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Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Understanding Society

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A recent Tech Review article on artificial societies briefly explores the work of Joshua Epstein, a noted researcher in the use of agent-based modeling or artificial societies. The article notes how Epstein and fellow researchers such as Robert Axtell have been using new computer simulations based on agents (actors programmed with very simple rules) to set in motion systems of agents to observe the phenomena that result. In this way, complex social phenomena, like economic behavior, civilizational development, and genocide can be ‘grown’ from simple set-ups. According to an Epstein quote in the article, “Artificial society modeling allows us to ‘grow’ social structures in silico demonstrating that certain sets of microspecifications are sufficient to generate the macro­phenomena of interest.”

The article notes that while the researchers have been able to use this method to prompt the fairly accurate recreation of actual historical events (like the siting of virtual Anasazi dwellings in the same place as the historical ones), the researchers are clear that these new models provide fascinating new explanatory power and not necessarily predictive power.

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Filed under: Change, Technology

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