Agent-Based Modeling

I have to admit that I am at a loss as to how to follow up to Fernando Esponda's curiosity about how medical thinking could be applied to economics. Esponda: "Can the treatment of a disease be mapped in any meaningful way to the treatment of economic ailments? Think of abnormal growths, what is the equivalent of a biopsy for a tumor in an economic bubble?" These are difficult questions and I think in considering economics, identifying "ailments" implies deciding standards of "best practice" and even a consideration of ethics—what a slippery slope! So, rather than opening that can of worms I dug up some good introductory material on agent-based modeling in medicine.

In the above video Josh Epstein (of The Brookings Institution) describes how a smallpox outbreak could be explored through agent-based modeling. So with this medical example in mind, can the ScienceBlogs community point to any applications of this technique in economics? If you have any links or leads please share them, if I can find enough material I'll compile it into a post later this week.

More like this

I pulled the same thing as a kid... though mommy's transgression was bringing my brother into the world. I'm not sure what they did to bring me out of it, my father has always had the habit of bringing home strays (a boa constrictor, and then the rat the boa wouldn't eat were a highlight of childhood along with a number of dogs and rescued reptiles)

Well. Let me ramble a bit. In the video, John Epstein talks about infectious diseases and terrorism; but the largest epidemic diseases in advanced developed economies like the U.S. are not the infectious diseases; rather they are the diseases of affluence (e.g.cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer, multiple sclerosis, obesity, etc.). Now these diseases of affluence do not occur in underdeveloped nations in which the people are too poor to afford to eat like kings (i.e too poor to eat very much meat, dairy and eggs.) In underdeveloped countried people suffer from infectious diseases and enviromental diseases (e.g. arsenic in well water). Now to look at the diseases of affluence reference the book The China Study by Colin Campbell ( a major study over decades by a mainstream nutritional researcher on incidence of disease in rural China (i.e. vegetable plant based diet exlusively) verus non rural big city Chinese affluent diet. My question for John Epstein is can he model the economic costs of a plant based diet versus the typical western diet on a society, assumming Colin Campbell's conclusions about diet. We are obviously making assumptions that differ from mainstream marketing by cheese companies for example. Cheese is good food versus it will clog your arteries and kill you (heart attack). for further reference the video Eating and the video Cancer by Mike Anderson and his companion books to the two videos too. See the videos first. Meat, eggs and cheese are slowly becoming recognized as the new tobacco; they kill you slowly with diseases of affluence and this costs society model, productivity, environmental costs etc. So this is one possible model.

Now let me think up another possible idea for John Epstein to model. There is a book by Lewis Hyde called The Gift (creativity and the artist in the modern world). Now the idea of this book is sort of that their is a market economiy and their is a gift economy. And in primitive cultures, the gift economy manifests itself in various gift cultural practices; such as if you give me a gift; I must give some specified other person a gift and that these gifts circulate through the society and stabilize the society. Now Hyde then argues that in our modern culture artist mainly need to participate in the gift economy. Art a book, a poainting is a gift to the world (yes there are now all the intellectual property rights issues verus the open internet free information issues). See the nice connection to the modern world. Hyde is workin on his next book in this area about the commons (a park, a book , an idea can't be patented, only a product or process). At any rate could John take this gift idea of Hydes and build an economic model and show that if an economy doesn't have a strong enough gift flow versus a market (i.e. greed) flow that infact an economy will stall and go into recession or depression or. Mainstream economist don't apparently like Lewis Hyde's ideas though his book has become a cult book for artists.

Well that's two ideas.
Comments by Thomas Neil Neubert, author of A Critique of Pure Physics

Oh by the way, one more thought on this open based, gift idea. My two books a novel and a physics book are both fully readable online on Google books. Hence my interest in this open versus market issue. Click on my name below for the right URL. above I accidentally put the wrong URL.