DRAFT: DO NOT CITEMindscapes and Landscapes: Hayek and Simon on Cognitive Extension
Leslie MarshDean’s Office, Medical School, University of British ColumbiaIn
Hayek and Behavioural Economics
, Palgrave Macmillan, Eds., Roger Frantz andRobert Leeson.http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=509789
: Hayek’s and Simon’s social externalism runs on a shared presupposition: mind is constrained inits computational capacity to detect, harvest, and assimilate “data” generated by the infinitely fine-grainedand perpetually dynamic characteristic of experience in complex social environments. For Hayek, mind andsociality are co-evolved spontaneous orders, allowing little or no prospect of comprehensive explanation,trapped in a hermeneutically sealed, i.e. inescapably context bound, eco-system. For Simon, it is thesimplicity of mind that is the bottleneck, overwhelmed by the ambient complexity of the environmental.Since on Simon’s account complexity is unidirectional, Simon is far more ebullient about the prospects of explanation. Hayek’s social externalism functions as a kind of distributed “extra-neural” memory storemanifest as dynamic spontaneous orders. Simon’s organizational rule-governed externalism negotiates the“inner” world (the mind) with the “outer” world through a homeostatic interface that offloads the cognitive burden into the environment. Their respective externalisms may differ in detail but not in spirit in that itameliorates their shared presupposition of cognitive constraint. Even though any “optimization talk” for Hayek and Simon is objectionable, knowledge acquisition can be represented by a contextualizedstigmergic swarm optimization algorithm that gives due emphasis to both the individual and theenvironment. The key insight is that “perfect” knowledge is unnecessary, impracticable and indeedirrelevant if one understands the mechanism at work in complex sociality, a stigmergic sociality that ineffect augments or scaffolds cognition.
: Friedrich Hayek, Herbert Simon, cognitive closure, bounded rationality, complexity, extendedmind, particle swarm optimization, stigmergy.
I: A Shared Presupposition
Is complexity primarily an epistemological or an ontological phenomenon? Is there evenany coherence at all in suggesting the latter ontological variety? Two of the twentiethcentury’s greatest minds did approach this philosophical chestnut – Friedrich von Hayek and Herbert Simon.
Hayek and Simon share a key philosophical presupposition: that is,mind is constrained in its computational capacity to detect, harvest, and assimilate(“crunch” or process) data – data generated by the infinitely fine-grained and perpetuallydynamic characteristic of experience in complex social environments.
To ameliorate thisstate of affairs, Hayek and Simon proffer an adaptive
theory of mind to spread