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Modeling complexity: the limits to prediction

Batty, M; Torrens, P; (2001) Modeling complexity: the limits to prediction. (CASA Working Papers 36). Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

A working definition of a complex system is of an entity which is coherent in some recognizable way but whose elements, interactions, and dynamics generate structures admitting surprise and novelty which cannot be defined a priori. Complex systems are therefore more than the sum of their parts, and a consequence of this is that any model of their structure is necessarily incomplete and partial. Models represent simplifications of a system in which salient parts and processes are simulated and given this definition, many models will exist of any particular complex system. In this paper, we explore the impact of complexity in validating models of such systems. We begin with definitions of complexity, complex systems, and models thereof. We identify the key issues as being concerned with the characterization of system equilibrium, system environment, and the way systems and their elements extend and scale. As our perspective on these issues changes, then so do our models and this has implications for their testing and validation. We develop these, introducing changes in the meaning of validity posed by the use to which such models are to be put in terms of their users. We draw these ideas together as conclusions about the limits posed to prediction in complex systems. We illustrate our arguments using various examples from the field of urban systems theory and urban science.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Modeling complexity: the limits to prediction
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/casa/pdf/paper36.pdf
Additional information: Imported via OAI, 16:54:26 4th May 2005
Keywords: complexity, PREDICTION
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/158379
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