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Identifying Scientific Revolutions in Economics: Can Dynamic Topic Modeling Reveal the Novel Content and Social Forces Associated with Paradigm Shifts?

12 Apr
Friday, 04/12/2019 12:15pm to 2:00pm
Computer Science Building, Room 150/11
CSSI Lunch
Speaker: Sam Bowles (Santa Fe Institute; UMass Economics)

(joint work with Wendy Carlin, Simon De Deo, Simon Halliday, Suresh Naidu, and Sahana Subramanyam)

A paradigm, Kuhn wrote, is what good undergraduates learn about the questions that define a field and the appropriate methods for answering them. We use topic modeling to explore the changing content of economics and its undergraduate textbooks.  The corpora of documents constituting our observed data include twenty-seven thousand research papers published in top economics journals over the past 120 years, Nobel Laureate lectures since the inception of the prize in economics in 1969, and chapters of leading economics texts in various periods. We ask:  can topic modeling illuminate effects of changes in the economy - the Great Depression, the 2008 global financial crisis - on the content of economics texts?  Does topic modeling suggest that the contemporary research corpus has diverged from undergraduate texts, and if so, is economics ripe for a paradigm shift? Future work will use dynamic topic modeling to study the history-contingent evolution of topics and texts, and the hierarchical nesting of topics. We are looking for criticism and suggested directions for additional work. 

Samuel Bowles (PhD, Economics, Harvard University, 1965) is Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute where he heads the Behavioral Sciences Program. He taught economics at Harvard from 1965 to 1973 and since then at the University of Massachusetts, where he is now emeritus professor and at the University of Siena. His studies on cultural and genetic evolution have challenged the conventional economic assumption that people are motivated entirely by self-interest. Recent papers have also explored how organizations, communities and nations could be better governed in light of the fact that altruistic and ethical motives are common in most populations. Bowles' is now engaged in theoretical and empirical studies of political hierarchy and wealth inequality and their evolution over the very long run.  His  scholarly papers  have appeared in Science,  Nature, New Scientist, American Economic Review, Theoretical Population Biology, Games and Economic Behavior,  Journal of Theoretical Biology, Journal of Political Economy,  Quarterly Journal of Economics, Behavioral and Brain Science, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Journal of Public Economics, Theoretical Primatology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA),  Harvard Business Review, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Current Anthropology,  and the Economic Journal. His recent books include The Moral Economy:  Why good laws are no substitute for good citizens (Yale University Press, 2016), A Cooperative Species: Human reciprocity and its evolution (with Herbert Gintis, Princeton University Press, 2011), The new economics of inequality and redistribution, (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions and Evolution (Princeton University Press, 2004). He is currently working on Equality's Moment: The origins and future of economic disparity and political hierarchy and Microeconomics: Competition, Conflict, and Cooperation (a text for 2nd year undergraduate micro co authored with Duncan Foley and Simon Halliday).   He has also served as an economic advisor to the governments of Cuba, South Africa and Greece, U.S presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, the Legislature of the State of New Mexico, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Pontifical Academy of Science (Rome), and South African President Nelson Mandela. With CORE (Curriculum Open-access Resources for Economics) he has developed a new free online curriculum for undergraduate economics (www.core-econ.org).  

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