Talk page for the Complexity Project

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Complex Systems Summer School 2011

This is the page for formulating an answer to the Challenge Question on Complexity.

Refining the question: what are we trying to answer? Time based? Scale? Dynamics?

Conceptualization: what are the concepts to lock in for testing?

Models available for modification:

  • NetLogo diffusion models
  • Netlogo network models
  • Bhavnani Findley Kuklinski (rumors on ethnic conflict)

Assembly of annotated bibliography for data/parameter mining

Crutchfield, Jim (2009). "The Hidden Fragility of Complex Systems: Consequences of Change, Changes of Consequences". -This paper is Jim's rough answer to his own question; we should consider it our ur-text for this project. It is non-technical reading (something like a long op-ed) but sketches out basic definitions of fragility, complexity, and the sorts of problems he sees as needing answers. It also has some references we may want to explore further. MDT

Johnson, Simon. "13 Bankers and the Next Financial Meltdown" (.pdf). - Jim's paper points to the economy as 'complex', and argues this complexity created fragility that led to the recent crisis. Johnson's argument is a bit different: increasing concentration of wealth among a few key financial firms led to regulatory capture and strong homogeneity in that sector. From our perspective, this process reduced the complexity of the financial-political system, and made it prone to failure. MDT

Jason mentioned this paper - - to me last week, and I think it deals with directly to some of the stuff we've discussed. It is by Nassim Taleb, the gentlemen who wrote "Black Swan." It is a heuristic for detecting fragility or non-fragility of a system. ~Ryan B.

Data Sets Available

I was looking around tonight and found out the FAO has a detailed trade matrix on food commodity flows from 1986-2008. Its a pain to deal with and might take a lot of work to get it in a useable form, but we could definitely use it for a weighted network of the most important grain importers / exporters.

FAO also has a really neat set of monthly retail and export price data from around the world available here: This would be another way of looking at coupling between geographically seperated regions. Most data sets only go back to about 2002-ish, so we can't look at how it changes over time, but can still look at coupling today.

Finally, the USDA has annual grain stock data by year for 1960-2011 that could be used for a 'robustness' measure of different nodes in the network. -- Fran

(PS - here is a link to a moderately interesting IFPRI article that looks at the effects of stocks and particularly export bans / panic buying in propagating the 2007-2008 food price shock: They have a formula relating the impact of sudden demand / supply changes on short-run global prices that might be relevant)

This site has a whole bunch of datasets on food production, consumption, etc, as well as biofuels data:

Unfortunately, datasets on biofuels trade (more specific that production and consumption) are hard to come by without an expensive subscription to FO Licht's report. If we want to include changes in biofuel production/trade and impacts on food production/trade, we could maybe just calculate that from the production/consumption stats without more specific known flows. -Lydia

Here's the mother lode of data on rice. -Jason

Talking about Food

Cassava prices in Thailand

Quinoa prices and food consumption habits in Bolivia

IMF + EU + WB pressures on food storage rates

crop failure + increasing oil prices = food prices go up

Interesting op-ed on whether or not food prices can be stabilized and how they might or might not be. The author is Jeff Frankel from Harvard. Describes the problems as he sees them and then argues France is wrong to target speculators, as they probably are not destabilizing, its government intervention (both exporter and importer), that is likely the problem. And that speculators actually probably identify when the price system is most fragile. ~ Ryan B.

Publications on Global Trade Modeling

1. This is a book that is very good about walking you through trade modeling:

2. This is a WTO working paper which "demystify's global trade modeling":

3. This is an interesting working paper that covers the intellectual history of "computable generalizable equilibrium" models, and discusses a sort of collusion/conspiracy about how they became the go to model in the policy world and that they really have no micro-economic foundations. ~Ryan B.