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The emergence of barter: a complex systems study

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Frean
    Prof S Marsland
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Economies are built up by people exchanging good and services for money, with the overall behaviour of the system emerging from the large numbers of simple interactions of the individual agents; a classic example of a complex system. It may be that money arises as a durable representation of barter, where IOU notes and memory were replaced by something with a common perceived value. But in that case, how and why did barter arise? And does it tell us anything useful about how economies could work?
In this project we will explore how individual agents can evolve a barter system, studying the problem with a combination of techniques from game theory and the evolution of cooperation, and complex systems analysis. The project will suit a numerate graduate with some interest in economics and/or cooperative systems.

The scholarship will be for 3 years, and pay tuition fees (for either international or domestic students) together with a stipend.

The PhD will be based at Victoria University of Wellington, and will be supervised by
Associate Professor Marcus Frean and Professor Stephen Marsland.

To apply, please email both Associate Professor Frean and Professor Marsland with your
• CV,
• Grade transcript,
• A one-page description of what you understand about the topic and why you are interested in studying the topic at a PhD level.

Funding Notes

Applicants for this scholarship should hold an honours degree and preferably a master in a numerate discipline (mathematics, physics, computer science or economics) and have an interest in complex systems and economics as well as the ability to program. The successful candidate will also need to satisfy the requirements of Victoria University of Wellington PhD registration.


Te Pūnaha Matatini – ‘the meeting place of many faces’ – is a Centre of Research Excellence hosted by the University of Auckland that will develop methods and approaches for transforming complex data about New Zealand’s environment, economy, and society into knowledge, tools, and insight for making better decisions.

Our Research Themes
Complex Data Analytics
Complex Economic and Social Systems
Complexity & the Biosphere

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