How Technology is Recreating the 21st-century Economy


Date Thursday August 4th 2011
Time 5:30-7:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC

PARC Forum

Every 50 years or so a new body of technology comes along and slowly transforms the economy. Can such a transformation be happening today? And if so… how does it work?

Brian Arthur — an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, pioneer of complexity theory, and longtime PARC Visiting Researcher – will attempt to answer these and other questions in this PARC Forum talk.

Digital technology runs deeper than merely providing computation, internet commerce, and social media. It is silently creating a second, unseen economy that is deeply interconnected, invisible, self-configuring, and intelligent — and this, he argues, is changing the ways business and the economy are structured.


W. Brian Arthur is an External Faculty Member at the Santa Fe Institute and Visiting Researcher at PARC.

Arthur pioneered the modern study of positive feedbacks/ increasing returns in the economy -- in particular, their role in magnifying small, random economic events -- and this work became the basis of our understanding of the high-tech economy. Arthur is also one of the pioneers of the science of complexity.

His most recent book is The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves, in which he argued that technology is self-creating (though it requires human agency to build it up and reproduce it) and evolves much like organisms evolve (though radical novelty in technology cannot be explained by the Darwinian model of variation and selection, and instead arises by combining existing elements).

Arthur was the Morrison Professor of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford University, and the first director of the Economics Program at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. He earned his Ph.D. from Berkeley in Operations Research and has other degrees in economics, engineering, and mathematics including two honorary doctorates.

Among his many honors, Arthur received the Schumpeter Prize in economics and the Lagrange Prize in complexity science.

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