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Model Thinking


About This University Online Course:

We live in a complex world with diverse people, firms, and governments whose behaviors aggregate to produce novel, unexpected phenomena. We see political uprisings, market crashes, and a never ending array of social trends. How do we make sense of it? Models. Evidence shows that people who think with models consistently outperform those who don’t. And, moreover people who think with lots of models outperform people who use only one. Why do models make us better thinkers? Models help us to better organize information – to make sense of that fire hose or hairball of data (choose your metaphor) available on the Internet. Models improve our abilities to make accurate forecasts. They help us make better decisions and adopt more effective strategies. They even can improve our ability to design institutions and procedures. In this class, I present a starter kit of models: I start with models of tipping points. I move on to cover models explain the wisdom of crowds, models that show why some countries are rich and some are poor, and models that help unpack the strategic decisions of firm and politicians.

Created by:  University of Michigan

Taught by:  Scott E. Page, Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science and Economics

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Online Course Syllabus:

  • Week 1: Why Model & Segregation/Peer Effects
  • Week 2: Aggregation & Decision Models
  • Week 3: Thinking Electrons: Modeling People & Categorical and Linear Models
  • Week 4: Tipping Points & Economic Growth
  • Week 5: Diversity and Innovation & Markov Processes
  • Week 6: Midterm Exam
  • Week 7: Lyapunov Functions & Coordination and Culture
  • Week 8: Path Dependence & Networks
  • Week 9: Randomness and Random Walks & Colonel Blotto
  • Week 10: Prisoners’ Dilemma and Collective Action & Mechanism Design
  • Week 11: Learning Models: Replicator Dynamics & Prediction and the Many Model Thinker
  • Week 12: Final Exam

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