I think helps explain why creating “buzz” is so important for companies today… Is PHP better than ASP? or JSP? or CFM? maybe, but so and so says that Perl is better… Should we see One Hour Photo or Simone? Truth is almost *everything* we buy as consumers is influenced by what other people tell us… I think it’s only going to get worse… I find myself not buying books until I see good reviews on Amazon, I won’t see movies until they’ve been out for awhile and someone tells me I ‘have’ to see it. Anyways..

While doing searches on google for more on ants, I came across this interesting page that talks about various AI ant robot studies.

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