Complexity and Co-Evolution

Complexity and Co-Evolution

Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems

Edited by Elizabeth Garnsey and James McGlade

This book applies ideas and methods from the complexity perspective to key concerns in the social sciences, exploring co-evolutionary processes that have not yet been addressed in the technical or popular literature on complexity. Authorities in a variety of fields – including evolutionary economics, innovation and regeneration studies, urban modelling and history – re-evaluate their disciplines within this framework. The book explores the complex dynamic processes that give rise to socio-economic change over space and time, with reference to empirical cases including the emergence of knowledge-intensive industries and decline of mature regions, the operation of innovative networks and the evolution of localities and cities. Sustainability is a persistent theme and the practicability of intervention is examined in the light of these perspectives.

Chapter 2: Evolution, Diversity and Organization

Peter Allen, Mark Strathern and James Baldwin

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics


Peter Allen, Mark Strathern and James Baldwin INTRODUCTION Throughout this book we are discussing the nature and mechanisms that drive change in the economic, social and spatial structures of human systems. This is often supposed to be quite distinct from the evolution of natural systems, since human intention and intelligence is assumed to constitute a qualitative difference. However, we shall show that this is not really the case when the complex and emergent nature of systems robs us of predictive power and knowledge, and makes our actions as exploratory as that generated by genetic variation. When we examine models of natural evolution such as those of Evolutionary Stable Strategies (Maynard-Smith 1979), we see that they contain mechanisms of reproduction and mortality whose repeated action over time leads some population types to flourish and others to decline. In other words they are closed models that are only able to discuss single steps in the whole chain of events. These models of evolution do not ask where new ‘behaviours’ come from, but simply show that, if several are present, then under competition some will grow at the expense of others. The idea is that, in the natural world that surrounds us, such eliminations have already occurred, and what we see is the ‘outcome’ of such a process, all the marvellously adapted, mutually interdependent behaviours of living creatures. Behind this is the idea of evolution as an optimizing ‘force’, which has led to the retention of the organisms we see because of...

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