Institut Jean Nicod

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Emergence of money with virtual agents, humans and macaques

Supervisors: Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde (Institut Jean Nicod - Ecole Normale Supérieure, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, CNRS) & Thomas Boraud (Institut des Maladies Neurodégénératives - Université de Bordeaux, CNRS)

Funding: PhD scolarship from the doctoral school "Cerveau Cognition Comportement" (Université Pierre et Marie Curie)

The presence of a monetary support (precious metal tokens, paper, etc.) in an exchange situation is not enough for calling it money. It is also necessary that this support fulfills the functions that must achieve a money.

For instance, an agent - virtual, human or non-human primate - who would learn to give a token for a consumption good is not enough to assume that this agent knows how to use a money - or even that he actually uses money. Indeed, it could be the case that this agent just barters this monetary support against another type of object. For this item to be considered as money, it is necessary that the agent takes part in an economic system in which he seeks to use this object as a medium of exchange, this in parallel to the fact that all other agents in the economy use this token as a mean of exchange, except those for which it is the production or consumption good. In this context, a question is then to know what are the required conditions to be in - or to move towards - a such situation, a situation one can call "monetary equilibrium".

A series of formal models proposes to clarify this issue of money emergence, exploring what could be the conditions for the appearance of monetary equilibria, and which properties have these equilibria (i.e. Jones, 1976; Kiyotaki & Wright, 1989; Iwai, 1996). However, very few studies address this issue from a learning point of view (i.e. Wright, 1995) and also very little works use simulations and experimental results to support their theoretical results; only one model, to our knowledge, was studied from this latter angle: the model of Kiyotaki & Wright (1989) - cf. Duffy (2000).

On the basis of the model of Iwai (1996), the goal of our work is to build a learning model which allows us to identify the conditions for money emergence, while assuming that the agents that make up the economy exhibit a bounded rationality and benefit only of an extremely limited information.

This model will be tested initially through simulations involving only virtual agents. In a second step, it will be put to the test by including in virtual economies human agents, these replacing all or part of virtual agents. Thirdly, our model will be used to build experimental protocols involving two female macaques.