Human Societies: Understanding Observed Social Phenomena

  • Bruce Edmonds
  • Pablo Lucas
  • Juliette Rouchier
  • Richard Taylor
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)


The chapter begins by briefly describing two contrasting simulations: the iconic system dynamics model publicised under the Limits to Growth book and a detailed model of first millennium Native American societies in the southwest of the United States. These are used to bring out the issues of abstraction, replicability, model comprehensibility, understanding vs. prediction and the extent to which simulations go beyond what is observed. All of these issues are rooted in some fundamental difficulties in the project of simulating observed societies that are then briefly discussed. Both issues and difficulties result in three “dimensions” in which simulation approaches differ. The core of the chapter is a look at 15 different possible simulation goals, both abstract and concrete, giving some examples of each and discussing them. The different inputs and results from such simulations are briefly discussed as to their importance for simulating human societies.


Abstraction Assessment Assumption Counterexample Data Evaluation Evidence Explanation Exploration Fieldwork Illustration Micro/macro Modelling Participatory Pattern Prevision Process Proof Replication Representation Social context Social design Stakeholder Understanding Validation 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce Edmonds
    • 1
  • Pablo Lucas
    • 2
  • Juliette Rouchier
    • 3
  • Richard Taylor
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Policy ModellingManchester Metropolitan UniversityManchesterUK
  2. 2.School of SociologyUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  3. 3.LAMSADE, Paris-DauphineParis Cedex 16France
  4. 4.Oxford BranchStockholm Environment InstituteStockholmSweden

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