Mathematical Models of Technological and Social Complexity

  • Ronald Kline
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 30)


This chapter recounts part of the history of mathematical modeling in the social sciences in the United States and England in the 1950s and 1960s. It contrasts the modeling practices of MIT engineer Jay Forrester, who developed the field of System Dynamics, with that of English cybernetician Stafford Beer, and American social scientist Herbert Simon, in regard to the contested issues of prediction and control. The analysis deals with the topic of mathematics and technology in three senses: the technological origins of mathematical modeling in cybernetics and System Dynamics in the fields of control and communications engineering; the use of digital computers to create models in System Dynamics; and the conception of scientific models, themselves, as technologies. The chapter argues that the different interpretations of Forrester, Beer, and Simon about how models should serve as technologies help explain differences in their models and modeling practices and criticisms of Forrester’s ambitious attempts to model the world.


Modeling in the social sciences Cybernetics System dynamics Stafford Beer Jay Forrester Herbert Simon 

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science and Technology Studies DepartmentCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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