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Event Recap

A recent wave of research has demonstrated the existence of generic Early Warning Signals (EWS’s) that help predict a large class of abrupt changes in the state of ecological systems — e.g. “tipping points.” Examples range from experimental laboratory systems of living organisms at tiny scales such as microbes up to ecosystems at the scale of lakes, rangelands, marine systems, or coral reefs.

Recently a whole lake experiment by a team of limnologists has generated evidence for EWS’s of dramatic changes of states in small lakes. Mathematical models of ecosystem dynamics are built to understand mechanisms that cause EWS’s that help predict a change of state.

In this talk, Visiting Scholar William “Buz” Brock of the University of Wisconsin-Madison gave an overview of what classes of abrupt changes might be predicted (or not predicted) by EWS’s, and at what scales one should have hope of finding these signals. Turning from the environment to the marketplace, he discussed whether there any EWS’s in the dynamical systems generated by self-interested forward-looking agents that economists study, such as asset markets.

Brock is a mathematical economist and emeritus professor, best known for his application of a branch of mathematics known as chaos theory to economic theory and econometrics.He has previously taught at the University of Chicago as well as the University of Rochester and Cornell University. Advances in economic modeling he pioneered in the 1970s paved the way for later developments such as real business cycle theory and dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models.


5–5:30 p.m.      Reception
5:30–6:30 p.m. Talk and question-and-answer session

We gratefully acknowledge the MacArthur Foundation for their generous support of this event and research on policy uncertainty.