(2011-01-20) Rao Model Dynamics Constraints Boundaries

Venkatesh Rao notes that his interest in marginalized behaviors is in understanding-via-ModelBuilding the Boundary Conditions of Human Systems, which is where he thinks the meat is (as compared to Dynamics and Constraints). This is also why mathematicians are disappointed when they look at the dynamics and constraints in models built by historians. Toynbee’s monumental work seems, to a dynamics-focused mathematical thinker, much ado about an approximate 2nd order under-damped oscillator (the cycle of Golden and Dark ages typical in history). Hegel’s historicism and “End Of History” model appears to be a dull observation about an asymptotic state... This is part of the reason I don’t like traditional mathematical models at “how the world works” scale, like System Dynamics. They ignore or oversimplify what I think is the main raw material of interest: boundary conditions. A theory of unemployment, slum growth and housing development cycles in big cities that ignores distinctions among vandalism, beggary and back-alley crime is, in my opinion, not a theory worth much. If you could explain elegantly why some cities in decline turn to crime, while others turn to vandalism or beggary, then you’d have interesting, high-leverage insights to work with.

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