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"Agent-based modeling: Methods and techniques for simulating human systems"

Located here is a very informative article about agent-based modeling (ABM), including information about what ABM is, the benefits of using ABM, and how ABM has been used in the past and will be used in the future. The article is written by Eric Bonabeau, and is from a May 14, 2002 issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). Some important passages from the article are presented below.

What is Agent-Based Modeling?

In agent-based modeling (ABM), a system is modeled as a collection of autonomous decision-making entities called agents. Each agent individually assesses its situation and makes decisions on the basis of a set of rules. Agents may execute various behaviors appropriate for the system they represent – for example, producing, consuming, or selling. Repetitive competitive interactions between agents are a feature of agent-based modelingAt the simplest level, an agent-based model consists of a system of agents and the relationships between them. Even a simple agent-based model can exhibit complex behavior patterns and provide valuable information about the dynamics of the real-world system that it emulates. In addition, agents may be capable of evolving, allowing unanticipated behaviors to emerge.

ABM is a mindset more than a technology. The ABM mindset consists of describing a system from the perspective of its constituent units.

Why Agent-Based Modeling?

Whether one is attempting to describe a traffic jam, the stock market, voters, or how an organization works, ABM makes the model seem closer to reality. For example, it is more natural to describe how shoppers move in a supermarket than to come up with the equations that govern the dynamics of the density of shoppersKnowing the actual shopping basket of a customer makes it possible to create a virtual agent with that shopping basket rather than a density of people with a synthetic shopping basket computed from averaging over shopping data.

This article also contains several examples of projects that have used agent-based modeling technology, some of which are posted separately on this website.