[Humanist] 28.45 when the model becomes the sole object of study

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu May 22 02:47:13 CEST 2014


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 45.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Ken Kahn <kenneth.kahn at it.ox.ac.uk>                       (17)
        Subject: Regarding 'when the model becomes the sole object of study'

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (15)
        Subject: the extreme case


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 21 May 2014 12:20:45 +0100
        From: Ken Kahn <kenneth.kahn at it.ox.ac.uk>
        Subject: Regarding 'when the model becomes the sole object of study'


I recently built a computer simulation of the Spanish Flu Pandemic. After
constructing it to match known processes, events, and facts we realised we
could use to explore counter-factual scenarios. The two we implemented were
'How might the pandemic have unfolded if there was no war' and 'How might
it have unfolded if the armistice did not happen in the middle of the
second most deadly wave of the pandemic'. Clearly the model is imperfect
and so are the results of these counter-factual simulations. But they take
into account many more factors and their consequences than
non-computer-supported counter-factual speculations.

Another historical question that the model perhaps provides some insight
into is where the pandemic originated. The two prevalent theories are
Kansas and Northern France. The range of parameters to simulate an origin
in Northern France are very narrow while the Kansas origin can be run with
a much wider range of parameter values. Does this indicate something about
the relative likelihood of these two theories?

The model and its documentation can be found at
http://resources.modelling4all.org/spanish-flu.

-ken kahn 

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 22 May 2014 06:25:23 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the extreme case

I'm very grateful indeed for the responses to the question of when the 
model/simulation becomes the sole object of study. But allow me to 
emphasize that I am in fact asking for any examples of the extreme case: 
not merely when people pay long attention to the simulation but when 
they make a principled case for the simulation as the only way of 
finding out, when that which is thought to be real in whatever sense is 
knowable only *as* the simulation, indeed is thought *to be* the 
simulation.

A better statement of this question would be welcome. I do think we need 
to keep hammering at it. There's more than one gem concealed in it, 
I suspect.

Yours,
WM
-- 
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney




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