Saturday, June 30, 2007

Artificial Societies and Virtual Violence

MIT TechReview have an online post about how 'modeling societies in silico can help us understand human inequality, revolution, ethnic cleansing, and genocide'. Their article 'Artificial Societies and Virtual Violence' looks at the practice of growing artificial societies virtually in simulation - or in silico - as means to model future social structures and events:

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.

What does this mean? And why should we care? Epstein's claim was twofold. First, he pointed out that while almost all the patterns that interest social scientists are emergent ones--that is, complex developments arising from a lot of relatively simple interactions--disciplines such as mainstream economics conceive of societies as tending toward some notional equilibrium. Standard explanations assume, too, that societies consist of highly rational agents who, possessing full knowledge, act always in their own best interest. When it comes to how real populations of diverse actors with limited rationality actually evolve their patterns of, say, wealth distribution

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