Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Skepticism revisited

I do models for a living, among other things, and so do you. Even if you haven't created a single computer simulation, you create or use mental models daily to manage the complexity in the world around you.

Once upon a time, I wrote about the importance of skepticism. Today I want to invite you specifically to be skeptical of models: models that I may show you here in Making Sense, models I may do for you if we work together, models you may get from others or read in the news, and models you develop for yourself. Those models come in all styles, sizes, and colors, but the need for skepticism remains.

John Sterman has written the classic A Skeptic's Guide to Computer Models. Near the end, after he's introduced a number of important concepts, he lists questions any of us should ask when we're asked (or tempted) to use a model. Asking those and other questions seems like a real pain; it slows one down, just when you're beginning to see the way forward. Yet, if you're making important decisions based on a model, you should be asking those and similar questions, for falling into a trap because your model misses key factors is an even bigger pain.

When faced with what seems like a great new idea, we might all be best served by first seeking to disconfirm rather than to confirm!


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29 March, 2013 05:17  

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