News from the Centre for Policy Modelling, including announcements of: new papers, special issues, books, workshops, projects, jobs and study opportunities.

24 April, 2009

CPM Report 09-203: Understanding Observed Complex Systems – the hard complexity problem

CPM Report No.: 09-203
By: Bruce Edmonds
Date: 22nd April 2009


Abstract

Two kinds of problem are distinguished: the first of finding processes which produce complex outcomes from the interaction of simple parts, and the second of finding which process resulted in an observed complex outcome. The former I call the easy complexity problem and the later the hard complexity problem. It is often assumed that progress with the easy problem will aid process with the hard problem. However this assumes that the “reverse engineering” problem, of determining the process from the outcomes is feasible. Taking a couple of simple models of reverse engineering, I show that this task is infeasible in the general case. Hence it cannot be assumed that reverse engineering is possible, and hence that most of the time progress on the easy problem will not help with the hard problem unless there are special properties of a particular set of processes that make it feasible. Assuming that complexity science is not merely an academic “game” and given the analysis of this paper, some criteria for the kinds of paper that have a reasonable chance of being eventually useful for understanding observed complex systems are outlined. Many complexity papers do not fare well against these critieria.

Available at: http://cfpm.org/cpmrep203.html

CPM Report 09-202: Usefulness of Simulating Social Phenomena

CPM Report No.: 09-202
By: Pablo Lucas

Lucas, Pablo; Usefulness of Simulating Social Phenomena, AISB 09 Symposium: Killer robots or friendly fridges: the social understanding of Artificial Intelligence, Edinburgh, Scotland, April 2009.

Date: March 16th 2009


This paper discusses the current usefulness and implications of developing research on agent-based Simulation Models of Social Phenomena (SMSP) beyond purely academic, hobbyist or educational purposes. Design, development and testing phases are discussed along with issues evidence-driven modellers often face whilst collecting, analysing and translating quantitative and qualitative empirical data into social simulation models. Methodological recommendations are discussed in light of the importance of developing research besides its own theory.

Available at:
http://cfpm.org/cpmrep202.html

CPM Report 09-201: Relating Financial characterisation of Microfinance Groups to Conventional Social Behaviour

CPM Report No.: 09-201
By: Pablo Lucas

Lucas, Pablo; Relating Financial characterisation of Microfinance Groups and their Conventional Social Behaviour. Second CFPM - ETH EMIL fieldwork report, Manchester, England, March 2009. (Segundo Reporte, Autonomous University of Mexico, PROIMMSE).

Date: March 16th 2009


This second report synthesises results from studying the effects of social conventions
within the internal organisation and evolution of micro-finance groups, also known as
solidarity groups, at a microfinance institution (MFI) in southern Mexico. According
to our publishing agreement, their precise identity and location is omitted. The next
section contains interpretations of all collected data and graphs, drawing on answers
from the second questionnaire to credit advisors and five financial databases. I thank
the MFI director, their team, economist Federico Morales, anthropologist Ignacio GarcĂ­a
and Chris Catlin, along with CFPM and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology for the
support provided for this research.

Available at: http://cfpm.org/cpmrep201.html