This was a great interdisciplinary course, relevant for all thinking people.
I have a background in economics and social science (two major applications of model thinking) and thus I was familiar with some of these concepts (e.g. prisoner's dilemma). However, the content was still 75% new, and totally fascinating. Some highlights, that I still remember 8 months later:
- A Standing Ovation model that helps to describe patterns via a specific example of when audiences stand up after a performance based on where they are sitting & internal preferences...provides insights into tipping points
- A simple application of modeling Diversity, by conceiving of it as having different starting points on a terrain while searching for a global optimum. If there are local maxima, you may get stuck on one of them, but with more starting points you are more likely to find the global optimum. Dr. Page has a book on this, and it is an interesting abstract demonstration of the benefit of diversity.
- Cellular automata, a modeling method of having a grid of cells follow very simple rules about whether to be active or not, based on its neighbors. It is remarkable the kinds of results you can get from very simple rules. You can have simple patterns, complex ones, repeating or seemingly random chaos, from very small alterations, which is very non-intuitive. This helps demonstrate how very simple dynamics can lead to very complex phenomena.
There were several more gems in the course I still remember, such as the forest fire model, the urn model of colored balls, Markov chains, etc., all of which illustrate and shed light on some social phenomena. Drawbacks? It does rely on quite a bit of math--not complex, but there are lots of calculations, which might turn some people off. But the over-arching point of this is that when you see how the math works, you get a better feel for how the phenomena work.
This course has definitely changed the way I think about things, it should be a pre-requisite for understanding the world in the 21st Century.