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Escape from Model Land

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781529364903

Price: £20

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‘A brilliant account of how models are so often abused and of how they should be used’ John Kay

How do mathematical models shape our world – and how can we harness their power for good?

Models are at the centre of everything we do. Whether we use them or are simply affected by them, they act as metaphors that help us better understand the increasingly complex problems facing us in the modern world. Without models, we couldn’t begin to tackle three of the major challenges facing modern society: regulation of the economy, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet in recent years, the validity of the models we use has been hotly debated and there has been renewed awareness of the disastrous consequences when the makers and interpreters of models get things wrong.

Drawing on contemporary examples from finance, climate and health policy, Erica Thompson explores what models are, why we need them, how they work and what happens when they go wrong. This is not a book that argues we should do away with models, but rather, that we need to properly understand how they are constructed – and how some of the assumptions that underlie the models we use can have significant unintended consequences. Unexpectedly humorous, thought-provoking and passionate, this is essential reading for everyone.

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Reviews

Carefully researched and beautifully written, Dr Thompson's Escape from Model Land reveals how our progressively complex world is dominated by well-meaning experts' use and misuse of increasingly impenetrable models . . . For an open-minded reader keen to expose, understand and potentially reconstruct their own worldview, Escape from Model Land is, at the same time, an uncomfortable and uplifting read. It shines a gentle light on many of our own norms and beliefs
Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester
Escape from Model Land demystifies the process of making the mathematical models that are increasingly used to make decisions about our lives, from the financial markets to the pandemic to climate change. A thought-provoking and helpful guide for data scientists and decision makers alike
Stephanie Hare, author of 'Technology Is Not Neutral'
A brilliant account of how models are so often abused and of how they should be used
John Kay
A wise, lucid and compelling guide to how mathematical modelling shapes our world. Dr Thompson teaches us how to go from being unthinking consumers of models to sophisticated users, combining a rich variety of vivid examples and case studies with deep conceptual expertise, presented in a lively and accessible way
Stian Westlake, CEO, Royal Statistical Society
An eye-opening account of the limits and uses of mathematical models . . . Thompson offers a host of lessons, among them that every model depends upon value judgments to determine what's included in them, that models should be understood as "not an objective mathematical reality, but a social idea," and that models contain the biases of those who make them, so increased diversity among modelers is essential for "greater insight, improved decision-making capacities and better outcomes" . . . The result is a thoughtful, convincing look at how data works
Publisher's Weekly