Stuart Kaufmann is one of my intellectual heroes. So is Friedrich Hayek. You'd think by this article, Stuart Kaufmann had never read Hayek.
The path to maximum prosperity will depend on finding ways to build economic systems in which new niches will generate spontaneously and abundantly. Such an approach to economics is indeed radical. It is based on the emergent behavior of systems rather than on the reductive study of them. It defies conventional mathematical treatments because it is not prestatable and is nonalgorithmic. Not surprisingly, most economists have so far resisted these ideas. Yet there can be little doubt that learning to apply these lessons from biology to technology will usher in a remarkable era of innovation and growth.
I've always wondered why complexity scientists can be a bit squishy when it comes to economics and politics. Most lean left (read: hierarchical, top-down) and don't generally cross-pollinate their ideas across disciplines, much less apply said ideas as a template to other domains. But a dose of Human Action (Mises) or Law, Legislation and Liberty (Hayek) I suspect would supply an antidote to too much pro-government fetishism. Or simply a transfer of concepts to economics, as Kaufmann seems to be exploring.
It's not clear, from the SciAm article cited above that Stuart Kaufmann is a Hayekian. Here he seems to be talking about organizations, rather than whole economies (although by "control," he may be satisfied with the application of rules):
We do not yet know what makes some systems more adaptable than others, but research on complexity has yielded some clues. Some of my own work on physical systems called spin glasses suggests that the level of central control over subsidiary parts of a system is an important consideration. Too much control freezes the system into limited configurations; too little causes it to wander aimlessly. Only systems that hover on the border between order and chaos exhibit the needed general stability and capacity to explore the universe of possible solutions to challenges.
But in both examples of that rather coyly academic prose above, one can see flashes of a man who understands that centralized control and design cannot spin out the iterative wonders of the market. Macroeconomic wizardry is so much mathematical masturbation in the face of continuously cascading chains of spontaneous self-organization. These excerpts suggest a mind who would be comfortable with Austrian economics. Just as Hayek was influenced by biology and cybernetics, Kaufmann might find much to savor in Hayek (and the Institutional Economics of Douglass North.)
If you have time, dear reader, here is Kaufmann presenting his ideas on the nature of innovation in the economic sphere. He blends it fairly well with the insights of biology. Enjoy.