On Economics and Traffic Jams



So far we have proceeded from astrophysics to geophysics, and from geophysics to biology and the brain. We now take yet another step in the hierarchy of complete phenomena, into the boundary between the natural world and the social sciences. Humans interact with one another. Is it possible that the dynamics of human societies are self-organized critical? After all, human behavior is a branch of biology, so why should different laws and mechanisms be introduced at this point? Here two specific human activities will be considered, namely economics and traffic. Perhaps these phenomena are simpler than other human activities. At least, the activities can be quantified and measured, in terms of prices, volumes, and velocities. That might be the reason that economics exists as a discipline independent of other social sciences.


Gross National Product Sand Pile Nature Work Minor Shock Perfect Rationality 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arthur, B. Increasing Returns, and Lock-ins by Historical Events. The Economic Journal 99 (1989) 1 16.Google Scholar
  2. Arthur, B. Positive Feedbacks in the Economy. Scientific American 262, February (1990) 92.Google Scholar
  3. Axelrod, R The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books, 1984.Google Scholar
  4. Bak, P, Chen, Kan, Scheinkman, J. A., and Woodford, M. Aggregate Fluctuations from Independent Shocks: Self-Organized Criticality in a Model of Production and Inventory Dynamics. Ricerche Economiche 47 (1993) 3MATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dhar, D. and Ramaswamy, R. Exactly Solved Model of Self-Organized Critical Phenomena. Physical Review Letters 63 (1989) 1659.Google Scholar
  6. Nagel, K. and Paczuski, M. Emergent Traffic Jams. Physical Review E 51 (1995) 2909.Google Scholar
  7. Scheinkman, J. A. and Woodford, M. Self-Organized Criticality and Economics Fluctuations. American Journal of Economics 84 (1994) 417.Google Scholar
  8. Treiterer, J. Aereal Traffic Photos. Technical Report PB246 094. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, 1994.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Per Bak

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations