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A useful framework, thanks Scott
Mark, I enjoyed your book, very thought provoking. I really liked the notion of undirected copying. Am I right in thinking the only way of diagnosing this looking at real world data and comparing it to the “cascades” that occur in models? There's lots of behaviours we suspect might spread by social learning but proving so might be difficult due to lack of data. One that came to mind was tattoos. In the 90's we celtic bands were in vogue, in the 2000's for women it seemed to be collections of little stars, and for men "full sleeve" collage designs. I'd say undirected copying is at play. It’s also an example which highlights the difference you might get from analysis of the individual vs. the group. People are likely to profess a profound individual motivation for their choice, given the point of a tattoo for most is to demonstrate your uniqueness (apart from if you’re in a gang). Yet I suspect the data – were it available – might reveal a different story. I don’t know how we’d prove it though – maybe a representative sample of tattoo-ees over the years or the records of a tattoo parlour chain... Another question I had was to what extent is undirected copying compatible with the diffusion of innovation model? Enough rambling from me. Cheers. Simon.
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An engaging post, thank you. Romer's cooking analogy - growth occurs whenever people take resources and rearrange them in ways that are more valuable - reminded me of literary theory. Russian formalists distingushed between the plot of a narrative (fabula) and its mode of telling (syuzhet). Being inventive doesn't only mean creating 'new' plots, but to render previously familiar ones uncertain, challenging the reader into looking into them anew (Todorov). This leads to the definition of the artist's task by Jacobsen: 'to make the ordinary strange'.
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