The book . . . is . . . a piece of serious popular science writing; the author tries to be engaging and clear but is not afraid to use a little mathematics. Krugman's exuberance in describing his work helps get the reader over the rough spots. As a set of lectures aimed at people with backgrounds in economics, it also includes some technical sections that would be hard going for the uninitiated. Fortunately, these can be skipped with little loss of meaning.
. . . Krugman's general approach seems . . . plausible . . . for developing a general understanding of self-organization and complexity, for two reasons. First, he is willing to suppose that there is more than one process going on in the world, as shown by his instability and growth models. It really does seem absurd to suppose that the power law for word-use frequencies in English is generated by the same kind of process that determines earthquakes. SOC, order from instability, and Simon-style growth models appear to be independent explanations for power-law regularities. Second, Krugman starts with a more grounded understanding of the phenomena he studies, so that he knows better what features of reality are lost when he simplifies things in his models.
From the Back Cover
In the last few years the concept of self-organizing systems - of complex systems in which ramdomness and chaos seem spontaneously to evolve into unexpected order - has become an increasingly influential idea that links together researchers in many fields, from artificial intelligence to chemistry, from evolution to geology. For whatever reason, however, this movement has so far largely passed economic theory by. It is time to see how the new ideas can usefully be applied to that immensely complex, but indisputably self-organizing system we call the economy.
This short book, written in an informal and controversial style, shows how models of self-organization can be applied to many economic phenomena - how the principles of "order from instability" which explain the growth of hurricanes and embryos, can also explain the formation of cities and business cycles; how the principles of "order from random growth" can explain the strangely simple rules that describe the sizes of earthquakes, meteorites, and metropolitan areas. Without discarding the powerful insights of conventional economic analysis, Krugman weaves together strands from many different disciplines, from location theory to biology, to create a surprising new view of how the economy forms structures in space and time.
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