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Escape from Model Land: How Mathematical Models Can Lead Us Astray and What We Can Do About It

Erica Thompson

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Mathematical modelling

Explores the power of mathematical models to shape our world and what we need to do to harness that power for good.

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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