“Edge of Chaos” is such a catchy phrase that people spend much more time invoking it than explaining it. I am going to try to explain it and why it is an nice place to be. The only thing here that may possibly be novel is the economics connection.
Hayek said something somewhere about the importance of being able to foretell the consequences of your actions and reserve some of the benefits of well chosen actions to one’s self, in order to create wealth, and thus survive.
If an intelligent animal were somehow to exist in a world far from chaos the animal could produce only meager consequences whatever its actions. The world would have its own agenda that was little affected by those actions. If the same animal were to exist in a highly chaotic world its actions would reverberate and change many things. The animal would be unable, however, to correlate those consequences with its possible actions and would be no better off.
Some would say that the current situation in Russia is chaotic in a way unsuitable to creating wealth. Perhaps ultra conservative societies serve of an insufficiently chaotic world. Don’t take this too seriously!
Perhaps the Edge of Chaos is the only place where planning and foresight, and provident actions, benefit the animal sufficiently for it to make a living.
There are also reasons of available energy to prefer the Edge of Chaos. I don’t know if those reasons are equivalent.
I think that it was Edward Teller who, in a discussion on the chaos of the weather, said:
Well if it is chaotic then we can control it, and otherwise we can predict it.
Actually chaotic mechanical systems can be controlled with signals of very small energy. The system can be steered into parts of phase space that it already had some probability to enter. The greater the chaos, the greater the computation and sensing necessary to steer the system. Thus the controller must hope that the system is not too chaotic.