Эрик Фалькенштейн описывает отличную, на мой взгляд, аналогию между эволюционной биологией и экономикой, в которой и когнитивные механизмы и обратные связи соединены так же.
Животные иногда эволюционируют так, чтобы выглядеть похоже на известных ядовитых или еще как-то страшных животных. Делают они это не сознательно, конечно, а популяционным отбором, заточенным на то, чтобы победить когнитивные механизмы потенциального хищника и "паразитируя" на настоящем сигнале, который подается ядовитым видом. Так можно обмануть хищников поглупее, а люди часто вооружены хитрыми каталогами и признаками и виды различают.
Точно так же, подражения настоящим сигналам о перспективности интернет-бизнеса или надежности закладной на дом эволюционно возникают и обманывают инвесторов. Поскольку эти механизмы эволюционно заточены против нас, людей, быть ими не обманутым гораздо труднее. Поэтому и так трудно предсказывать бизнес-циклы.
In ecosystems, Batesian mimicry is typified by a situation where a harmless species (the mimic) evolves to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species (the model) directed at a common predator (the dupe). For example, venomous coral snakes have red, yellow, and black bands, while the non-venomous scarlet king snake has the same colors in a different order. Animals afraid of venomous snakes would do well to avoid 4 foot long snakes with red, yellow and black stripes, in the process avoiding the scarlet king snake...
In an expansion investors are constantly looking for better places to invest their capital, while entrepreneurs are always overconfident, hoping to get capital to fund their restless ambition. Sometimes, the investors (dupes) think a certain set of key characteristics are sufficient statistics of a quality investment because historically they were. Mimic entrepreneurs seize upon these key characteristics that will allow them to garner funds from the duped investors. The mimic entrepreneurs then have a classic option value, which however low in expected value to the investor, has positive value to the entrepreneur. The mimicry itself may involve conscious fraud, or it may be more benign, such as naïve hope that they will learn what works once they get their funding, or sincere delusion that the characteristics are the essence of the seemingly promising activity. The mimicking entrepreneurs are a consequence of investing based on insufficient information that is thought sufficient, but they make things worse because they misallocate resources that eventually, painfully, must be reallocated.
Once the number of mimics is sufficiently high, their valueless enterprises become too conspicuous and they no longer pass off as legitimate investments. Failures caused by insufficient cash create a tipping point, notifying investors that some of their material assumptions were vastly incorrect. Areas that for decades were very productive, are found to contain exceptional levels of fraud, or operate with no conceivable expectation of a profit. Everyone outside the industry with excessive mimics marvels at how such people—investors, entrepreneurs, and their middlemen--could be so short-sighted, but the key is that the mimics and duped investors chose those business models that seemed most solid based on objective, identifiable characteristics that were, historically, correlated with success. An econometric analysis would have found these ventures a good bet, which is why investors did not thoroughly vet their business models (banks, up through 2007, were one of the best performing industries since industry data has been available in the US, and performed well in the 2001 recession)...
Efforts to prevent the next recession face a large difficulty, in that the impetus for the next recession by necessity will be in the area that invites the least concern, because that is where mimics fester. Any risk analysis that can identify risky ventures necessarily identifies safe ones, and when these safe investments become known to the mimics, they will be attacked. Top down risk management, the focus of so much policy talk in Basel, Washington, and wonky journals is futile, because risk grows dangerously only where one does not suspect it (G-7 sovereign debt, anyone?).
This suggests focusing on robustness, as opposed to prediction, because the system works against rational expectations, especially those consensus ideas that come out of large bureaucracies. After all, what better sufficient statistic for a mimic to exploit than some well-known regulatory bullet point that supposedly ensures no risk? Recessions are not going away; they are endogenous because zero mimicry is not an equilibrium among insects, reptiles, or humans. Expect more unexpected recessions, just not real soon, and not in subprime housing.