Many economic models start with an assumption about how individuals should behave, then scale up from there. A rational consumer should buy the new smartphone if it meets her need for a portable camera; a college graduate should choose an occupation that matches her skills. For Hajime Shimao, research in economics should start with a fundamental question: what’s the best model for the empirical data?
Shimao has spent the past six years at Purdue University earning his Ph.D. in economics. His dissertation explores how theoretical models of economic phenomena map to real-world observations — a branch of economics known as econometrics. Before he began his graduate studies at Purdue, Shimao had earned a master’s degree in decision science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Tokyo.
At SFI, Shimao will be working with Professor David Wolpert to understand why human social organizations have the structures they do — a longstanding question in the social sciences. Shimao and Wolpert are taking a macroscopic approach, treating individuals as nodes in a vast organizational network. They’ll study how information flows through different network structures, with an eye toward creating a theoretical model that can explain a variety of human social organizations, from chiefdoms to modern tech firms.
“The simpler the model, the more it can explain,” Shimao says. “I can be a bridge between the model and the empirical data.” Shimao will join SFI in June 2018.