The Evolution of Knowledge Systems

François Lafond , UNU-MERIT

The creation and allocation of economic wealth ultimately relies on the creation and diffusion of knowledge. As a result, understanding the dynamics, organization and viability of economies requires in-depth analysis of knowledge systems. This thesis proposes to study knowledge systems as self-organizing two-mode networks. Two-mode networks have two types of nodes, and the links are only between nodes of different types. These are self-organizing in the sense that simple rules of evolution lead to a rich but patterned dynamics. The thesis builds on the literature on social (agent-agent) and epistemic (idea-idea) networks to study socio-epistemic co-evolution (agent-idea networks).

It is found that: (i) stable power law distributions of ideas' popularity naturally emerge from innovation and face-to-face diffusion; (ii) this dynamic is compatible with the observed (shifted) power law distribution of citations, and (iii) the generalized beta size-rank relation observed for patent classes can be explained by a slowdown in the growth of the number of classes. A general lesson from this work is that knowledge systems often exhibit non-equilibrium and non-linear dynamics, which may cast doubts on their long term viability.

About the speaker
François holds a professional master in Business Intelligence and Local Development from the University of Clermont-Ferrand and a research master in Industrial Organization and Economics of Knowledge from the University of Strasbourg. His work is mainly devoted to understanding the dynamics and organization of knowledge networks at different levels of the economy.

Venue: Aula, Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht

Date: 17 October 2014

Time: 12:00


UNU-MERIT