Productivity at its best: Santa Fe Summer School on Complexity

In the summer of 2012 I had the privilege to be part of the Santa Fe Summer School on Complexity. I learned a lot, ‘worked’ a lot (Ben, Oscar, and Laurent were very dedicated collaborators ;)), and made great friends.

I knew it would be an intense time with classes from dawn to — beautiful New Mexico — dusk; 5 days a week; for 4 weeks. Topics ranging from physics, chemistry, biology, economics, psychology, statistical inference and machine learning, … And on top of that we would work on group projects with a final presentation to the faculty and group.

If anyone had told me that I’ll get one paper out of this I would have said ‘no way, its too much going on there. And besides, these are mostly mathematicians, physicists, and epidemiologists … How should I do a paper with them?’

Well it turned out that Oscar, Laurent, and Ben (math, phsycis, and epidemolgy) and I (stats) worked not on one, but on 4 (!) papers. Despite my paper being the first one to be going out for review, it’s the last one in the reviewing / soon to be published aether. The others have done their homework:

The work I was mainly responsible for is in submission and can be found on arxiv:

Three sentence summary

We show that in a dynamic, deterministic model of capital accumulation and disease spread, poor countries can get stuck in a cycle of not having enough money (producing capital) to treat its people, which in turn leads to less labor due to sickness and even less capital. Rich countries, on the other hand, don’t have this problem since their improved sanitation infrastructure and nutrition helps to contain the disease at lower costs. As an exit strategy for a poor country we show that development aid in the form of reduced drug and treatment costs (effectively injecting capital in the economy from outside) can get poor countries back on track to capital gains, and improved health — and thus out of the poverty trap.

For a follow up post on the reaction to this paper in the public (outrage) see this post.