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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Emergencies, Tipping Points and Fragilities Seminar - Patterns of evolution and extinction in social and economic systems, and the implications for models of rational behaviour

19th February 2015, 18:00 to 19:45, Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidans College, Paul Ormerod

Innovation emerges in all walks of life: in business, new products replace old ones; in art, new styles come into fashion; in science, new technologies supersede outmoded ones; in the environment, new species evolve and appear. Different academic disciplines have sought to test these or related propositions about the emergence and extinction of innovation. For some scholars, the emergence of innovation is explained through the diffusion process in which new ideas/products become popular, reach their tipping point and then decline. For others, their studies draw on models of evolution used in biological studies to map out the probability of reproductive selection amongst the population in evolutionary games. 

This interdisciplinary programme will explore different theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding how a subject emerges and subsequently declines. The aim is to look in more detail at how these processes unfold in different contexts: 

  • Understanding the emergence of diffusion of innovation and how innovative ideas propagate in space in a range of areas ranging from management, banking history, research innovation, linguistic changes to energy technologies;
  • The destructive potential of emergences (i.e. does the emergence of something invariably result in the destruction of something else);
  • The role of zeitgeist, or the spirit of the time, in the adoption of new products and ideas;
  • The threshold for mass adoption, and
  • The extent to which all emergences are necessarily temporary. 

The next event in this programme will take place on: 

Thursday  19 February at 18:00-19:00 at the Lindisfarne Centre, St Aiden's College
Paul Ormerod - Patterns of evolution and extinction in social and economic systems, and the implications for models of rational behaviour 

Patterns of extinction in social and economic systems have many similarities to those of species extinction. Yet humans have the capacity to act with purpose and intent, which non-humans do not. The parallels call into question the general relevance of the economic model of so-called rational behaviour. The implications are that the basic model of behaviour in economic and social systems should be based upon evolutionary principles.

Contact ihrr.admin@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.

Contact ihrr.admin@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.