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Applied Evolutionary Economics and Complex Systems

Edited by John Foster and Werner Hölzl

This book takes up the challenge of developing an empirically based foundation for evolutionary economics built upon complex system theory. The authors argue that modern evolutionary economics is at a crossroads. At a theoretical level, modern evolutionary economics is moving away from the traditional focus of the operation of selection mechanisms and towards concepts of ‘complex adaptive systems’ and self-organisation. On an applied level, new and innovative methods of empirical research are being developed and considered. The contributors take up this challenge and examine aspects of complexity and evolution in applied contexts.
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Chapter 5: Entropy statistics as a framework to analyse technological evolution

Koen Frenken and Alessandro Nuvolari


Koen Frenken and Alessandro Nuvolari* 1. INTRODUCTION Many scholars have suggested that important similarities exist between technological development and biological evolution and that, for this reason, evolutionary models can provide us with fairly adequate representations of technical change (Nelson and Winter 1982, Basalla 1988, Mokyr 1990). However, as has been repeatedly pointed out by those who endorse the adoption of an evolutionary approach, there are also substantive differences between biological evolution and technological evolution (Freeman 1991, Nelson 1995). Therefore, evolutionary models should always be employed with caution, taking into account the specificities of the processes of mutation and selection under study. The issue we are considering here concerns evolutionary processes of a special kind, namely the way complex entities evolve through processes of mutation and selection. Recent evolutionary theorizing in biology and artificial intelligence has stressed that complex entities evolve in ways that are different from non-complex ones in important respects. This claim also has significant implications for models of technological evolution, as a technological artefact is a complex evolving entity par excellence (Rosenberg 1976). Following Simon’s (1969 [1996]) work on the design of artificial systems, we describe a technological artefact as a man-made system constituted by interconnected components that are intended to collectively perform a number of functions. The complexity of an artefact is due to the interdependencies between components, which causes only some combinations of elements to work well together, in the sense that these combinations are capable of achieving satisfactory levels...

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