Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Andrew J. Jordan and John R. Turnpenny
Chapter 5: Computerized models: tools for assessing the future of complex systems?
Models are commonly used to make decisions. At some point all of us will have employed a mental model, that is, a simplification of reality, in an everyday situation. For instance, when we want to make the best decision for the environment and consider whether to buy our vegetables in a large supermarket or a local farm shop, we will use our own mental model of what is good, and less good, for the environment. But it was the advent of computers that gave a boost in particular to quantitative models. They have been on the scene roughly since the Second World War. Since the 1950s, engineers have studied complex dynamic systems using computer models, inspiring biologists to apply similar techniques in their disciplines. Such models assist in understanding the behaviour of a system, that is, a limited part of reality that contains interrelated elements. This understanding generally refers to how the different elements (components) of a system interact and determine the state of the system at a certain moment, as well as how it may change over time.