Alessandro Pluchino

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Alessandro Pluchino

Institution

Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia dell'Università di Catania

Professional homepage

http://www.dfa.unict.it/home/pluchino/

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GitHub?

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Research Interests

My research interests include statistical mechanics, chaos theory and complex systems. I am also interested in simulations of social and economical systems.

The largely dominant meritocratic paradigm of highly competitive Western cultures is rooted on the belief that success is due mainly, if not exclusively, to personal qualities such as talent, intelligence, skills, smartness, efforts, willfulness, hard work or risk taking. Sometimes, we are willing to admit that a certain degree of luck could also play a role in achieving significant material success. But, as a matter of fact, it is rather common to underestimate the importance of external forces in individual successful stories. It is very well known that intelligence (or, more in general, talent and personal qualities) exhibits a Gaussian distribution among the population, whereas the distribution of wealth - often considered a proxy of success - follows typically a power law (Pareto law), with a large majority of poor people and a very small number of billionaires. Such a discrepancy between a Normal distribution of inputs, with a typical scale (the average talent or intelligence), and the scale invariant distribution of outputs, suggests that some hidden ingredient is at work behind the scenes. In a recent paper, with the help of this very simple agent-based model realized with NetLogo, we suggest that such an ingredient is just randomness. In particular, we show that, if it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals. As to our knowledge, this counterintuitive result - although implicitly suggested between the lines in a vast literature - is quantified here for the first time. It sheds new light on the effectiveness of assessing merit on the basis of the reached level of success and underlines the risks of distributing excessive honors or resources to people who, at the end of the day, could have been simply luckier than others. With the help of this model, several policy hypotheses are also addressed and compared to show the most efficient strategies for public funding of research in order to improve meritocracy, diversity and innovation.

Building upon the distance-based Hotelling’s differentiation idea, we describe the behavioral experience of several prototypes of consumers, who walk a hypothetical cognitive path in an attempt to maximize their satisfaction.

This model, realized on the NetLogo platform, compares utility levels at home and abroad to simulate agents’ migration and their eventual return. Our model is based on two fundamental individual features, i.e. risk aversion and initial expectation, which characterize the dynamics of different agents according to the evolution of their social contacts.

Under development.

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