How do mathematical models help predict the future? – with Erica Thompson

From The Royal Institution.

How do mathematical models help us make predictions about what will happen? And what happens when those models are biased towards a particular view of the world?

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This talk was recorded at the Ri on 20 June 2023.

Mathematical models have shaped our world and continue to be at the centre of everything we do. They became headline news as we tackled the COVID-19 pandemic, and are helping us to regulate an increasingly volatile economy and navigate the uncertainties of climate change.

In this talk, policy and models expert Erica Thompson explains the validity of the models we use: what they are, how they work, and the disastrous consequences when the makers and interpreters of models get things wrong.

Erica Thompson is a senior policy fellow at the London School of Economics Data Science Institute, a fellow of the London Mathematical Laboratory and an honorary senior research fellow at UCL’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy. With a PhD from Imperial College, Erica works on the use of mathematical modelling to support real-world decisions, specifically on the ethics of modelling and simulation. She has recently worked on the limitations of models of COVID-19 spread, humanitarian crises, and climate change. Erica’s previous work includes the UK Department of for Energy and Climate Change’s Global Calculator project, where she provided the climate science information. Erica lives in West Wales, and is reducing her own ecological footprint to a "One Planet" level by not travelling to conferences and finding other ways to reach people.

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