Guillaume Deffuant, Scott Moss and Wander Jager (2006)
Dialogues Concerning a (Possibly) New Science
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
vol. 9, no. 1
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Received: 07-Oct-2005 Accepted: 07-Oct-2005 Published: 31-Jan-2006
The three characters, Dreamer, Experimentalist and Realistic, meet in an ideal place of Toscana. They come from different places of the old, decadent and altogether fundamentally renewing Europe of the early 21st century. They were invited in this place to discuss matters of high importance: Do agent based computer simulations offer a venue for a new social science? On what basis such a new science would stand? What role would play experimental approaches developed in social psychology? How to use case studies from the real world? Is there a need to develop a specific methodology of simulation?
A tiny breeze of spring brings perfumes from the high cypress along the pools and gardens. Dreamer opens the discussion.
After almost a decade during which research on agent-oriented programming struggled to deliver any concrete results, the last couple of years has seen an impressive improvement in the quality of research in the area, as well as a considerable increase in the number or researchers involved in it. This lead to the creation of two international workshop series on the subject.The citations given by Bordini et al. for nearly useful agent oriented programming have such titles as "Proving the asymmetry thesis principles for a BDI agent-oriented programming language" and "Efficient intention selection in BDI agents via decision-theoretic task scheduling". As a result, I think the quotation given above means that, having laboured mightily for ten years, the concrete results of formal BDI agent-oriented programming is a couple of international workshop series. There has certainly been useful programming using BDI-like constructs in agent oriented languages, but these have had nothing to do with BDI logics as formalisms for proving anything. The BDI programming paradigm may be useful. Claims to use BDI logic are a prime example of faux formalism. If the theories have not themselves been validated and their conditions of application identified, then I argue that there is no justification to constrain models or, more generally, social analysis by such theories. Case studies, per contra, can provide detailed accounts of dynamic social processes over quite extended intervals of time. Social simulation models designed and validated with the participation of stakeholders and other domain experts are then validated by comparing model numerical output with social statistics and also by allowing the stakeholders to assess the plausibility of the behaviour and interactions among the agents as models of the stakeholders themselves. Validation against case studies can also take the form of having independent experts or observers assess the qualitative behaviour of agents. By their nature, of course, agent based social simulation models of case studies support validation against history.
The night has come, and millions of stars are now witnessing the dispute. It will probably not end before the sun rises and sets many times. Around, some people are still active whereas most others are asleep. None imagine the struggle taking place in this villa, about the secrets of this so strange creation in which they all participate, and are at the same time the products: a human society.
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