Darold Higa: “Multi-Agent Virtual Histories: Disaggregating International Relations”

August 21, 2007 | USC ICT

Speaker: Darold Higa

Concerns over the environment, terrorism, ethnic violence and state disintegration have placed greater emphasis on exploring the possible connections between
resource scarcity and inter-group violence. The wide range of divergent outcomes resulting from resource scarcity suggests that the ideational context of resource scarcity is critical in modeling this relationship. Developing an adequate model of the relationship between scarcity and violence must therefore contain elements that can reflect the origins, development and proliferation of ideas and alternative economic strategies in order to adequately explain real-world divergence in outcomes. Scarcity as a Complex Adaptive System (SCAS) is one such model. SCAS uses an agent-based model featuring cognitively complex agents on a differentiated, three-dimensional landscape to explore the relationship between resource scarcity and inter-group violence. In order to demonstrate the efficacy of SCAS requires translating the model into a computer simulation known as agentLand. AgentLand features adaptive agents that learn experientially via Holland’s Learning Classifier System, learn socially through communication and innovate through random strategy generation. The resulting virtual histories created by agentLand show that ideas, geography, density and communication are important, and the proliferation of different strategies across a landscape of adaptive agents can create a wide range of outcomes, paralleling diversity found in the real world. Preliminary results show that by using an ensemble of virtual histories, agentLand is able to generate plausible virtual scenarios. Most importantly, this research opens the door to a different way of conceptualizing and modeling complex macro-level events as networks of microinteractions.