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Frank Dignum, Bruce Edmonds and Liz Sonenberg (2004)

Editorial: The Use of Logic in Agent-Based Social Simulation

Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 7, no. 4

To cite articles published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary

Received: 17-Oct-2004    Accepted: 17-Oct-2004    Published: 31-Oct-2004

Logic, Agent Technology, Formal Systems, Social Theory

* Introduction

Agent-Based Social Simulation (ABSS) stands at the cross-roads between complex social systems and computer science. On one hand, social simulation is an exciting application area for people doing research in agent technology. On the other, agent technology provides interesting new tools for performing social simulations.

People with a background in social simulation have used mathematical models to model social systems. Using computational simulations with agents to represent social actors provides them with the means to create more complicated models with a more descriptive flavour. The demands of their study inevitably draws social simulators into issues of computer science since they require ever better tools and their subject matter naturally suggests ideas relevant to computer science. However, the main focus remains the social model.

For people with a background in agent research the main tools are logic and/or programming tools. Agent theory is mainly built upon a set of logics so that agent implementations should be consistent with these logical axioms. Systems of many interacting agents can be extremely complex - working out what is happening in such a system is not easy. Ideas and analogies from know social systems (human or animal) are a fertile source of ideas for understanding these complex interactive systems.

However, where modal logic seems to provide a consistent base for single agent behavior there is little or no practical theory on agent interactions. The logics that are used to describe social relations and interactions mainly stem from philosophical logic (e.g. deontic logic for the description of norms), and even these either treat society as a whole or represent only a single individual's perspective. The question arises whether such abstract logic is of any use in the area of ABSS and, if so, how such formal systems can be usefully applied in ABSS.

This issue was brought to a head by Bruce Edmonds during the workshop on Regulated Agent-Based Social Systems: Theory and Applications in 2002 (RASTA 2002). He attacked what he saw as "Empty formal logic papers without any results", comparing them to papers that described simulations without presenting any results. Rosaria Conte defended the use of logic as an attempt to construct a much needed social theory. Others defended the use of logic in MAS on the ground that in their experience it has been useful. The discussion resulted in a position paper by Bruce Edmonds on the use of logic in ABSS. Frank Dignum and Liz Sonenberg wrote a reply to this position and Bruce gave an answer to their reply. This discussion forms the starting point of this special section of JASSS.

Although the Call for Papers for this section invited both papers that contribute to our understanding of how logic can be useful in ABSS, and those that analyse its possible weaknesses, the resulting papers in this section all in some way advocate the use of logic. Whether they fulfill Bruce Edmonds' criteria is left for the reader to decide. However, we feel that some interesting work is presented. In Wendelin Reich's paper the advantages of using logic to model social reasoning of agents are shown. The model can be used to derive social principles that can be tested in simulations. In this sense the logic functions as a way to find the theses that drive the simulations. Maria Fasli argues that logical models are important to get a better understanding of the social relations that are simulated. She proposes an integrated framework that brings together several aspects, such as joint commitment, obligations and intentions, and shows how this framework can be used to analyse relations between agents. Finally, Rosaria Conte and Mario Paolucci's paper gives an initial analysis of the concept of responsibility that is crucial in any social setting. The authors clearly indicate it is a preformal analysis, but at the same time show that it would be beneficial to continue this work with both some formal analysis and some simulations.

We invite you to read the discussion, read the papers published here and come to your own conclusions.

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