Friday, November 13, 2009

Train Wreck Averted -- Professor Sam Bowles to Speak Next Friday

Train Wreck Averted -- that was the subject line of a message I received from Professor Sam Bowles this past week with another one titled Miracle. Professor Sam Bowles was scheduled to speak in our Speaker Series next Friday, November 20, 2009, at the Isenberg School of Management. However (and I sometimes feel like I work in crisis management), he had been called to jury duty and it looked as though it would be impossible for him to be let off from this civic duty.

This is the eleventh semester that we have been hosting our Speaker Series and as the Faculty Advisor of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, we have never, to-date, had to cancel or reschedule a speaker (although there have been dramatic close calls).

Somehow, through the magic of electronic templates (and despite what the jury contact person told Professor Bowles), he managed to reschedule his jury duty, so, the good news (and miracle) -- Professor Sam Bowles' talk is on for next Friday!

The students do such a wonderful job of disseminating news about these talks, that below I share the announcement that went out today. This will be another fascinating and thought-provoking lecture, which is open to the public. I just finished reading Professor Bowles' "hot-off-the-press" co-authored article in Science, and the accompanying commentary, and his talk should not be missed.

Dear Professors, Members, and Students:

The next INFORMS Speaker Seminar of the Fall 2009 semester is scheduled for next Friday, November 20, 2009. We are delighted to have Professor Sam Bowles, University of Massachusetts (Emeritus), Sante Fe Institute and the University of Siena, Italy, who will speak on "The Nature of Wealth and the Dynamics of Inequality from Pre-history to the Knowledge-based Economy."

Dr. Samuel Bowles is Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute where he heads the Behavioral Sciences Program. He is also the Professor of Economics at the University of Siena. He taught economics at Harvard from 1965 to 1973 and at the University of Massachusetts, where he is now emeritus professor. His recent studies on cultural evolution have challenged the conventional economic assumption that people are motivated entirely by self-interest. These have included the mathematical modeling and agent-based computer simulations of the evolution of altruistic behaviors by means of multi-level selection and behavioral experiments in 15 huntergather and other small-scale societies. Bowles' current research also includes both theoretical and empirical studies of the role of incomplete contracts in labor markets and financial markets in explaining income inequality.

His scholarly papers have appeared in Science, Nature, American Economic Review, Theoretical Population Biology, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Behavioral and Brain Science, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Perspectives, and the Economic Journal. His recent books include Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions and Evolution (Princeton University Press, 2004), Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: the Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life (MIT Press, 2005), Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success (Princeton University Press 2004), Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence in 15 Small- scale Societies. (Oxford University Press. 2004) and Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Command and Change (Oxford University Press, 2004).

He has also served as an economic advisor to the governments of Cuba, South Africa and Greece, to presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, and to the World Bank and the International Labor Organization.

PRESENTATION TITLE: "The Nature of Wealth and the Dynamics of Inequality from Pre-history to the Knowledge-based Economy"

The copy of Professor Bowles' research in the current issue of Science Journal (Vol. 326, 6 November 2009) as well as a commentary on that, written by Professor Daron Acemoglu, will be available at the talk or can be requested prior to the talk by sending us an email.

Abstract: The continuum of inequality in human societies ranges from foraging bands with a strong egalitarian ethos to more highly stratified agrarian and industrial economies. No empirically-tested model of the stability of these differences over long periods of time or of the transitions among them exists. I address this puzzle with a dynamic model in which a population’s long-run steady-state inequality depends on the extent to which its most important forms of wealth are transmitted within families across generations. A new data set allows comparable estimates of the intergenerational transmission of different types of embodied, material, and relational wealth as well as the degree of wealth inequality for 21 historical and contemporary populations. I show that intergenerational transmission and wealth inequality is substantial among pastoral and small-scale agricultural societies (on a par with the most unequal modern industrial economies) and quite limited among horticultural and foraging peoples (equivalent to the most egalitarian of modern industrial populations). These findings and the model thus may help explain why permanent and substantial inequalities in wealth are characteristic of agricultural and pastoral economies and not of hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists. They also suggest a possible dramatic transformation of the dynamics of inequality in the knowledge-based economy.

Date: Friday, November 20, 2009
Time: 11:00AM - Noon
Place: Room ISOM 112

The Announcement for this talk can be found at:

INFORMS Student Chapter website:

UMASS Amherst Student Chapter of INFORMS