fossilfuelopolis

Prospecting the academic grounds on global energies patterns

Path dependence

This conception inspired by the work of economic historians, particularly those interested in technological trajectories (such as David 1985; Arthur 1989; North 1990) describes how certain technologies – for idiosyncratic and unpredictable reasons- are able to achieve an initial advantage over alternative technologies, and prevail. For those familiar with graphical representation in game theory, one could see ‘path dependance‘ as an arbitrary deviation onto a branch of the tree.

game_tree

While alternative branches could have yield higher outcomes (payoff), the simple fact that the initial node of the tree gets more remote as time passes updates their payoffs as appearing lower.
Somehow, one would need to think of such tree as a tree with dynamic payoffs. As we advance along a specific branch (We invest in a specific technology and this shapes our technical and social environment), the payoffs of deviating to another branch decrease.

Explained with a less abstract vocabulary are the words of D Yates in “The rise and fall of the Corps des Mines”: “Politics, like technology, involves some elements of chance (agency, choice) yet it is clear that once the path is taken, formerly viable alternatives become increasing remote, and all the relevant actors adjust their strategies to accomodate the prevailing pattern (Krasner 1988; Pierson 2000; Alexander 2001).”

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This entry was posted on January 7, 2013 by .
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