UNCERTAINTY AND PRECISION IN ANALYZING COMPLEXITYDr. Von
had a timely and useful post today, one that will interest Steve, Dave
among others, addressing the issue of using network theory as a predictive model for social networks. In " Will we ever be able to predict what social systems and networks will do? Perhaps globally, but likely not locally
" Von differentiates between systems and individuals in terms of rule sets:"In a physical system this is similar to studying gases. We can in principle use Newton's laws to predict what should happen to individual atoms and molecules, but collectively we need to resort to a statistical/probabilistic approach. Collectively, there are set probability distribution functions for something like molecular speed, but that is meaningless to an individual molecule of the gas. In social systems, we are dealing with complex, unpredictable individual agents that make up the system, and this makes things considerably more difficult to analyze than a gas, whose individual agents are governed by deterministic rules (at least to a good approximation using classical physics). It will be quite difficult to accurately model emotion and religious fanaticism, for example, for individuals in a social system. We can guess and try to take a statistical approach, but this leaves some degree of uncertainty in results and predictions. It will be very difficult to model and predict what is going on in the head of a leader such as Osama bin Laden; there is a good deal we can only guess at, even though there has been research and progress in figuring out how his larger terror network operates and is structured. This is the difference between local and global environments and rulesets."
The post should be read in full
I'll have a (somewhat distantly) related post up later tonight.