The David M. Kreps Symposia will bring to campus a set of outstanding scholars to present their views and discuss a topic of current interest relating to management research or education.
The inaugural symposium, organized by Professor Kreps along with Professors Jonathan Bendor and Deborah Gruenfeld and titled “Is Homo Economicus Dead? Dyng? Should He Be?” will explore the intersection of economics and psychology.
An article celebrating the Nobel Prize given to Richard Thaler in The Atlantic (October 9, 2017), by staff writer Derek Thompson, was titled “Richard Thaler Wins the Nobel in Economics for Killing Homo Economicus.” In a more recent article in The Atlantic (December 14, 2018), Antara Haldar, a university lecturer in law at the University of Cambridge, concludes with “… because rumors of the demise of Homo Economicus have been greatly exaggerated, economics professors today still have the chance to cast aside this antiquated character once and for all.”
Homo Economicus, of course, is the fictional actor in most economic models: hyper-rational, hyper-calculative, single mindedly striving to maximize his personal utility. And while this actor can, in theory, value such things as equity or, on the other side, take pleasure in revenge on others who have injured him, in most economic models he is decidedly self-interested, unconcerned with how others (at least outside his family) are faring. Importantly, his utility, which compounds his tastes and fundamental beliefs, does not change through time (although his beliefs do evolve, according to Bayes Rule, in the light of new information, and he can learn through experience that he enjoys certain goods).
It is clear that Homo Economicus is not dead and buried, at least not in the minds and models of mainstream economists. But:
- If he’s not dead, is he at least dying? Is the future of economics behavioral?
- Should he be killed off? Or does he still serve a purpose in gaining insight into economic phenomena?
- For that matter, have mainstream economic models, built around the actions and interactions of Homo Economici, helped us to understand economic phenomena and to improve the management of public and private institutions, or have these models led us astray?
- Are big data and machine learning hastening his demise, in the sense that with the wealth of data now available, and with new techniques for “letting the data speak,” do we want or need models built around this paragon of “rationality”?
Registration opens in February 2020.