W. Brian Arthur


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Biographical Information

W. Brian Arthur is an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and Visiting Researcher in the Intelligent Systems Lab at PARC (formerly Xerox Parc).

Arthur pioneered the modern study of positive feedbacks or increasing returns in the economy--in particular their role in magnifying small, random events in the economy and locking in dominant players. This work has gone on to become the basis of our understanding of the high-tech economy. In 2009 he published the book:  The Nature of Technology: What it Is and How it Evolves, "an elegant and powerful theory of technology's origins and evolution."

Arthur is also one of the pioneers of the science of complexity. His association with the Santa Fe Institute goes back to 1987. He is a member of SFI's Founders Society, and in 1988 directed its first research program—work that has subsequently become the basis for Complexity Economics. He has served many years on SFI's Science Board and Board of Trustees.

From 1983 to 1996 Arthur was Morrison Professor of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford University, at the time of appointment the youngest endowed professor at Stanford.

Arthur is the recipient of the Schumpeter Prize in economics, the Lagrange Prize in complexity science, and two honorary doctorates. He earned his Ph.D. from Berkeley in Operations Research and has other degrees in economics, electrical engineering, and mathematics.


Arthur is a frequent keynote speaker on such topics as: How exactly does innovation work and how can it be fostered? What is happening in the economy, and how should we rethink economics? How is the digital revolution playing out in the economy? How will US and European national competitiveness fare, given the rise of China and India?

Booking agent: Tom Neilssen at Brightsight Group.

Business Résumé PDF

For a history of Arthur's early work in increasing returns and complexity and role in getting Santa Fe Institute's research started, see M. Mitchell Waldrop's book Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, Simon and Schuster, 1993.