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Money, markets, and evolution

by Michael Nielsen on April 24, 2008

Aside from human beings, can anyone think of biological systems which have evolved money or a market?

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  1. John Novak permalink

    Not only can I not think of any, I informally think of market-based algorithms as the bio-inspired model of computation based off human activity.

    They fascinate me.

  2. I seem to recall something about Apes bartering…but not really from what I recall.

  3. I was struck by this passage on bees, in The Handicap Principle by Zahavi and Zahavi:

    “If indeed workers do serve a large colony in order to win prestige and acquire rank, there must be a mechanism that demonstrates each individual’s ability reliably.

    “The mechanism that seems likeliest to us is pheromones. …It is known that the pheromone secreted by the queen motivates workers to serve her. Bees are very eager for the pheromone and lick it off the body of the queen. Workers can get the pheromone directly from the body of the queen when they serve her, or indirectly, from workers who have served the queen.”

    But I haven’t heard of bees exchanging the pheromone for something else.

  4. A. Mused permalink

    I seem to recall that cells use ATP as a kind of “energy currency” into which all other energy sources have to be converted for exchange between different subsystems.

  5. Certainly lots of species have mechanisms for distributing and allocating resources, but whether one would call these ‘markets’ is debatable. For example, some bird species, the parents select the strongest of their offspring and only give the food the them and let the weaker ones die. I guess this is a darwinian market, rather than a monetary one…

  6. The Vlad permalink

    Of course Michael! My good friends from Zergon538 drop by every now and then to tell me of their socio-economic system.

    There’s a knock at the door: I think they’re back…

  7. The pheromones and ATP are interering examples. I wonder if there’s any kind of invisible hand one can see here, though?

  8. You might want to check out the current issue of Lapham’s quarterly [if you haven’t] on “money”. I saw an allusion to some McLuhan sort of theory where money is a means of communication.

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