W. Brian Arthur

Arthur picture

External Professor, Santa Fe Institute and Visiting Researcher, Systems Sciences Lab, PARC

 

Recent Things

New essay, in McKinsey Quarterly:"Where is technology taking the economy?" Pdf version.

An article by Fast Company: "A Short History of the Most Important Theory in Technology"

 

"Complexity Economics: A New Framework for Economic Thought"

 

Speaker

W. Brian Arthur is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and meetings. Some recent topics are: Where is technology taking the economy? What is the future of jobs and automation? The arrival of artificial intelligence in the economy.

Booking agent: Tom Neilssen at Brightsight Group


Recent Book

Oxford University Press

Book Preface

"Brian Arthur has made a great contribution by reorienting the way we look at economic phenomena. It is very good to have many of the papers in which Arthur introduced the complexity approach reproduced here. " — Kenneth J. Arrow

 

External Professor, Santa Fe Institute

and Visiting Researcher, System Sciences Lab, PARC


W. Brian Arthur is an economist and complexity thinker. He is best known for his work on network effects locking markets in to the domination of a single player. He is also one of the pioneers of the science of complexity—the science of how patterns and structures self-organize. He is a member of the Founders Society of the Santa Fe Institute and in 1988 ran its first research program. He has served on SFI's Science Board for 18 years and its Board of Trustees for 10 years, and is currently External Professor at SFI.

Arthur held the Morrison Chair of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford from 1983 to 1996. He has degrees in operations research, economics, mathematics, and electrical engineering. Arthur is a well-known keynote speaker.


Research

Brian Arthur is known for 3 main sets of ideas:

Increasing returns. In the 1980s Arthur developed a way for economics to understand how increasing returns or positive feedbacks (e.g. network effects) operate in the economy — in particular how they can magnify small, random events and act to lock in dominant players. This work has gone on to become important to our understanding of the high-tech economy.

Complexity economics. In the late 1980s, Arthur led a group at the Santa Fe Institute to develop an alternative approach to economics—"complexity economics." Standard economics is based on the idea of hyper-rational actors operating in a static equilibrium world; complexity economics assumes actors in the economy do not necessarily face well-defined problems or use super-rationality. They explore, try to make sense, react and re-react to the outcomes they together create. The economy is not in stasis but always forming, always "discovering" fresh novelty. In this non-equilibrium view of the economy, bubbles and crashes can happen, markets can be "gamed" or exploited, and history and institutions matter.

How technology evolves. In 2009, Arthur published The Nature of Technology: What it Is and How it Evolves. The book argues that technology, like biological life, evolves from earlier forms. But the main mechanism is not Darwin's, it is the combining of earlier technologies—earlier forms. The book explores in detail how innovation works. And it argues that economy isn't just a container for its technologies; the economy emerges from its technologies.

Google Scholar Citations for W. Brian Arthur


Awards

Arthur was awarded the inaugural Lagrange Prize in Complexity Science in 2008, and the Schumpeter Prize in Economics in 1990. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, 1987-88, Fellow of the Econometric Society, and IBM Faculty Fellow. He holds honorary doctorates from the National Univ. of Ireland (Galway) 2000, and Lancaster University (UK) 2009.


Three Other Books

The Nature of Technology: What it Is and How it Evolves, The Free Press (Simon & Schuster) in the US, Penguin Books in the UK, 2009.

The Economy as an Evolving Complex System II, edited with Steven Durlauf and David Lane, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass., Series in the Sciences of Complexity, 1997 

Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1994