Future of computer models

We have examined the nature of computer models, the associated methodological problems, and some of the current literature utilizing computer models. It is now appropriate to evaluate the role of computer models in social science research. We clearly maintain that computer models are an important new tool for the social sciences. Computer models should be viewed as a supplement to available procedures rather than as a replacement for all existing techniques.

The basic advantage of computer models is that they provide a language within which complex dynamic models can be constructed. In addition, and because of the richness of the language, such models can incorporate the relevant empirical variables. This does not imply that economists should no longer be interested in general models, but it does mean that economists are no longer forced to deal only with general models.

Computer models provide a bridge between empirical and theoretical work. The requirements of a computer model can provide a theoretical framework for an empirical investigation, and, in return, the empirical information is utilized in developing a flow diagram for the model. Through this process of working back and forth, it is possible to know when enough empirical information has been gathered and whether it is of the proper quality. Once the model is simulated, a more rigorous test of the validity of the model can be made, as indicated earlier, by comparing the time series generated by the model against the actual observed behavior of the system.

Because computer models have such a large capacity for utilizing empirical data, a burden may be placed on the actual collection of empirical information. We know of no obviously optimal procedure for gathering information that exists inside firms or inside consumers’ heads. Nevertheless, this is the kind of information  that economists desire and that computer models can readily handle.

Source: Skyttner Lars (2006), General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice, Wspc, 2nd Edition.

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