Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cross Fertilization - Economics and Biology

Forum post... My Theory On Human Intelligence... And More...

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You really don't have to be here.  It's a bit sad that I have to point this out.  But if the moderators aren't going to do so then somebody has to.

Still here?  Great!  I'll take this to mean that you're willing to overlook my terrible writing and many other failings.  Thanks!  Your tolerance is really appreciated!

So here's my blog entry... What Do Coywolves, Mr. Nobody, Plants And Fungi All Have In Common?

It's a real roller coaster!  As you can tell from the title of this thread, it covers "my?" theory of why we're soooo smart.  It also covers several other topics in biology and economics.  If you spot something that you disagree with... or don't understand... then please feel free to bring it to my attention.  And if you know of any relevant articles or papers... then definitely bring those to my attention as well!

Rather than wasting all this valuable OP space redundantly summarizing all the content in that blog entry... I'll give you more bang for your buck by sharing some supplemental content...
Creative insights are often easier when theories from one field are explored in a different system as we do here, applying economic concepts to microbial interactions. - Joan Strassmann, Microbes swap for tiny goods in minuscule markets
....and...
A perspective borrowed from another field of research often offers insights for generating new hypotheses and approaches (1). Biological market theory argues that exchanges of resources and services among organisms can be analyzed in market terms, with individuals making strategic trading investments to maximize market gains (2, 3). However, it is unknown how applicable the theory is across diverse systems or whether it can be of use to predict how cooperative strategies evolve. - Kiers et al., Evolution of microbial markets
I really love this!  It's wonderful when biologists "borrow" economists' tools and economists "borrow" biologists' tools.  Maybe eventually we won't know whose tools are whose.  Hmm... I wonder how many biologists are married to economists?  There's got to be a few... right?  I'd want to hang out with them all the time.  Watch some "cross-fertilization" in action.  Errr... I mean... *protests too much*

Want more examples?  Ok... here's a biologist borrowing from economics...
Economists employ tools that can also be used to analyze the growth and body form of organisms in terms of evolution and ecology.  According to this approach, plants resemble factories because they also acquire raw materials, in this case CO2, water, light and essential ions, to fabricate value-added 'products', specifically progeny.  Like any enterprise using the same materials that other factories require to manufacture the same products, co-occurring plants compete.  Just how severely they interfere with one another depends in large part on the distinctness of the strategies used to obtain mutually required resources. - David Benzing,  Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation
And... here's an economist borrowing from biology...
It is sufficient if all firms are slightly different so that in the new environmental situation those who have their fixed internal conditions closer to the new, but unknown, optimum position now have a greater probability of survival and growth.  They will grow relative to other firms and become the prevailing type, since survival conditions may push the observed characteristics of the set of survivors toward the unknowable optimum by either (1) repeated trials or (2) survival of more of those who happened to be near the optimum - determined ex post.  If these new conditions last "very long," the dominant firms will be different ones from those which prevailed or would have prevailed under other conditions.  - Armen Alchian, Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory
That one is pretty easy for me to grasp... but this next one is a little tricky...
In this sense, the movement of a market economy differs from the process of biological evolution. A species evolves towards increasing adaptation to its environment by a highly parallel process. The state space in this case consists of the genetic code. But a species is not in one position in this space at any one time: it is at as many positions as there are individual members of the species, each with a unique combination of genes. A species represents a neighbourhood in gene space. It applies a parallel search procedure: millions of alternative designs are produced and compared each generation. Although a market economy can to some extent emulate this in the area of product development within individual competitive markets, the economy as a whole acts as a single processor. - Allin F. Cottrell and W. Paul Cockshott, Information and Economics: A Critique of Hayek
What?  Are firms all the same species with different/unique individuals?  Or are restaurants all the same species and banks another species?  Anyways, if you're looking for a good critique of market economics then that's one of the best!

For those of you who like knowing technical terms... there's a term for when economists study topics in other fields... economics imperialism... but I'm not sure if there's a technical term for when economists borrow tools from biologists and vice versa.  Is there?  If not, should there be?  "Biological markets"... is kinda close.  It's a good term to search for if you want to learn more about how biologists have applied economics to biology.

Have many of you biology experts ever thought about using economics to better understand/explain biology?  For those of you that haven't... I hope this material helps inspire you to do so!  Or at least to date an economist?

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See also: A Test For PhDemon

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