New online course: model thinking
There’s a new course starting soon, taught by Scott Page, about “model thinking” (hat tip David Laxer). The course web site is located here and some preview lectures are here. From the course description:
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.
The models cover in this class provide a foundation for future social science classes, whether they be in economics, political science, business, or sociology. Mastering this material will give you a huge leg up in advanced courses. They also help you in life.
In other words, this guy is seriously ambitious. Usually around people who are this into modeling I get incredibly suspicious and skeptical, and this is no exception. I’ve watched the first two videos and I’ve come across the following phrases:
- Models make us think better
- Models are better than we are
- Models make us humble
The third one is particularly strange since his evidence that models make us humble seems to come from the Dutch tulip craze, where a linear model of price growth was proven wrong, and the recent housing boom, where people who modeled housing prices as always going up (i.e. most people) were wrong.
I think I would have replaced the above with the following:
- Models can make us come to faster conclusions, which can work as rules of thumb, but beware of when you are misapplying such shortcuts
- Models make us think we are better than we actually are: beware of overconfidence in what is probably a ridiculous oversimplification of what may be a complicated real-world situation
- Models sometimes fail spectacularly, and our overconfidence and misapplication of models helps them do so.
So in other words I’m looking forward to disagreeing with this guy a lot.
He seems really nice, by the way.
I should also mention that in spite of anticipating disagreeing fervently with this guy, I think what Coursera is doing by putting up online courses is totally cool. Check out some of their other offerings here.