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Robustness of electronic marketplaces

The first plenary speaker at the 13th International Conference on E-Commerce (ICEC 2011) in Liverpool last week was Robert, Lord May, Professor of Ecology at Oxford University.  His talk was part of the special session on Robustness and Reliability of Electronic Marketplaces (RREM 2011), which I helped to organize.

May began life as an applied mathematician and theoretical physicist, then applied his models to food webs in ecology, and now finds the same types of network and lattice models useful for understanding inter-dependencies in networks of banks.  Although, as he said in his talk, these models are very simplified, they still have the power to demonstrate outcomes which some may not expect:  for example, that actions which are individually rational may not be desirable from the perspective of a system containing those individuals.

References:

Andrew Haldane and Robert May [2011]: Systemic risk in banking ecosystems. Nature, 469:  351-355.

Robert May, Simon Levin and George Sugihara [2008]: Complex systems: ecology for bankers. Nature, 451, 893–895.

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