CS 752 System Dynamics : Modeling and Simulation for Development (Spring 2018)

Schedule: Slot 6
Venue: SIC 301
Instructor: Om Damani

Moodle: Slides, Assignments, Solution, Newsgroup etc.

Technology is helpful but rarely sufficient in delivering development, because real-life systems are dynamic, nonlinear, multi-loop feedback driven, adaptive, and therefore change-resistant. In fact, many of the growth-oriented/growth-accelerating technical developments and government policies are making the world more unsustainable.

To analyze complex development situations, this course will introduce 'System Dynamics' - use of Computer Modeling and Simulation to specify and analyze complex social systems. The key insight of System Dynamics is that while due to bounded rationality, human intuition about working of social systems and their long term dynamics is often wrong, and analytical solutions to formal mathematical specifications of social systems are often intractable, use of Computer Modeling and Simulation can be a powerful tool in deciphering the complexity of social systems. The formal specification has to be a detailed simulation model explicating all assumptions. Given such a formal model, simulation can unravel long term dynamics in space and time. Policy interventions can be tested using sensitivity analysis and leverage points can be identified. This classic by Forrester will give a detailed idea of what the course is about.

Note that the course is not about developing or using gadgets and how they bring development. It is about using Computer Modeling and Simulation to analyze development situations. Each week, we will try to pick one onewspaper article of immediate relevance and try to analyze it.


1. Business Dynamics : Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, Author John D. Sterman - Tata Mcgraw Hill : 2010.

It is mandatory for all registered students to have a copy of one of the book.


Pre-requisites: None

Audit Requirements: You have to do all the assignments. There will be at least one assignment per week.


Lecture Topics

1) Introduction to Systems Thinking: What is Systems Dynamics. (lectures 1,2 - Chapters 1,2)

2) Feedback Systems Thinking/Causal Loop Diagrams: Causality, Causal Chains, Causal Loop Diagrams, meaning of links and polarities on links, loop polarities (lectures 3-4, Chapter 5)

3) Stock and Flow: notion of stock, rate of change, conservation of stock, system boundary - sources and sinks for flows, tangible vs intangible stocks (lectures 5-6, Chapter 6,7)

4) Computer Simulation: Introduction to Vensim. Example: Simple savings account, Population Dynamics in Detail (lectures 7-8)