19 Dec 2013

Am invited speaker in workshop on "Joining Complexity Science and Social Simulation for Policy", Budapest, May 2013

Call for Papers: SKIN 3 Workshop Joining Complexity Science and Social Simulation for Policy

A workshop at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, 22–23 May 2014 Workshop URL: http://cress.soc.surrey.ac.uk/skin/events/third-skin-workshop
This 2-days workshop organised by the EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment (www.ea-aw.org) as its annual conference with two co-organisers and one local host will bring together two scientific communities to join forces in research on innovation policy modelling. Innovation intersects the concerns of complexity models and social simulation. The intention of the workshop is to explore how complexity models and simulation can be used to improve and inform the innovation policy making process. The workshop will take place at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest (Hungary), from 22 to 23 May 2014 and is supported by the EGovPoliNet project (http://www.policy-community.eu ).

Guest Speakers:

  • Prof. Erik Johnston (Centre for Policy Informatics, Arizona State University, USA)
  • Prof. Bruce Edmonds (Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, UK)
It will focus on three key overlapping themes:
  • Modelling, understanding and managing innovation policy using the SKIN model
  • Large scale data and scalability for research and innovation policy modelling
  • SKIN between complexity science and social science: mechanisms and components
Places are limited and priority will be given to those offering presentations or posters.
A more detailed account of these themes can be found at: http://www.policy-community.eu. Further information about the SKIN model is at http://cress.soc.surrey.ac.uk/skin/

Abstract Submission

Talk abstracts should be submitted by 6th January 2014 in text, Word or pdf format to skin3@ea-aw.de. Posters from PhD students, planning to attend, describing their research designs, issues and any results are greatly encouraged. Please also email skin3@ea-aw.de if you plan to do this.

SKIN Book Launch

The workshop will use the opportunity to launch the SKIN book Simulating the Knowledge Dynamics of Innovation Networks that will have been just published by Springer. There will be a book launch event on the evening of the first workshop day.

Key Dates

  • Abstract submission: 6th January 2014
  • Notification of acceptance: 17th February 2014
  • Workshop: 22nd and 23rd May 2014


SKIN Organisers:

  • Prof. Petra Ahrweiler (EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment, Germany, EgovPoliNet partner)
  • Prof. Nigel Gilbert (Centre for Research on Social Simulation CRESS, University of Surrey, UK)
  • Prof. Andreas Pyka (Innovation Economics, University of Hohenheim, Germany)
  • Local Organiser:
  • Prof. George Kampis (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary)

Programme Committee (to be confirmed):

Dirk Helbing, Wander Jager, Jeff Johnson, Paul Ormerod, Andrea Scharnhorst, Flaminio Squazzoni, Klaus G. Troitzsch, Matthias Weber, Maria Wimmer


For organisational queries, contact skin3@ea-aw.de and for general queries, contact Petra Ahrweiler at petra.ahrweiler@ea-aw.de.

13 Dec 2013

Special issue of "Foundations of Science" on "Philosophy and Complexity"

Foundations of Science
There is a special issue/section of the journal Foundations of Science on the topic "Philosophy and Complexity" (Volume 18, Issue 4, November 2013).  This follows the track on this topic at the ECCS 2010 conference in Lisbon.  The introduction to this is the paper "Philosophy and Complexity" by Gil Santos, the contributed papers follow this in this volume sequence (the first half is on a different topic).


8 Dec 2013

Survey Paper: Squazzoni, Jager and Edmonds "Social Simulation in the Social Sciences: A Brief Overview"

Squazzoni, F., Jager, W. & Edmonds, B. (online first), Social Simulation in the Social Sciences: A Brief Overview. Social Science Computer Review. DOI:10.1177/0894439313512975 

This is an overview of agent-based social simulation that resulted (loosely) from the 2013 ECMS track on Simulating Social Interaction.  It is written very much from the point of view of showing agent-based modelling can address issues of interest to social scientists.

3 Nov 2013

Three social simulation lectures from different perspectives

Three invited lectures from the wonderful ESSA 2013 conference in Warsaw.  The first by Rob Axtell is a too-scale model of employment in the US, which validates against many different sets of data.  In contrast the physics-type models of Dirk Helbing try to explain more with simpler models.  Andre Nowak gives a more psychological perspective to simulation modelling.


28 Aug 2013

New Paper and Slides of: "Capturing the Implicit – an iterative approach to enculturing artificial agents "

A paper presented at the workshop on "Computers as Social Agents" at IVA@2013

Available from: http://cfpm.org/cpmrep221.html

Capturing the Implicit – an iterative approach to enculturing artificial agents
Peter Wallis and Bruce Edmonds
Abstract. Artificial agents of many kinds increasingly intrude into the human sphere. SatNavs, help systems, automatic telephone answering systems, and even robotic vacuum cleaners are positioned to do more than exist on the side-lines as potential tools. These devices, intentionally or not, often act in a way that in- trudes into our social life. Virtual assistants pop up offering help when an error is encountered, the robot vacuum cleaner starts to clean while one is having tea with the vicar, and automated call handling systems refuse to let you do what you want until you have answered a list of questions. This paper addresses the problem of how to produce artificial agents that are less socially inept. A distinction is drawn between things which are operationally available to us as human conversational- ists and the things that are available to a third party (e.g. a scientists or engineer) in terms of an explicit explanation or representation. The former implies a de- tailed skill at recognising and negotiating the subtle and context-dependent rules of human social interaction, but this skill is largely unconscious – we do not know how we do it, in the sense of the later kind of understanding. The paper proposes a process that bootstraps an incomplete formal functional understanding of hu- man social interaction via an iterative approach using interaction with a native. Each cycle of this iteration entering and correcting a narrative summary of what is happening in recordings of interactions with the automatic agent. This interac- tion is managed and guided through an “annotators’ work bench” that uses the current functional understanding to highlight when user input is not consistent with the current understanding, suggesting alternatives and accepting new sug- gestions via a structured dialogue. This relies on the fact that people are much better at noticing when dialogue is ”wrong” and in making alternate suggestions than theorising about social language use. This, we argue, would allow the itera- tive process to build up understanding and hence CA scripts that fit better within the human social world. Some preliminary work in this direction is described.

13 Aug 2013

A new blog critiquing universities...

... and exploring how the production, transmission and certification of knowledge might be done better in the internet age.


21 Jun 2013

Slides from talk on "Context-dependency and the development of social institutions"

Presented at the 1st "Constructed Complexities" workshop on "Institutions as social constructs and social construction through institutions", at the University of Surrey, 21st July 2013. (http://constructedcomplexities.wordpress.com/workshops/workshop-1/)

Slides at:


It is well established that many aspects of human cognition are context-dependent, including: memory, preferences, language, perception, reasoning and emotion.  What seems to occur is that the kind of situation is recognised and information stored with respect to that.  This means that when faced with a similar situation, beliefs, expectations, habits, defaults, norms, procedures etc. that are relevant to the context can be brought to bear.  I will call this mental correlate of the kind of situation the “context”. Thus the mental context frames conscious thinking by preferentially providing the relevant information making learning and reasoning practical, as well as allowing relatively “crisp” and logical thought within this frame.  This is the “context heuristic” that seems to have been built into us by the process of evolution.
This recognition seems to occur in a rich, fuzzy and largely unconscious manner, which means that it can be hard to give distinct identities and talk about these contexts.  It can thus be problematic to talk about “the” context in many cases, and indeed one cannot assume that different people are thinking about the same situation as (effectively) the same context from a third party perspective.  Indeed one of the powerful aspects of the context heuristic is that it allows us flip between mental contexts allowing us to thing about a situation or problem from different contextual frames.  Due to our facility at automatically identifying context and the indefinable way it is recognised it is hard for people to retrieve what is or signals a context (in contrast to what is relevant when recognised). However, they do seem to be sensitive to when they have the wrong context.
Thus learning is not just a matter of recording beliefs, expectations, habits, defaults, norms, procedures etc. but also a matter of learning to recognise the kinds of situation to organise their remembrance.  A large part of our world is humanly constructed, or common (e.g. shared human emotions or a shared environment).  Our classification of these kinds of situation is thus heavily coordinated among people of the same society – we learn to recognise situations in effectively the same way and hence remember the relevant beliefs, expectations, habits, defaults, norms, procedures etc. for the same kinds of situation.  A shared body of knowledge (in its wisest sense) that constitutes a culture does not only include the foreground beliefs, norms etc. but also how the world is divided into kinds of situation.  Some of these contexts will have universal roots, such as the emotion of fear or being hungry, and thus might be approximately the same across cultures (without transmission), others will be specific to cultures. 
The power of the context heuristic comes from the ability it gives us to socially coordinate.  It allows for contexts to be socially co-developed and the beliefs, expectations, habits, defaults, norms, procedures etc. that are associated with these.  Thus different kinds and bases for coordination can be developed for different kinds of situation and be appropriate to that situation.  Indeed over time such shared contexts can become deeply entrenched. If a kind of situation is readily recognisable then it is more likely that specific norms, protocols, signals, infrastructure etc. is developed to facilitate coordination in that kind of situation.  However, equally if specific norms, protocols, signals, infrastructure are developed for a kind of situation then the more recognisable it becomes.  In this way a kind of situation is instituted.  Courts, social parties, lectures, and board meetings are examples of such. The institutionalisation of social contexts not only ensures its consistent recognition and treatment by members of a society but also allows for it to be reified with a specific label so that it can be reasoned about.  Thus institutionalisation is usually a process originating in shared context but which makes its recognition explicit, thus allowing for it to be talked about and debated.
The ability to coordinate in specific ways for different kinds of situation has obvious evolutionary advantage for homo sapiens.  This is coherent with the “Social Intelligence Hypothesis” (SIH) that suggests that the evolutionary advantage of our intelligence is not our general problem solving ability but the social abilities it allows.  The ability to coordinate in groups, and develop a culture of knowledge, coordination and techniques that enables a group to inhabit an ecological niche allows homo sapiens to inhabit a wide range of niches (and not just one like most species).  Examples include even extreme environments such as the Kalahari Desert and the Artic Tundra.  Being spread over a number of very different niches gives homo sapiens a considerable resistance to unpredictable catastrophes that wipe out particular niches.  This resilience to the species (not the particular groups which might well be very susceptible to such disasters) gives a very distinct evolutionary advantage. The ability to reliably co-recognise the same context as others and hence apply the same beliefs, expectations, habits, defaults, norms, procedures etc. as others is a strongly social ability.
The institutionalisation of context will not be restricted to a mental alignment, but often also involve a considerable development of physical, educational and legal infrastructure.  For example to facilitate the institution of a lecture, we have built special rooms, equipment and software in addition to long training to familiarise children to the institution.  In other words much social signalling and entrenchment is via stimergic means – changing the environment to flag and facilitate the institution.  It is by no means restricted to purely mental structures: norms, beliefs, habits etc. but is marked by other changes.  Thus, once established, many institutions will not be limited to the coordinated mental constructs of the society’s members, but marked out in the environment.  Such traces might well be distinguishable by a future archaeologist – even one not familiar with our culture – just as the statues of Easter Island are recognisable now.
Where does that leave the nature of such institutions from an epistemological view?   Firstly note that a truth being context-dependent is not necessarily the same as it being relative – if a context is reliably co-recognisable then any knowledge specific to that context can be checked by an independent person (first by recognising the correct context then seeing if the knowledge holds therein).  Secondly that, although institutions might originate in ineffable contexts it may become institutionalised in a way that leaves considerable traces in the environment, and thus its existence goes beyond being a purely social construct (although its origin remains so).  Thirdly, although the form of any particular institution might be specific to a particular culture and socially determined, the roots of institutions in general might be deeply rooted in our shared biological evolution.

3 Jun 2013

New Paper: "Multi-Patch Cooperative Specialists With Tags Can Resist Strong Cheaters", ECMS 2013, Alesund Norway

The paper, slides and model are at: http://cfpm.org/cpmrep220.html.  ECMS 2013 is at http://www.scs-europe.net/conf/ecms2013/ in beautiful Alesund, Norway (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6vCUhCFY_I).

Published as:
Edmonds, B. (2013) Multi-Patch Cooperative Specialists With Tags Can Resist Strong Cheaters. In Rekdalsbakken, W., Bye, R.T. and Zhang, H. (eds), Proceedings of the 27th European Conference on Modelling and Simulation (ECMS 2013), May 2013, Alesund, Norway. European Council for Modelling and Simulation, 900-906.
Keywords: Symbiosis, meta-population, multi-patch, cooperation, agent-based simulation, tags, defection.


The paper looks at tag-based cooperation within abstract simulation models. Previous models of this kind have been shown to either have ‘programmed in’ cooperation or to be vulnerable to “strong cheaters”.  Previous work by the author included a model of social specialisation and cooperation, but where only a single dominant tag-group arose at any one time and where cooperation eventually collapsed.  Here a multi-patch version of this model is explored and show to not to collapse but seed itself indefinitely.  Furthermore, the model seems to be resistant to significant levels of strong cheaters.

24 Apr 2013

Book: Simulating Social Complexity - a handbook

The following book has just been published:

Edmonds, B. & Meyer, R. (eds.) (2013) Simulating Social Complexity - a
. Springer.

See for details:

10 Apr 2013

Paper: Warren Thorngate and Bruce Edmonds on "Measuring Simulation-Observation Fit: An Introduction to Ordinal Pattern Analysis "

Thorngate, Warren and Edmonds, Bruce (2013) 'Measuring Simulation-Observation Fit: An Introduction to Ordinal Pattern Analysis' Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 16 (2) 4 <http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/16/2/4.html>.


Most traditional strategies of assessing the fit between a simulation's set of predictions (outputs) and a set of relevant observations rely either on visual inspection or squared distances among averages. Here we introduce an alternative goodness-of-fit strategy, Ordinal Pattern Analysis (OPA) that will (we argue) be more appropriate for judging the goodness-of-fit of simulations in many situations. OPA is based on matches and mismatches among the ordinal properties of predictions and observations. It does not require predictions or observations to meet the requirements of interval or ratio measurement scales. In addition, OPA provides a means to assess prediction-observation fits case-by-case prior to aggregation, and to map domains of validity of competing simulations. We provide examples to illustrate how OPA can be employed to assess the ordinal fit and domains of validity of simulations of share prices, crime rates, and happiness ratings. We also provide a computer programme for assisting in the calculation of OPA indices.
Ordinal, Goodness-Of-Fit, Statistics, Evidence, Validity, Predictions, Observations 
 Available at: http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/16/2/4.html

Slides and abstract from invited talk at Gronigen on "The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences"

The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences

Bruce Edmonds

Abstract: Despite overwhelming evidence that many aspects of human cognition are highly context-dependent, generic (that is models that are supposed to hold across different contexts) abound, including: most models of rationality and decision making, and most models that are based on statistically fitting equations to data.  Context itself, especially social context, has been systematically by-passed by both quantitative and qualitative researchers.  Quantitative researchers claim to be only interested in those patterns that are cross-context.  Qualitative researchers only deal with accounts within context.  Neither tackle the nature of context itself: how it works, in what ways it impacts upon behaviour.

Dealing with context is notoriously hard: the concept is slippery and its effects hard to identify.  However, I claim it is not impossible to research.  A combination of rich datasets and newer computational methods could help (a) identify some social contexts and (b) relate what happens within a context to how contexts are collectively constructed.  Such a step could help relate quantitative and qualitative evidence in a way that is better founded and hence, perhaps, open the way to the unification of the social sciences as a coherent discipline.

Slides available at: http://www.slideshare.net/BruceEdmonds/scandal-of-generic-models-gronigen-v3