The inevitable “layering” of models to extend the reach of our understanding

Complexity Digest

Bruce Edmonds


There is a modelling norm that one should be able tocompletelyunderstand one’s own model. Whilst acknowledging there is a trade-off between a model’s representational adequacy and its simplicity of formulation, this tradition assumes there will be a “sweet spot” where the model is just tractable but also good enough to be usefully informative about the target of modelling – in the words attributed to Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler1. But what do we do about all the phenomena where to get an adequate model2one has to settle for a complex one (where by “complex” I mean a model that we do not completely understand)? Despite the tradition in Physics to the contrary, it would be an incredibly strong assumption that there areno such phenomena, i.e. that an adequate simple model…

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