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Why model?

In this interview, Wander Jager explains the reasons for modelling.
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WANDER JAGER: As humanity we deal with a lot of challenges in our group behaviour. For example, we have to respond as a collective to the issues of climate change, biodiversity. We have problems with for example a virus when you could change our energy system. And that requires the collaboration of large groups of people. And we know a lot about individual behaviour but groups is another thing. It’s much more difficult to experiment with large groups of people and the dynamics that take place there. We are not ants, we cannot just consider ourselves as some group of ants and just experiment with it. We have a big complicated society.
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And there is the value of social assimilation because we can now using advanced technology simulate artificial societies. And the trick of it all is to implement more realistic psychological theory and these artificial people. And that allows us to conduct more realistic experiments with group behaviour of our own species.
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Well, you should always be cautious about models. I mean, the model is a model but we make some enormous progress in implementing psychological theory in these artificial people. Don’t forget in the past, usually economic maximisation ideas were used for these artificial people. And now we are capable of for example, equipping these artificial people with norms and different conflicting needs. So we really make progress in building models that are far more realistic from a behavioural psychological point of view.

In this interview Wander Jager, the Director of the Groningen Center for Social Complexity Studies, explains the main reasons for modelling.

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People, Networks and Neighbours: Understanding Social Dynamics

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