Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up

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Brookings Institution Press, Oct 11, 1996 - Social Science - 208 pages
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""Growing Artificial Societies" is a milestone in social science research. It vividly demonstrates the potential of agent-based computer simulation to break disciplinary boundaries. It does this by analyzing in a unified framework the dynamic interactions of such diverse activities as trade, combat, mating, culture, and disease. It is an impressive achievement."
-- Robert Axelrod, University of Michigan How do social structures and group behaviors arise from the interaction of individuals? "Growing Artificial Societies" approaches this question with cutting-edge computer simulation techniques. Fundamental collective behaviors such as group formation, cultural transmission, combat, and trade are seen to "emerge" from the interaction of individual agents following a few simple rules.

In their program, named Sugarscape, Epstein and Axtell begin the development of a "bottom up" social science that is capturing the attention of researchers and commentators alike.

The study is part of the 2050 Project, a joint venture of the Santa Fe Institute, the World Resources Institute, and the Brookings Institution. The project is an international effort to identify conditions for a sustainable global system in the next century and to design policies to help achieve such a system.

"Growing Artificial Societies" is also available on CD-ROM, which includes about 50 animations that develop the scenarios described in the text.

"Copublished with the Brookings Institution"


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Life and Death on the Sugarscape
The Agents
Artificial Society on the Sugarscape
Wealth and Its Distribution in the Agent Population
Social Networks of Neighbors
Sex Culture and Conflict The Emergence of History
Summary and Conclusions
Disease Processes
Immune System Response
Disease Transmission
Digital Diseases on the Sugarscape
Disease Transmission Networks
Some Extensions of the Current Model

Sexual Reproduction
Cultural Processes
The ProtoHistory
Sugar and Spice Trade Comes to the Sugarscape
A Second Commodity
Trade Rules
Markets of Bilateral Traders
Emergent Economic Networks
Social Computation Emergent Computation
Other Artificial Societies
Formal Analysis of Artificial Societies
Generative Social Science
Looking Ahead
Software Engineering Aspects of Artificial Societies
Summary of Rule Notation
StateDependence of the Welfare Function

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Page 6 - fundamental social structures and group behaviors emerge from the interaction of individual agents operating on artificial environments under rules that place only bounded demands on each agent's information and computational capacity. The shorthand for this is that we "grow" the collective structures "from the bottom up.
Page 4 - In this approach fundamental social structures and group behaviors emerge from the interaction of individuals operating in artificial environments under rules that place only bounded demands on each agent's information and computational capacity.
Page 4 - aim being to discover fundamental local or micro mechanisms that are sufficient to generate the macroscopic social structures and collective behaviors of interest.
Page 20 - What constitutes an explanation of an observed social phenomenon? Perhaps one day people will interpret the question, "Can you explain it?" as asking "Can you grow it?
Page 4 - people" of artificial societies. Each agent has internal states and behavioral rules. Some states are fixed for the agent's life, while others change through interaction with other agents or with the external environment. For example, in the model to be described below, an agent's
Page 4 - system is a complicated structure containing millions of interacting units, such as individuals, households, and firms. It is these units which actually make decisions about spending and saving, investing and producing, marrying and having children. It seems reasonable to expect that our predictions would
Page 1 - For one, many crucially important social processes are complex. They are not neatly decomposable into separate subprocesses—economic, demographic, cultural, spatial—whose isolated analyses can be aggregated to give an adequate analysis of the social process as a whole. And yet, this is exactly how social science is organized, into more or less insular departments and journals of economics, demography, political science, and so forth.
Page 19 - a more unified social science, one that embeds evolutionary processes in a computational environment that simulates demographics, the transmission of culture, conflict, economics, disease, the emergence of groups, and agent coadaptation with an environment, all from

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About the author (1996)

Rob Axtell earned an interdisciplinary Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied computing, social science, and public policy. His teaching and research involves computational and mathematical modeling of social and economic processes. Specifically, he works at the intersection of multi-agent systems computer science and the social sciences, building so-called agent-based models of a variety of marketand non-market phenomena.

His work has been published in "Science," the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA," and been reprised in "Nature," as well as appearing in leading field journals. His research has been supported by private foundations and governmental organizations. Stories about his research have appeared in many major magazines and newspapers. He is co-author of "Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up" (MIT Press).

Joshua M. Epstein directs the Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Modeling in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences (CAM). He holds a Ph.D. from MIT and is Professor of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine with Joint Appointments in the departments of Applied Mathematics, Economics, Biostatistics, International Health, Environmental Health Sciences, Civil Engineering, and the Institute for Computational Medicine. He is director for Systems Science of the Johns Hopkins Systems Institute based in the Whiting School of Engineering. He is a former Senior Fellow in Economics and Director of the Center of Social and Economic Dynamics at the Brookings Institution, and is an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

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