Chapter 8: Implications for Everyday Systems

Section 1: Issues of Modelling

History of modelling

Creation myths can in a sense be viewed as primitive models. Early examples of models with more extensive structure included epicycles. Traditional mathematical models of the modern type originated in the 1600s. The success of such models in physics led to attempts to imitate them in other fields, but for the most part these did not succeed. The idea of modelling intricate patterns using programs arose to some extent in the study of fractals in the late 1970s. And the notion of models based on simple programs such as cellular automata was central to my work in the early 1980s. But despite quite a number of fairly well- known successes, there is even now surprisingly little understanding among most scientists of the idea of models based on simple programs. Work in computer graphics—with its emphasis on producing pictures that look right—has made some contributions. And it seems likely that the possibility of computerized and especially image-based data taking will contribute further. (See also page 860.)

From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]