Monday, October 19, 2009

Santa Fe Institute

I’m sure I’ve mentioned complex adaptive systems on this blog more than once (and, trust me, I’ll do it again); perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the source of most of the research, the Santa Fe Institute. I first learned about its work via one of my overly complicated brain paths. A Yale biology professor who managed to start my power washer and subsequently had some affiliation or other with the Santa Fe Institute, his publisher wife, probably a gap here, Mauboussin of Legg Mason, and then reference after reference. That’s the best I can do at reconstruction.

The Santa Fe Institute was founded in 1984 with the goal of “fostering a multidisciplinary scientific research community pursuing frontier science.” Its focus, the early visionaries soon decided, would be on complexity. Though still a key area of study, by now SFI has expanded its horizons. Its combination of resident faculty, “external” faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and a constant stream of visitors puts it at the forefront of research on many critical issues of the day. The “news and announcements” page on its website highlights some of its work: econophysics to model markets, institutions and their complex interactions; agent-based modeling to take on the complex system of financial economics and to track pandemics; a theory of parochial altruism (a predisposition to be cooperative towards group members and hostile towards outsiders); and a map of knowledge. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Since the researchers of SFI are doing so much work on the financial markets, there’s no doubt I’ll encounter even more of their books and papers as well as popularizations of their ideas. So stay tuned.

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