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World models and intuition in the 1970s

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  • UserSarah Dry (University of Cambridge) World_link
  • ClockThursday 29 April 2021, 15:30-17:00
  • HouseZoom.

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In this paper I consider the 1972 publication of the Limits to Growth report and the so-called decade of world modelling that followed it. For early proponents, world models offered not only super-human analytical and computational capacities but something perhaps more surprising: the promise of self-revelation and a new kind of human agency. By revealing the ineradicable role of human judgement and intuition in both model- and decision-making, they were seen as tools for elevating consciousness and motivating action on the urgent matter of the Earth’s future. Such an approach to modelling depended on self-reflexive attitudes on the part of modellers and a commitment to rendering the process of model-building at least somewhat transparent to outsiders. A series of conferences in the 1970s tried to do just this. In this paper, I consider the rise and eventual transformation (if not total fall) of the idea that world modelling could be a way to understand not only the complexity of the natural world but of what makes us human.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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