Is it possible to replicate complex systems in a virtual environment? How can we replicate the flocking of birds, the behavior of groups of people, the dynamics of complex organizations like distributed software development or financial markets? Agent Based Modeling provides a way to replicate these complex dynamics in a simulated environment. The methodology is based on the assumption that if some individual behaviors show repeated patterns, and these patterns are observable, we can program virtual individuals to interact with each other following the observed behavior. By programming these virtual entities (Agents) with functions, algorithms or rules to follow, it is possible to observe macro phenomena as it emerges from the individual action and collective interactions. Moreover, if the original data is accurate enough it would be possible to predict organizational behavior in lab reducing the need of costly empirical testing.
The software we use for modeling complex systems is Netlogo.
“NetLogo is a multi-agent programmable modeling environment. It is used by tens of thousands of students, teachers and researchers worldwide. It also powers HubNet participatory simulations. It is authored by Uri Wilensky and developed at the CCL. You can download it free of charge”
Some examples of Agent Based Models replicating complex systems:
Flocking Model – “This model is an attempt to mimic the flocking of birds. (The resulting motion also resembles schools of fish.) The flocks that appear in this model are not created or led in any way by special leader birds. Rather, each bird is following exactly the same set of rules, from which flocks emerge.” Wilensky, U. (1998)
Team Assembly – “This model of collaboration networks illustrates how the behavior of individuals in assembling small teams for short-term projects can give rise to a variety of large-scale network structures over time” Bakshy, E. and Wilensky, U. (2007)