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Institute of Advanced Study

Extreme Events

10-12 October 2007

Durham Business School

This two-and-a-half day workshop is one of first of its kind aiming to foster interdisciplinary synergy between often separate areas of social and natural science research on extreme events, including economics, physics, governance, anthropology and management.

Extreme events, like tsunamis, financial meltdowns, extinctions, blockbuster movies, and radical innovations, are more common and intense than predicted by linear science. Extreme events generate a qualitative change in the system they act upon and reshape the world as we know it. Most of our theories are based on linear models; they derive averages and assume that deviations from averages predict future distribution. The problem is that by assuming such "science" reflects reality, extremes should be infinitely rare. They are not, dramatically. The discussion of extreme events plays a marginal role and is mostly fragmented even within single disciplines. The consequence is the lack of theories in many sciences that account for extreme events, and therefore the lack of preparedness to face extreme events' impact and consequences. Predicting extreme events is hard, some say impossible. However, extreme events show common dynamical patterns, and on the basis of these, we believe that useful anticipation - if not prediction - of extreme events is possible.

The aim of the workshop is to discuss the emerging field of extreme events and the formulation of an interdisciplinary research program.  Questions to be debated include:

  • Is there a science of extreme events?
  • What are the burning issues that should drive an effective research program?
  • Can we model extreme events and consequently anticipate extreme events?
  • What is the impact of extreme events on policy?
Final seminar
12 October 2007

Seminar Room 1

Speakers at this seminar include: Professor Didier Sornette (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Dr Paul Ormerod (Volterra Consulting), Professor Bill McKelvey (UCLA), Professor Mauro Gallegati (Università Politecnica delle Marche -Italy), Mr Dave Snowden (Cognitive Edge), Professor Denis Smith (University of Glasgow) , Dr Pierpaolo Andriani (Durham University).

The following additional lectures will be given by the IAS Fellows Prof Didier Sornette (A, B) and Dr Paul Ormerod (C, D). Dates to be confirmed:

A Endogenous versus Exogenous Origins of Crises

B Why Stock Markets Crash

C Economics and the Social Sciences: Modelling with Non-Rational, Low Cognition Agents

D Cascades of failure and extinction in evolving complex systems

For further information or to register for the workshop and seminar, please contact the organiser Dr Pierpaolo Andriani