‎"Behind every stack of books there is a flood of knowledge."

Modern Thinking



Jan 28th 2013 (10 weeks long)  
Sep 3rd 2012 (10 weeks long)  
Workload: 4-8 hours/week

About the Course

We live in a complex world with diverse people, firms, and governments whose behaviors aggregate to produce novel, unexpected phenomena. We see political uprisings, market crashes, and a never ending array of social trends. How do we make sense of it? Models. Evidence shows that people who think with models consistently outperform those who don’t. And, moreover people who think with lots of models outperform people who use only one. Why do models make us better thinkers? Models help us to better organize information – to make sense of that fire hose or hairball of data (choose your metaphor) available on the Internet. Models improve our abilities to make accurate forecasts. They help us make better decisions and adopt more effective strategies. They even can improve our ability to design institutions and procedures. In this class, I present a starter kit of models: I start with models of tipping points. I move on to cover models explain the wisdom of crowds, models that show why some countries are rich and some are poor, and models that help unpack the strategic decisions of firm and politicians. The models covered in this class provide a foundation for future social science classes, whether they be in economics, political science, business, or sociology. Mastering this material will give you a huge leg up in advanced courses. They also help you in life. Here’s how the course will work. For each model, I present a short, easily digestible overview lecture. Then, I’ll dig deeper. I’ll go into the technical details of the model. Those technical lectures won’t require calculus but be prepared for some algebra. For all the lectures, I’ll offer some questions and we’ll have quizzes and even a final exam. If you decide to do the deep dive, and take all the quizzes and the exam, you’ll receive a certificate of completion. If you just decide to follow along for the introductory lectures to gain some exposure that’s fine too. It’s all free. And it’s all here to help make you a better thinker!

About the Instructor:

Scott E Page is the Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics at the University of Michigan where he directs the Center for the Study of Complex Systems. He is also an external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute. Scott has won awards for his teaching and service at the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Caltech, and the University of Michigan. Scott has published widely on a variety of topics across the social sciences. In 2011, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Recommended Background

Students should be very comfortable with basic algebra.  Calculus isn’t necessary but a conceptual understanding of how derivatives give the slope at a point  proves useful.

Suggested Readings

Course Format

The class will cover a variety of models. For each model, I will give an introductory lecture accessible to a general audience that last approximately ten minutes. I will follow this with advanced lectures that explain how model’s details and how to use it, as well as possible extensions. Many of these more detailed lectures will include integrated questions so you can test your knowledge of the material. I will also offer quizzes separate from the video lectures. I anticipate covering two models per week and recording approximately one hour of video per model.


  • Do I need to buy a textbook?No. I’m working to get all necessary reading material to be available for free on the course web site.
  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a certificate signed by the instructor.
Economics & Finance

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This entry was posted on January 9, 2013 by in Online Courses, Social Science and tagged , , .
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