I remember reading about how Friedrich Hayek thought that the economy was sort of like a giant computer; he thought that the collective decisionmaking engaged in by consumers as they shopped and made choices functioned as a collective, decentralized processing apparatus which was ensured to come up with the right prices and production levels.
Which is all well and good except that his model seems to leave out the fact that between the input of data into a person's mind and the action taken on that data there's an enourmous gap. How often do people really act on the data that they absorb from their surroundings in a direct and clear way? The fact of personhood, to me at least, indicates that such a simple notion as human beings collectively parsing economic data and acting on it in a rational way which automatically sets prices without any sort of human intervention is a myth. We aren't input-output machines.
Just look at your own decisionmaking: how often do you really see something, hear something, read something, and then have it decisively cause you to do something?
But it's different with economics because that deals with real needs, constraints, and quantities, right?
I'm not so sure about that. Economic neccesity isn't the same thing as economic determinism.