Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Chaos Complexity and Hayek
|Chaotic systems can form structural and functional systems, without a central direction.|
As Caldwell notes, Hayek initially thought the dividing line between possible and impossible positivism lay in the distinction between natural sciences and social sciences, but by the 1950s he had come to understand that the issue was really one of complexity. A positivist, predictive science is possible only for phenomena, whether human or natural, that are relatively simple—particle physics, for example. One can never fully model and predict complex phenomena such as the spontaneous orders produced by the interactions of simpler agents. These orders include the human brain, whose higher functions cannot possibly be inferred from its physical substratum, as well as ecosystems and, of course, markets, cultures, and other human institutions.
Hayek, in other words, fully anticipated the rise of what we now know as the study of complex adaptive systems, or complexity science. Drawing much of its inspiration from evolutionary biology, this approach is today practiced in such places as the Santa Fe Institute, a multidisciplinary think tank that uses agent-based simulations to model the emergence of complex behaviors on the part of larger collectivities. But Hayek would doubtless disapprove of the research agenda in much of the complexity field, which seeks to use these models to produce deterministic, predictive outcomes. HAYEK’S CHALLENGE: An Intellectual Biography of F. A. Hayek.