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Assignment: Analyze whether the process of economic and technological change can be better described in terms of a Darwinian evolutionary process, a Lamarckian evolutionary process or a more generalized theory of cultural evolution. Describing change is, by definition, a particularly messy subject, and that does not change if we confine the term to economic and technological change. The short and poetic answer to the question posed is “The good, the bad, and the ugly” but I think have to illustrate it a bit. Nowadays illustrations, links even direct analogies from biology are used in economics. There is a hot debate going on around this issue and as one can easily foresee all kinds of views have been expressed. Views have been quite polarized as to whether a Darwinian or a Lamarckian evolutionary process can be best used to describe economic and technological change. What can be taken for granted is that this kind of work looks promising and is definitely gaining approval amongst colleagues. All this while it’s proceedings certainly sound really good and are pretty catchy with the general public. There is simply a ton of sound looking analogies just waiting to be made, something which on it’s own is a very good reason for some economists to enforce theories from biology into economics and what’s more, by doing that, we are definitely intrigued and fascinated by the possibility of coming closer to the one unified theory - truth and explanation for the world. Have we at last reached the garden of Eden or that is simply wishful thinking? It is my opinion that a reality check is necessary at this point, and the best one would be to test the above methodology and it’s proceedings. The test I could think is the biologist test. It is my firm belief that even the most refined and masterly told direct analogy in order to describe technological end economical change with theories of biological evolution though it would possibly sound ok to the most of us, all biologists would find it almost from the beginning unacceptable and totally on the wrong track. That would be the case, because our colleagues will have not doubt, in whatever way they have constructed their analogy, mutilate some of the main concepts and points of the biological theories. This happens for no other reason that there are some fundamental incompatibility issues which arise from the completely different subject matters. In whatever way one constructs his analogy it is quite difficult to fit in some key concepts like the distinction between generation, the genotype phenotype distinction, and the existence of inheritance. Noticing , the subtle but important, points made above makes any direct enforcement of a biological theory to economics problematic to say the least. What is more, the environment is completely different with economic and technological change being of an extremely turbulent nature something which equates that whatever is supposed to be the unit of selection it cannot be expected to show as much inertia as it’s biological analogue. Furthermore whatever we pick up as the units of question they are by definition of a completely different nature. My point here is that strictly speaking, directly applying in a mechanical way, biological theories to economics is, for me at least, out of the question. The next question that we have to answer is whether they can applied in a more broad way and if then one theory is better that the other. If applied in a broad sense, Darwinism and Lamarckism are not mutually exclusive though the Darwinian approach has a little bit more to offer since its core concepts are broader and reproduction does not hold –comparatively at least- such a central role. In a modern definition of the term, a Darwinian process requires the schema of self replication/inheritance, variation and selection while Lamarck is usually remembered for his belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics, and the "use and disuse" model by which organisms developed their characteristics. The question is now transformed on whether these theories are capable firstly of describing and then explaining economic and technological change if they are applied broadly and not mechanically. Unfortunately the problems discussed above still remain and though they may be assumed away by broadly applying these theories what we are left with is an explanatory framework built for a completely different purpose which has some things to offer but on the whole is
That is no other than the fact that by trying to apply theories of biological evolution to economics. to directly apply evolution theories because it is methodologically completely on the wrong track. Our evolutionary theory for economic and technological change has to take into consideration the main affecting environmental factors who contribute to change while we still have to search in the fields of sociology and psychology for answers. obviously some variation and some selection takes place. rule of law. social and other aspects of real economies would best describe economic and technological change. and when used in conjunction with different variables they might even give us the capability to make sound predictions. The main one of them is no other than providing the most concrete illustration of the necessity there is for us economists to find some way to deal with change and evolution other than assuming them away or defining them as exogenous. all about evolution. What’s more. of economic and technological change. In other words. a complexity which derives from the wide spectrum and the multilevel interaction of their casual factors. What’s more the units studied in each science. environment. reward for incentive and innovation. we have to take into consideration variables such as communication. most answers would include a variety of casual factors. and the latter may prove a little bit trickier for humanity to study. who take part in the evolutionary phenomena. But I think its time to start defining who is who in the “good the bad and the ugly” analogy. quite different between them. these analogies though they may be useful they can end up misleading because we may fell satisfied with them end give up the search of understanding what is really under the hood of economic and technological change..constant destruction and creation which results in the survival of some against some others in a continuous multidimensional struggle. firstly regarding environmental variables and then accompanied possibly by some concepts derived from biological evolution like selection. while the useful aspects-assets-ways-outlines-routines get promoted over the ones not used but what is exactly happening in the economy. Regarding economic and technological change we have to take into account not only that institutions matter. the individual remains more complicated than the spines. information. Some concepts of biology might indeed prove very useful. Analogies with biology can be quite enlightening when used in a broad way in order to describe some aspects only. the ugly would be applying them in much more broader sense because it may stand in some aspects but is actually misleading because though it might describe some existing situations in economics it cannot suffice to actually grasp the gist of the situation. What contributes for example to the creation of technological innovations and how can if we can predict them. Though it will be likely prove to be difficult to arrive at commonly agreed answer to the question above. it is my view that Economic science is in desperate need for a more generalized theory of cultural evolution. A spine hardly resembles a firm. The bad one would be then I guess. culture. tradition and so on in order not only to describe superficially with a catchy analogy economic and technological change but to describe it in a way which helps us to really understand the underlying mechanisms. are of a completely different nature. and breathtaking. variation and use and misuse. drastic changes. Taking all the above into consideration. since the simplest unit of the economy. they obviously fail in terms of prediction and explanatory value. . The spines of Galapagos and their great contribution to science are unfortunately of no use for us further along in our quest. but also that complex reality matters so we have to take into consideration many factors. it’s indirect results are much more important.insufficient since a spine in Galapagos is still pretty different and straight forward compared either to a firm or to individuals or to homo economicus. the real occurring economy and not the one in the course books. we are left with the question who’s got the good role in this analogy. If change is defined away then how are we expected as economists to provide advice regarding how to achieve development and prosperity? By definition change is very difficult to model and that may explain partly why it was traditionally assumed away in mainstream economics. something with its direct results range from completely wrong to misleading –the bad and the ugly we have just seen. unexpected technological booms . is none the less. So then. That is why a more generalized theory of evolution which would take into account cultural. but since they are not adequate to capture the complexity and the broad spectrum of underlying casual factors which exist in them. We have to describe technological and cultural change but we simply cannot enforce theories of biological evolution at economics in an “as is” manner. The phenomena in question which we have to address as economists are very complex. Unfortunately for us.
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