OPTIMAES is an Open Project To Investigate Money And Economic Systems.
It consists of two things :
- agent based computer simulations to experiment with different economic systems
- an online conversation. (It used to be in a wiki that documented both the experiments and the discussions around them, but that's slightly deprecated. We're figuring out where we go next.)
We wanted to help build a better world, and this seemed something we could do about it.
Building a better world is a political and contentious project. And it started to look to us as if economics (in the broadest sense), was the first key (of several) to unlock it. What you believe the economic facts to be will influence your political position. (Though for some people it maybe vice versa.) And understanding how economic systems work is a good way to start making some that work better. In particular, we were intrigued by Ideas That Were Being Advocated; by some feminists, ecologists and critics of globalization; for alternative economic systems such as InterestFreeMoney and GiftEconomies.
Although these sounded plausible (or at least interesting) we felt they could be tested. It’s hard to get a pet country or community to experiment with, but as one of us was a programmer with some free time, we decided the next best thing was to do it in computer simulation. At least this would help us personally to get a handle on the issues. (We have enough hacker genes to conjecture that the best way to understand something is to build it; we also have holistic genes that doubt the conjecture; but genes don’t fight, they collaborate.) Furthermore, other people might find it informative. And if these experiments did show some advantage in the alternative systems, that would be a good way to get them taken more seriously.
How does it work?
We’re not claiming any kind of expertise here. This is a project that’s born of our own ignorance of mainstream economics. But what we’d like, and think is possible, is to do some research openly, and to try to apply the collective intelligence of the internet to investigating this stuff. A smart-mob may just have the edge over current expertise. That’s why this project is open for anyone to get involved with.
If you want to help out, an easy and valuable thing is to criticise. (See WeNeedYourCriticism for more in the philosophy of this, though note we need a new mechanism for collecting feedback now the wiki is deprecated.) We know so little, that almost any intelligent comment you can make is going to be useful. And hopefully you can find an appropriate place to put the criticism on this wiki.
Another thing you can do is come up with new questions. Probably there are things you’ve always wondered about. Or deeply held economic / political beliefs you’d like to see demonstrated properly. After looking at the way this model works, you may be able to see how it can be adapted to answer your own questions. The code is freely available for you (under the GnuGeneralPublicLicense) to take and work from. Unlike some open source projects, we don’t have a problem with forking into custom versions. If you develop your own project out of this, we can link to each other to get a conversation going.
The results from these simulations are always provisional. If you think that they confirm your political position, remember that tomorrow, someone may come along with a refinement that shows things to be different. (See the DialogueOfModels)