We programmers live our working lives surrounded by data structures and subroutines, entities that become as concrete to us — as “thing-like”, as “manipulable” — as teacups and bricks. The feeling of thingness is strengthened, I think, by interactive shells such as R’s which enable one to call functions and inspect their results, and to store these in variables and pass them around. For our model, those results are either chunks of economic data such as our tables of households, or income-distribution graphs and other such summaries. I hope that being able to touch, probe, and pick up these things with R will make them seem more real.
Cartoon of an experimenter probing the innards of an economic model built as a piece of electronics in a case, and displaying an income distribution on a test meter

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