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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds This interview is about linear versus agent based modelling. It is Wander Jager, the teacher of this week’s activity. Wander, welcome. Hi, Lex. Why do you think agent based modelling is useful? Why not use linear models? They have a proven record. Absolutely. And that’s a very good question, indeed. I have to say that sometimes I have people visiting me and they are interested in doing some kind of agent based modelling project and I advise them not to do it because the system they’re interacting with is not turbulent. It’s not based on a lot of social interactions. It’s not socially complex. So why invest a lot in more complicated technology if there’s proven methodology available?

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds But on the other hand, if you have an idea that the topic that you’re dealing with is really addressing complex issues, then you should consider using agent based modelling. And sometimes there are even clear signs that it’s important to use agent based models. Recently I was at a meeting and it was the former Minister of the Environment, and he was talking about models dealing with the energy transition, and they were using linear models. And they were stating that it was economically not completely viable to introduce certain technologies. And then on stage a person from the room asked, well, what if the technology of batteries will increase, which is a very relevant question.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds And the former minister answered, well, yeah, I don’t know. These assumptions can not be included in the model. So we don’t include it. Well, this is typically a situation where I would say, this is interesting to include in an agent based model and see how changes in these technologies will be accepted in society and perhaps have a significant impact on such an energy transition. Now, we know in this course we are dealing with uncertainty. And the future is uncertain. So how can you know that the future is turbulent? Because you stated that that is in the condition for agent based models to be useful. That’s a very nasty question, Lex. On purpose. Of course.

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds I don’t know and nobody really knows, of course, what the future is. But still, of course, there are some signs that clearly indicate that it’s likely that turbulence will occur. Well, first of all, if an issue is involving a lot of people and if a lot of people are interacting about a topic, it’s more likely that turbulences occur. And secondly, if it deals with something that is meaningful for the social identity of people, or it relates to normative behaviours, it’s very likely that these kinds of social complexities play a role, and that, of course, agent based modelling might be the suitable tool to explore developments of the future. Let’s now talk politics.

Skip to 3 minutes and 30 seconds And I put myself in the shoes of a policy maker. Most policymakers are interested in raw data details predictions. But will they be interested in agent based models where you don’t have these very detailed predictions that they are searching for? Well, that’s very problematic indeed because very often in discussions I explain a little bit about agent based modelling and very often decision makers, politicians, managers respond with, so you have a new computer model that will generate better predictions. And then I have to answer, no, the predictive capacity of these models is just as bad as traditional linear models in the same situations. So the initial response very often is, so, what’s the use then of these models?

Skip to 4 minutes and 26 seconds I mean, if this model is equally bad as what we already have. So then I try to explain, no, it’s not only about predictions, it’s about how to use a model. And then I always try to explain that it’s about understanding of the dynamics and that it helps you in developing a different perspective on how these systems work and how management may be implemented in these systems. And then I talk about how important it is to be adaptive in times of turbulence. And I’m talking, of course, about the sailing example that I used before in this class. Thank you very much, Wander, for the interview. You’re welcome.

Interview: Linear or agent based modeling? (Wander Jager)

Before we had agent based modeling, there was linear modeling. Is agent based modeling always superior? Watch this interview and find out.

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Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World

University of Groningen

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