Saturday, September 26, 2009

N vs NP: A First Lecture

I haven't realized that I could possibly encounter topics like this in the entire field of business strategy. However, several notable scholars in organization science, like Dan Levinthal, Jan Rivkin and Nicolaj Siggelkow, among others, have already incorporated some great ideas and modeling techniques from evolutionary biology into the analysis of organizational complexities, routines, imitation, and of course, sustainability of competitive advantage. One technique is the so-called NK modeling, which is first developed by Stuart Kauffman, an American biologist and complex system researcher (here is an excellent survey on NK models in strategy research).

In the original NK model (Kauffman, 1993), the parameter N stands for the number of alleles in the genome that can be either turned on or off, and K stands for epistatic connections – the linkages between the individual alleles. In organization research, the notion of alleles is replaced by individual decisions and epistasis by interdependence between those decisions. N then represents the number of decisions that have to be made and K controls how connected they are. Not surprisingly, as number of decisions and interconnections get larger and larger, we would nevertheless have to deal with more and more complex computational problems.

The "P vs NP" problem is argubly the most important problem dealing with computational complexities. It is also a central outstanding problem of computer science and mathematics (one of the seven Millennium problems). But in many cases, this problem is more or less described in an abstract and obscure manner and is often very difficult to understand. For students and young scholars who want to get a quick but deep impression on what the "P vs NP" problem is, and how it relates to internet security and limits of human knowledge, I would like to recommend you a wonderful talk on this topic - very little abstraction, highly approachable and amusing!

In this talk, Professor Avi Wigderson of Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, attempts to describe the problem's technical, scientific, and philosophical content, its status, and the implications of its two possible resolutions.

Watch it here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tribute to MBAs

Mystery of IV regression, resolved!

via Freakonomics (also see here and here).

MacDonald on Climate Change

Glenn MacDonald, a professor in Business Economics and Strategy here at Olin, became a guest blogger at Orgnizations and Markets. He shared his views on Climate Change and how to reduce carbon emissions from an economic perspective. Excerpts from his post:

"... there are two fundamental economic forces at work. One is that emissions are a classical prisoners’ dilemma...Second, tastes for amenities such as clean air appear to be normal goods, maybe even luxuries...thus, efforts to reduce emissions will grow as more and more countries prosper sufficiently that their inhabitants are willing to forgo consumption for cleaner air, etc. So, from an economic perspective, the most realistic way to fewer carbon emissions and (per my assumption) less climate effects is through the aggressive promotion of activities that promote growth: free trade, democracy, economic freedom, reduced taxes, regulations and tariffs, protection of property rights. . . . Interestingly, freeing individuals to pursue their interests is likely the best practical/realistic approach to what, at first blush, seems like a classical case for collective action. "

Friday, September 4, 2009

Intellectual Whodunit: The Myth of the Rational Market

Listed by Financial Times as one of the 15 business books of the year, Justin Fox’s The Myth of the Rational Market tells the story of how we came to believe that financial markets knew best, and how that belief steered us wrong.

"Chronicling the rise and fall of efficient market theory and its century-long role in the making of the modern financial industry, the book is both history and intellectual whodunit. It brings to life the people and ideas that forged modern finance and investing, from the Great Depression and into the financial calamity of today. It’s a tale largely about professors, but professors who made and lost fortunes, battled fiercely over ideas, beat the house in blackjack, wrote bestselling books, and played major roles on the world stage. It’s also a tale of Wall Street’s evolution, the power of the market to generate wealth and wreak havoc, and free-market capitalism’s recurrent war with itself. "

Economists got it all wrong?

In this well-crafted but controversial essay, Paul Krugman reviewed the field of macroeconomics and financial economics in retrospect: from the neoclassical view of the market economy to the Great Depression and heydays of Keynesianism; from the rise of monetarists and the rebirth of the free-market economics to the debate between the freshwater and the saltwater school; from the heydays of EMH, rational expectation and RBC to the upsurging movement of behavioral finance and "frictions" macro.

On the policy side, he also pointed out, that conceited economists and policy makers often got the problems so wrong that the current state of the dominant views has to change. Perhaps we need to re-embrace Keynes as the pendulum continues to swing.

via Mankiw. Here is some alternative view.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What to know to get control of your own decisions?

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, spoke at one TED conference.

FT Business Books of the Year

15 books are on the long list competing for the prize:

This Time is Different, by Carmen Reinhart & Ken Rogoff
The Match King, Frank Partnoy
Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed
The Myth of the Rational Market, by Justin Fox
House of Cards, by William Cohan
In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel
Animal Spirits, by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller
Free, by Chris Anderson
Waste, by Tristram Stuart
Supercorp, by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
How the Mighty Fall, by Jim Collins
Why Your World is About to Get a a Whole Lot Smaller, by Jeff Rubin
Clever, by Gareth Jones
Imagining India, by Nandan Nilekani
Good Value, Stephen Green