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How Economists Can Get Alife: Abbreviated Version


  • Leigh Tesfatsion

    (Iowa State University)


Artificial life (alife) is the bottom-up study of basic phenomena commonly associated with living agents, such as self- replication, evolution, adaptation, self-organization, exploitation, competition, cooperation, and social network formation. Alife complements the traditional biological and social sciences concerned with the analytical, laboratory, and field study of living organisms by attempting to simulate or synthesize these basic phenomena within computers, robots, and other man-made media. One goal is to enhance the understanding of actual and potential life processes. A second goal is to use nature as an inspiration for the development of solution algorithms for difficult optimization problems characterized by high- dimensional search domains, nonlinearities, and/or multiple local optima. This paper presents a brief overview of alife, stressing aspects especially relevant for the study of decentralized market economies. In particular, a recently developed trade network game (TNG) is used to illustrate how the basic alife paradigm might be specialized to economics. This type of research has recently come to be known as agent- based computational economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Leigh Tesfatsion, 1995. "How Economists Can Get Alife: Abbreviated Version," Computational Economics 9501001, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 21 Jun 1998.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpco:9501001
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    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Schools of Economic Thought, Epistemology of Economics > Heterodox Approaches > Thermoeconomics > The economy system as a living organism

    More about this item


    Artificial life; agent-based computational economics; evolutionary match-and-play game; trade networks; iterated prisoner's dilemma.;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C8 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design


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