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The Electronic Oracle

By Donella H. Meadows and Jennifer M. Robinson. 

The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions investigates the practice and impact of systems analysis and computer modeling, particularly as applied to social policy. The authors explore the nature of models, the biases and hidden assumptions of different modeling methods, the pragmatics of the modeling process, and the impact of modeling on the real world. These issues are approached through detailed case studies of nine models designed to address issues of economic development, resources and the environment. This book compares the pros and cons of the modeling paradigms used to understand the complex interactions that influence the behavior of social systems: System Dynamics, econometrics, linear programming, input/output analysis, and optimization. The authors explore why so many modeling projects fail and present guidelines for improvement. The methods developed in the book to expose hidden assumptions, to make undiscussable values and biases discussable, remain central to anyone seeking to have an impact on the real world.