Found in 7 comments on Hacker News
mindcrime · 2014-09-12 · Original thread
IMO, this is the most important bit in the article, and it also seems to be the piece that everybody is overlooking:

So why are economists obsessed with competition as an ideal state? It is a relic of history. Economists copied their mathematics from the work of 19th-century physicists: They see individuals and businesses as interchangeable atoms, not as unique creators. Their theories describe an equilibrium state of perfect competition because that is what's easy to model, not because it represents the best of business.

Yes, exactly. Pretty much all classical / neo-classical economic thought is rooted in the idea of equilibrium, but a strong case can be made that economic systems are not equilibrium systems. Eric Beinocker covers this ground very thoroughly in The Origin of Wealth[1]. I would personally recommend this book to everyone interested in economics. Beinhocker and the other "complexity economists" present a model of economic activity as an evolutionary system with periods of punctuated equilibrium as opposed to a strict equilibrium system.


In business, equilibrium means stasis, and stasis means death. If your industry is in a competitive equilibrium, the death of your business won't matter to the world; some other undifferentiated competitor will always be ready to take your place.

Bingo. Yes, the "goal" is to achieve a "monopoly" but even if you do achieve that, you don't get to set still and just collect limitless money for perpetuity... because evolution will eventually deliver a competitor in one form or another.

mindcrime · 2014-01-17 · Original thread
What's everyone's recommended readings? I'm halfway through thinking forth at the moment and want to keep the ball rolling!

Not so much hardcore technology stuff, but here's a reading list I put together a while back, aimed at IT executives, CIOs, etc.

Not on that list (I had not read it at the time), but one I'd highly recommend is Eric Beinhocker's The Origin of Wealth.

mindcrime · 2014-01-08 · Original thread
I recently read an absolutely fascinating book called The Origin of Wealth.[1] Nominally the topic is economics, but it's far broader than that, talking about how all components of the economic system of wealth creation (including "firms") are part of a Complex Adaptive System, and are often CAS's themselves. The author makes the argument that a firm is a CAS using evolution to explore a "fitness landscape" in terms of it's "Business Plan" (his term that encompasses strategy at various levels within the firm). IF you buy this theory, it has some very interesting implications in terms of how firms should be managed, and the author provides some interesting thoughts.

One point that stood out to me, is that all firms face a constant, internal tension between the need to do "operational stuff" that actually works very well with a traditional hierarchical management approach, and the need to do "exploratory work" which does NOT map well to hierarchy. Failing to understand and manage this tension may be why many firms feel so dysfunctional.

The other point that stood out to me, is the idea that instead of a strict hierarchy - or complete undirected chaos - the best way to combine efforts towards both goals is by having individuals with a high degree of autonomy and empowerment coupled with a strong shared vision and common goals.

In this model, the primary purpose of leadership is to imbue the members of the organization with that "strong shared vision and common goals". Or to put it more simply, you tell people what needs to be accomplished, not how to accomplish it, and trust them to use their judgment.

On a related note, the book Adaptive Enterprise[2] makes a strong case for the idea of high decentralized teams, connected to each other through what the author calls a "Commitment Management Protocol".[3]

I would say that both of these books have some useful ideas that could be applied to construct a better management structure than what most present-day firms use.




adrianscott · 2011-10-31 · Original thread
The Origin of Wealth:

Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics

don't let the false prophets of equilibrium theory and efficient market theory bend your ear too far ;)

if you get into looking for a job, there are a few books that list common questions for quant jobs also...

drallison · 2011-10-21 · Original thread
Economics could (and should) be much more of an engineering science than it is. The math and theories are rather beautiful, but do not have much to do with the real non-linear chaotic world in which we live. For some reason, no one expects that economic theory be predictive in the same sense that we expect of theories in the physical sciences.

It seems to me that a bit of data and a little bit of modeling would have greatly improved the opinion piece this document describes.

As for Economics, it is really time to rethink the field. I rather liked Eric D. Beinhocker's book, The Origin of Wealth ( See also his Wikipedia bio:

I think the green line is average fitness of all iterations and the black line is a logarithmic index of each generation's maximum fitness to the optimal achieved (both relative to time). So the black line pretty quickly gets bounded by an asymptote at the top of the screen, because the improvements in fitness are far more significant early on. Basically an example of diminishing returns...

There is a great discussion of this (and a further mapping of fitness functions and evolutionary algorithms to a 2-dimensional "fitness landscape") in The Origin of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker -

Absolutely phenomenal exploration of complexity economics.

The source cited, Benhockers book (, was a great introduction to "complexity economics". However, if you are more interested in the actual work, head to amazon and buy Growing Artificial Societies ( or head to Google Books (

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