First Sci-Fi Economics Lab seminar on Monday 16th December

Hello guys, just a reminder that @mstn and I will be discussing a possible extension of his pre-paper tomorrow, Monday December 16th, at 17.00 Brussels time. Everyone is welcome, maybe it can become a small, informal seminar. Information behind the link below.

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Ok, this is just over.

  • @mstn presented his model, which is a zero-growth variant of the Goodwin model. He concludes that zero growth requires tight controls on the size of the labor force. The society implied by the model’s mathematical conditions for zero growth is so different from ours that it would indeed take a sci-fi novel to describe it – call it “cyberpunk dystopia”.

  • We observed that it could be interesting to use the zero-growth Goodwin model as a playground for developing our collective modeling muscle. We discussed one variation and one extension.

  • The variation is: decreasing labor force, increasing labor productivity. This would be a Jackpot world (in the sense of William Gibson’s The peripheral: the Jackpot is the multi-causal, 40 years-long apocalypse described in the novel). People die off, output stays the same, but productivity increases, so that unemployment does not necessarily increase as a consequence of zero growth. This can be explored by tweaking the parameters of Marco’s model.

  • The extension is: decreasing the number of hours worked per unit of time, with increasing productivity of labor. This is a zero-growth Keynesian world (in the sense of Economic perspectives for our grandchildren, 1930), characterized by a lot of leisure time. It is a world shadowed partially of Doctorow’s Walkaway (getting a shift at the bar in the Belt and Bracers is a privilege, and there are always more people who want to do it than available slots). This requires writing some code to decouple the number of people alive from the number of person-hours offered on the labor market.

  • We next had a discussion on the modelling strategy, prompted by @Karl’s mention of doughnut economics, and how could a model like this keep track of the non-strictly economic components of prosperity. We agreed that we could explore “implicit” modelling. For example, in Marco’s model, imposing a zero rate of growth to the Goodwin model is a proxy for achieving sustainability. It is very economical: instead of making a complicated set of equations, you just assume that the economy is small enough for the the carrying capacity of the planet, and then you set it so it will never grow. Shortening the working week is a proxy for shifting to non-material consumption. This way, we may not need to grift endogenous preferences at all, because we just simulate them by imposing a shorter working week.

Action points:

  • @mstn to publish his work on GitHub (includes running code for the zero-growth Goodwin model).
  • @alberto (and whoever else is interested) to start working on the extension.
  • @Karl (and whoever else is interested) to consider interpretations and how best to read the model’s conclusions in light of the current large-scale economic trends (in the world, not in the model).

My apologies to @fjanss, whose message I saw too late to welcome him here in Brussels.


A note for participants, especially @Karl: we discussed how natural sciences keep track of the flow of services that nature can bestow on humanity by non-economic methodologies. In this context, I quoted a Science paper. Here it is: