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All:

This is a very interesting question. Perhaps its due to the
transdisciplinary nature of my dissertation (touching on both social
simulation and chemistry), I take a fairly minimalist approach to defining
ABM and agents, "[ABM] is a computational technique in which the system is
described though agents’ interactions with the environment and amongst
themselves (Axtell, 2000; Epstein and Axtell, 1996)." An "agent" in turn is
then described as an entity within the system being described. I suppose an
broader question for a canonical definition of ABM might be there should be
a distinct meaning between ABM / IBMs or if the terms are in fact
interchangeable as seems to be the practice.

Regards,
Robert Zupko

On Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 9:41 AM Gary Polhill <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:

> Dear all,
>
>
>
> I am inclined to agree with Edmund, not least because I see Social
> Simulation as an interdisciplinary endeavour – being too precise about how
> we define what an agent is (and/or what an agent-based model is) risks
> shutting people out for possibly quite arbitrary reasons. That said, it
> would be interesting to review work claiming to be ‘agent-based’ to look at
> different classifications of ‘agent’ and (with a nod to Jim Doran’s later
> message), if we had access to computer code, at the formal algorithmic
> properties they have. A bottom-up approach to the definition would be so
> much more appropriate… :-)
>
>
>
> With Jiaqi Ge, I have tried adopting a ‘Dennettian’ approach in a rather
> obscure reference here:
> https://www.naturvardsverket.se/Documents/publikationer6400/978-91-620-6695-6.pdf?pid=16935
> (see p. 51). We describe agency as a narrative concept – if it make sense
> in a particular context to give agency to something or someone, then it’s
> an agent.
>
>
>
> In this article (
> https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs10707-018-00340-z.pdf),
> agent-based models are defined (not authoritatively) thus:
>
>
>
> “ABMs must at least explicitly represent the following: a ‘sufficient’
> number of entities (sorites paradox notwithstanding) individually; each
> such entity having some attributes that are, in some sense, ‘theirs’ and
> not others’;  each such entity also having some dynamics that they are, in
> some sense, responsible for causing; with these dynamics having the
> potential to cause (directly or indirectly) changes to the attributes
> belonging to other such entities.”
>
>
> Gary
>
>
>
> *From:* News and discussion about computer simulation in the social
> sciences <[log in to unmask]> *On Behalf Of *Edmund Chattoe-Brown
> *Sent:* 17 April 2019 11:31
> *To:* [log in to unmask]
> *Subject:* Re: [SIMSOC] Definition of an agent
>
>
>
> Dear All,
>
> I would take a different tack and say that one of the reasons why these
> sorts of definitional tasks are so difficult and controversial is because
> it is not clear what the _aim_ of definition is. What do we "gain" when we
> define (rather than just "illustrate") the concept of agents? You cannot
> remove some aspects of reality that you don't approve of just by definition
> (or people will argue with you endlessly). So how could one adjudicate
> "scientifically" the dispute about whether an agent must/needn't have
> "advanced reasoning capabilities?" (Which, of course, is another
> contestable definition and so on!)
>
> An example. We can "define" a household as two married adults living in
> the same house with dependent children (and marriage and dependent also
> have formal definitions). Then we can do some statistics to show (perhaps)
> that this kind of household is correlated with educational success. But
> then we have to allow that it is not being married that creates this
> correlation but whether the household is "harmonious" (which some
> cohabitation is and some marriage is not) and whether the parents engage
> with and support their children's schooling (ditto). We have done the
> research starting from a clear definition (and that is good) but the
> definition has not "saved us" from the complexities of social life behind
> it. Given than many ABM are not so empirical, we cannot ask whether one
> definition rather than another generates "better designed" research or
> "better fit with data" (or some other "worthy" outcome) and that is another
> reason why (IMO) such discussions tend to be relatively unproductive.
>
> All the best,
>
> Edmund
>
> --
> Edmund Chattoe-Brown
> [log in to unmask]
>
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