Chapter 1Global Dynamics and the Tools of Complexity Science

Alan Wilson

The populations and economies of the 220 countries of the world make up a complex global system. The elements of this system are continually interacting through, for example, trade, migration, the deployment of military forces (mostly in the name of defence and security) and development aid. It is a major challenge of social science to seek to understand this global system and to show how this understanding can be used in policy development. In this book, we deploy the tools of complexity science – and in particular, mathematical and computer modelling – to explore various aspects of change and the associated policy and planning uses: in short, global dynamics.

What is needed and what is the available toolkit? Population and economic models are usually based on accounts. Methods of demographic modelling are relatively well known and can be assumed to exist for most countries. In this case, we will largely take existing figures and record them in an information system. An exception is the task of migration modelling. National economic models are, or should be, input–output based. We face a challenge here, in part, to ensure full international coverage and also to link import and export flows with trade flows. In the case of security, there are some rich sources of data to report; in the case for development aid, the data are less good. In each case, we require models of the flows – technically, models of ...

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