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Dynamic Complexity. 50th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences George P. Richardson Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy University at Albany, SUNY. Learning in and about Complex Systems Sterman (1994). Unknown structure Dynamic complexity

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Dynamic complexity l.jpg

Dynamic Complexity

50th Annual Meeting of the

International Society for the Systems Sciences

George P. Richardson

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy

University at Albany, SUNY


Slide2 l.jpg

Learning in and about Complex Systems

Sterman (1994)

Unknown structure

Dynamic complexity

Time Delays

Impossible experiments

Real World

Virtual World

Known structure

Variable Complexity

Controlled Experiments

Selected

Missing

Delayed

Biased

Ambiguous

Implementation

Game playing

Inconsistency

Short term

Information Feedback

Decisions

Misperceptions

Unscientific

Biases

Defensiveness

Strategy, Structure, Decision Rules

Mental Models

Inability to infer dynamics from mental models


Dynamic complexity arises because systems are l.jpg

Changing over time

Tightly coupled

Governed by feedback

Nonlinear: changing dominant structure

History-dependent

Self-organizing

Adaptive

Counterintuitive

Policy resistant

Characterized by tradeoffs

Dynamic Complexity arises because systems are…


System dynamics contributions l.jpg

Thinking dynamically

Move from events and decisions to patterns of continuous behavior over time and policy structure

Thinking in circular causal / feedback patterns

Self-reinforcing and self-balancing processes

Compensating feedback structures and policy resistance

Communicating complex nonlinear system structure

Thinking in stocks and flows

Accumulations are the resources and the pressures on policy

Policies influence flows

Modeling and simulation

Accumulating (and remembering) complexity

Rigorous (daunting) model evaluation processes

Controlled experiments

Reflection

System Dynamics Contributions


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The system dynamics modeling process

Adapted from Saeed 1992





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  • Two Threads of Feedback Thought

  • System dynamics arises in theservomechanisms thread

  • (the first four in this list)


Forrester s hierarchy of system structure l.jpg
Forrester’s Hierarchy of System Structure Thought

  • Closed boundary around the system

  • Feedback loops as the basic structural elements within the boundary

  • Level [stock] variables representing accumulations within the feedback loops

  • Rate [flow] variables representing activity within the feedback loops

    • Goal

    • Observed condition

    • Detection of discrepancy

    • Action based on discrepancy


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The Endogenous Point of View Thought

  • The closed causal boundary takes top billing

  • Dynamics arise from interactions within that boundary

  • Systems thinking is the mental effort to uncover endogenous sources of system behavior.


Dynamics l.jpg

Dynamics Thought



Global atmospheric methane 1860 1994 l.jpg
Global Atmospheric Methane Thought(1860-1994)


Global average temperature reconstruction 1400 1980 data 1902 1998 l.jpg
Global Average Temperature Thought(Reconstruction 1400-1980; Data 1902-1998)



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Stocks and flows help to explain Thoughtself-reported drug use data


Challenging the clouds in a study of leasing in the automobile industry l.jpg

? Thought

‘Challenging the clouds’ in a study of leasing in the automobile industry

“We’re not in the used car business!”




Stocks and flows in global warming l.jpg
Stocks and Flows in Global Warming Thought

Thought experiment:


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But although the stock-and-flow insight holds, global climate is of course much more complex than that.

And still much more complex than this simple global climate model, as well!


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Feedback Thinking climate is of course much more complex than that.

“For one good deed leads to another good deed, and one transgression leads to another transgression.” (Pirke Avot)


The classic cybernetic balancing loop l.jpg
The Classic Cybernetic Balancing Loop climate is of course much more complex than that.


The cybernetic loop with complications l.jpg
The Cybernetic Loop with Complications climate is of course much more complex than that.


The cybernetic loop with complications26 l.jpg
The Cybernetic Loop with Complications climate is of course much more complex than that.


The cybernetic loop with complications27 l.jpg
The Cybernetic Loop with Complications climate is of course much more complex than that.


A classic reinforcing loop myrdal 1944 merton 1948 l.jpg
A Classic Reinforcing Loop climate is of course much more complex than that. (Myrdal 1944, Merton 1948)

Prejudice against the minority group

Majority’s perception of the inferiority of the minority

Economic and educational discrimination against the minority

(R)

Achievements of the minority group


Structure and dynamics of terrorist cells l.jpg
Structure and Dynamics of Terrorist Cells climate is of course much more complex than that.

(R)

Interfering with terrorist funding

Terrorist funding

Peripheral support for terrorists

(B)

Efforts to suppress terrorists

(R)

Terrorist actions

(B)

(B)

(R)

Recruiting terrorists

Terrorist group

Losing terrorists

(R)

(B)

Terrorist zeal

(R)

(R)

Terrorist martyrs to the cause


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Insights about building teamwork in a public school climate is of course much more complex than that.

Teamwork and Communication are self-reinforcing







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The Problem: 1996 U.S. welfare reform a trap

  • Since 1930, a guarantee of lifetime Federal support

  • 1996 legislation ended that:

    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - TANF

    • At most five years of Federal support in one’s lifetime

  • The clock started for everyone on TANF in 1997

  • People began timing out in 2002

  • Financial burden will begin shifting to the states and counties

  • A series of facilitated group modeling efforts in three New York State counties tried to help counties cope. Where are the leverage points?


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Three Policy Mixes a trap

  • Base run (for comparison)

    • Flat unemployment rate

    • Historical client behaviors

  • Investments in the “Middle”

    • Additional services to TANF families

    • Increased TANF assessment & monitoring

    • Safety net assessment & job services

  • Investments on the “Edges”

    • Prevention

    • Child support enforcement

    • Self-sufficiency promotion




Base edges and middle compared populations on the welfare rolls l.jpg
Base, “Edges,” and “Middle” Compared: a trapPopulations on the Welfare Rolls

“Edges” looks better.


Total job finding flows from tanf l.jpg
Total Job-Finding Flows from TANF a trap

“Middle” looks better.


Program expenditures l.jpg
Program Expenditures a trap

“Edges” looks worse, then better.


Populations in the welfare system l.jpg
Populations in the Welfare System a trap

“Middle” looks worse than “Base”! “Edges” looks much better.


Total recidivism flows back to tanf l.jpg
Total Recidivism Flows a trap(back to TANF)

The hint for understanding the puzzling dynamics: recidivism.


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A Stock-and-Flow Archetype a trapat Work Here


Slide48 l.jpg

Behavior of the Archetype in response a trap

to increased TANF support capacity

Total families at risk

Families on TANF

Post-TANF employed


The behavior of the archetype l.jpg
The Behavior of the Archetype a trap

  • Families on TANF initially declines, as more support hastens job finding.

  • Post-TANF families employed initially increases, just as policy makers would predict.

  • Eventually (it takes a year and a half to begin to see it), …

    • Families on TANF rises higher to a new high,

    • Post-TANF Employed declines to a new low,

    • And Total Families at Risk rises!

  • …All because of increased TANF support capacity!


Slide50 l.jpg

  • Why? a trap

  • Increasing TANF support

  • Speeds job finding,

  • Swamping downstream Post-TANF jobs and support


Misattribution l.jpg
Misattribution? a trap

  • Desirable rise in Post-TANF employed continues for almost a year and half after the intervention

  • Families on TANF falls below initial for over a year after increasing TANF support capacity

  • Very hard (impossible?) to see that the rise in Total Families at Risk is attributable solelyto the improvement in TANF support capacity

  • Dynamics almost certainly to be blamed on a weakening economy, a rise in client pathologies, or other exogenous factors


Slide52 l.jpg

A Loop View of the Archetype in Detail a trap

Suppose TANF support capacity increases…


Slide53 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)

White bar (left) is the time slice of interest

Red arrows (below) are the dominant influences


Slide54 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)


Slide55 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)


Slide56 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)


Slide57 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)

White bar (left) is the time slice of interest

Red arrows (below) are the dominant influences


Slide58 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)


Slide59 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)


Slide60 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)


Slide61 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)


Slide62 l.jpg

4,000 a trap

3,000

B: Employed load controls recidivism

2,000

1,000

0

0

30

60

90

120

Time (Month)

Dynamic complexity even in a structure this aggregate and tiny!


System dynamics and dynamic complexity l.jpg
System Dynamics and Dynamic Complexity a trap

  • Thinking dynamically moves us beyond separate events and decisions, toward understanding.

  • Feedback thinking extends traditional causal thinking.

  • It improves (makes more realistic) how we think about the world and how we think about changing it.

  • The endogenous point of view is empowering.


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