How many founding fathers of the economy are there? two, and their names are both Adam Smith

 How many founding fathers of the economy are there?  two, and their names are both Adam Smith

Imagine the inside of a tube of Smarties replaced (remember what a test for my readers ages) with colored sugared almond pencils. You hand it to a friend of yours and ask her if she likes candy. She opens it and finds the pencil inside. He doesn’t like jokes. You propose to repeat the joke on the third friend, but before you do so ask her what, in her opinion, your third friend expects to find in the tube. What do you think he will answer? “Candies” in all likelihood. but how? You know there’s no candy inside, so why should he think your friend says “candy”? Because your friend doesn’t know there are pencils inside, only you know. Here, this strangely childish game is actually a test called the “first-order false perception test” that developmental psychologists use to examine the maturity level of a very important social ability that defines “theory of mind.”

This ability begins to develop well before three to four years of age and matures into adulthood. The fact that even though you know there are pencils in the tube, imagine that your friend answers “candy”? It indicates the ability to see the world through the eyes of others, when it is necessary. To be able to think about the views of others and thus, understand their beliefs, desires, intentions. All the elements necessary to develop meaningful social relationships. Failing the “false belief test” highlights a significant deficit in social skills and is indeed what happens, for example, with subjects suffering from autism spectrum disorders. Cambridge psychologist and undisputed authority on autism studies, Simon Baron-Cohen, speaks about blindness in the minds of others, which refers to the inability to access the mental states of others that characterizes autism spectrum disorder. And that , instead, in conditions of specific development, as we said, is observed already at a very young age.

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We are social beings and we are primarily because we are able to reflect ourselves in others, to create a shared interdisciplinary space where my “I” somehow fades and merges with your “I”. goes. Vittorio Gallese, co-discoverer of mirror neurons with Giacomo Rizzolati, called it a shared manifold. A system that “makes it possible to identify other human beings as our fellow men, which promotes intergenerational communication, imitation, and the multiplication of the intentions of others”. However, by focusing so stubbornly, as we have seen, on the concept of selfishness, the economic approach to human behavior has lost all this fundamental “social” and interdisciplinary dimension. Hence the difficulty of understanding all pro-social behavior that is considered to be either heterogeneous, or narrowed, sometimes, by acrobatics, such as the Ptolemaic, within narrow schemes of self-interested rational choice, epicycle. and struggle with differentials. It is surprising that this sociology also exists in the context of more social approaches to economic theory, for example, game theory from which, originally, any reference to concepts and ideas of a psychological nature was deliberately removed. . In the perspective of its founders, John von Neumann and Oscar Morgenstern, a certain course of action can be defined as rational if it leads to minimizing the maximum damage a player can receive, “regardless of the other what the players decide to do”.

This state of independence, which seems strange to find right at the heart of the theory of strategic interdependence, stems from the effort shared by the two authors, eliminating any reference to a psychological nature from the assumptions of their theory, and in particular to do. , as famously said by Nicola Giocoli, to free players from “the need to make expectations about the actions and thoughts of rivals”. A theory of social behavior which, paradoxically, as another game theorist and Nobel laureate, Thomas Schelling points out, requires that an agent “not only communicate with his opponent, he also needs to know that”. The requirement is not who his opponent is, but not even if an opponent is actually present. (…) With the minimum criterion – skilling continues – a game is reduced to a completely one-sided situation”. Similar criticism always leads by scaling to a more fundamental concept of the theory, “mixed strategy”, which is nothing more: “a means of deliberately destroying any possibility of communication, especially of intentions”. of communication”.

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The project of John Nash, another founding father of the theory and which is in many ways an alternative to von Neumann and Morgenstern, is based on the concept of solution, the “Nash equilibrium”, in fact, distinctly different from that of von Neumann. and Morgenstern. “Minimax”, even if still closed to transfers to a true “otherness”. For Nash, in fact, a behavior is rational when a subject’s action is the optimal response to every possible optimal response of the other players. To arrive at a choice of this behavior, a player must first have an idea of ​​what would be the optimal behavior of the other players; So he should have an idea of ​​the desires and goals that other people set to achieve. However, the high complexity of this process is solved by Nash through a strongly minimizing operation, which assumes that the intentions of the other players are limited to achieving the maximum achievable utility. To understand the restrictions imposed by this operation, simply consider that one of its implications is that the beliefs that two agents can form about the behavior of the third agent must be essentially the same. The essence of game theory developed by Nash, in his words, is the assumption that “each participant acts independently without any form of collaboration or communication with any other players”.


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