W. Brian Arthur

W. Brian Arthur

William Brian Arthur (1945, Belfast, Northern Ireland) is an economist credited with creating the modern theory of increasing returns. [ [http://www.slate.com/default.aspx?id=2485&sidebar=51109 Forward by Nobel Economist Kenneth Arrow to Arthur's Arthur's book "Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy"] ] He has lived and worked in Northern California for many years. He is a sought-after speaker on economics and complexity theory in technology and financial markets, and other applications. Presently, he is on the external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute, and a Visiting Researcher at the Intelligent Systems Lab [ [http://www.parc.com/research/isl/default.html Intelligent Systems Lab] ] at PARC.


W. Brian Arthur was born in 1945 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He received his B. Sc. in Electrical Engineering at Queens University Belfast (1966), an M. A. in Operational Research (1967), at Lancaster University, Lancaster, England, and an M. A. in Mathematics at the University of Michigan (1969). Arthur received his Ph.D. in Operations Research (1973) and an M. A. in Economics (1973) from the University of California, Berkeley.

At age 37, Dr. Arthur was the youngest endowed chair holder at Stanford University.

Arthur is the former Morrison Professor of Economics and Population Studies; Professor of Human Biology, Stanford University, 1983-1996. He is the co-founder of the Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies [ [http://www.stanford.edu/group/morrinst/ Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies] ] at Stanford.

Arthur is one of the distinguished External Research Faculty [ [http://www.santafe.edu/about/people-external-faculty.php External Research Faculty] ] members at the Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Arthur's long association with the Institute started in 1987 with the introduction and support of Stanford economist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Kenneth Arrow, and Philip Warren Anderson, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Arthur was named as the first director of the interdisciplinary Economics Program at the Institute beginning in 1988. He was named the Citibank Professor at the Institute in 1994, with the endowment of Citibank and then-Citibank CEO John S. Reed.cite web
title = Coming from Your Inner Self, Conversation with W. Brian Arthur, Xerox PARC, April 16, 1999, by Joseph Jaworski, Gary Jusela, C. Otto Scharmer
publisher = [Dialog on Leadership]
url = http://www.dialogonleadership.org/Arthur-1999.html
accessdate = 2007-10-27

He served several terms on the Science Board [ [http://www.santafe.edu/about/people-science-board.php Science Board] , ] 1988-2006, and Board of Trustees [ [http://www.santafe.edu/about/people-trustees.php Board of Trustees] ] , 1994-2004, during his association with the Institute.

Arthur was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987 for his work on increasing returns. Arthur was also awarded the prestigious Schumpeter Prize in Economics [ [http://www.iss-evec.de/schumpeter_prize.htm Schumpeter Prize in Economics] ] award in 1990. The Schumpeter Prize is named in honor of the one the most important economists and political scientists of the twentieth century, Joseph Schumpeter.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Economic Sciences degree from the National University of Ireland (2000)

He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society, World Economic Forum, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.


Arthur is noted for his seminal works "studying the impacts of positive feedback or increasing returns in economies, and how these increasing returns magnify small, random occurrences in the market place."cite web
title = Legg Mason conference bio for W. Brian Arthur
publisher = [Legg Mason]
url = http://www.leggmason.com/billmiller/conference/speakers/arthur.asp
accessdate = 2007-11-19

These principles are especially significant in technology-specific industries. His concepts on increasing returns were utilized during the antitrust case brought by the United States Department of Justice against Microsoft.cite web
title = Short Background: Brian Arthur
publisher = Santa Fe Institute
url = http://www.santafe.edu/~wbarthur/Bio_Info/Background.html
accessdate = 2007-10-27
] (EL1)

Complexity Theory

Arthur is one of the early economic researchers in the emerging complexity field. Specifically, his complexity studies focused on the "economics of high technology; how business evolves in an era of high technology; cognition in the economy; and financial markets."

Arthur's comments on the evolution of complexity theory as a different way of seeing and conducting scientific inquiry:

Complexity theory is really a movement of the sciences. Standard sciences tend to see the world as mechanistic. That sort of science puts things under a finer and finer microscope. In biology the investigations go from classifying organisms to functions of organisms, then organs themselves, then cells, and then organelles, right down to protein and enzymes, metabolic pathways, and DNA. This is finer and finer reductionist thinking.

The movement that started complexity looks in the other direction. It’s asking, how do things assemble themselves? How do patterns emerge from these interacting elements? Complexity is looking at interacting elements and asking how they form patterns and how the patterns unfold. It’s important to point out that the patterns may never be finished. They’re open-ended. In standard science this hit some things that most scientists have a negative reaction to. Science doesn’t like perpetual novelty.

Publications and Lectures

* 1994. "Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy". University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
* 1997. "The Economy as an Evolving Complex System II", edited with Steven Durlauf and David Lane, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, Series in the Sciences of Complexity.
* 2008. "The Nature of Technology: What it Is and How it Evolves". The Free Press and Penguin Books.


External links

* [http://www.santafe.edu/~wbarthur/ W. Brian Arthur, External Research Faculty, Santa Fe Institute]
* [http://www.santafe.edu/~wbarthur/recentpapers.html Recent Papers] by W. Brian Arthur
* [http://www.leggmason.com/thoughtleaderforum/2004/conference/transcripts/arthur_trans.asp Legg Mason Thought Leader Forum 2004] , Dr. Arthur's remarks plus mind-mapped notes.

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