Michael Drennan (2005)
The Human Science of Simulation: a Robust Hermeneutics for Artificial Societies
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 8, no. 1
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-Feb-2004 Accepted: 07-Dec-2004 Published: 31-Jan-2005
Our preserved theories and the world fit together so snugly less because we have found out how the world is than because we have tailored each to the other. (Hacking 1992: 31)To avoid such preconceptions Doran suggests two routes. We can follow the hard sciences and mathematics and "make our assumptions precise and low level, and then observe what consequences flow from them." (Doran 2000) Complex behavior could arise unbeholden to the preconceptions of the involved through a careful examination of all possible trajectories to complexity. Not simply would their determination prove immensely laborious. The task would involve both the assumption that "relatively simple regularities (are) waiting to be found," and that a "preexisting conceptual repertoire" exists to capture those regularities. "To believe that (such repertoires) are sufficient, is to fall into the exact trap we are trying to avoid." (Doran 2000: 100) David Lane in discussing the deeper insights derived from the subtexts of model performance, essentially describes the same dilemma. The presuppositions we use to wring meaning from artificial societies are best accessed "through the models themselves, even though the very meanings of these models is derived from the presuppositions, whose meaning is apprehended through the models (Lane 1994: 2)."
Instead of starting with a complex phenomenal world and reasoning back through chains of inference to what the fundamental elements must be, they (simulation designers) start with the elements, complicating the elements through appropriately nonlinear processes so that the complex phenomonal world appears on its own (232).
You have to show that you are reflexive about the reflexivity issue, that you know that your own account is also just an account and not reality as it really is, and you have to invent devices to show that, like including dialogue in your presentation instead of just telling a straight story and thereby making clear that you are aware of the interpretive flexibility of things-issues like that. Callebaut 1993: 116)Helmreich (1998) achieves something like this by describing in detail the academic contexts and personal development that brought about his ethnography of A-Life developers at the Santa Fe Institute. By recounting verbatim the harsh critique of his work delivered by Tom Ray, inventor of the Tierra simulation, Helmreich reflects on a crucial weakness of cultural studiesÄö the loss of the historical individual to their cultural contexts (1998: 240).
We will try to find a point of view which acknowledges the disciple of logic without fallng into other paradoxes of logicism and which acknowledges the constructive role of concepts and the influence of the scientific community both on their origins and how they are employed without slipping in the nihilism of post-modernism.
Harre (2002: 219)
(Charles) Taylor observes, 'the meaning of a word depends... on those words with which it contrasts, on those which define its place in the language... on those which define the activity... in which it figures.' Consider the following modification. the meaning of the datum depends on those data with which it contrasts, on the territory that defines its place within the larger dataset, on the context to which it relates...(he adds) the problems of data interpretation parallel those of textual interpretation. (Kritzer 1996: 4)Hermeneutics can create holistic interpretations of social and literary texts, but only through the careful reduction of elements to their respective levels. Like a social system comprised of nested and interlocking structures from the macrosocial to the individual a text features a similar layering and correlation of parts at various levels: chapters, sections, paragraphs and individual phrases. Working at both synchronic and diachronic analysis of words and sentences, "every effort to determine and fix the meaning of particular passages by interpreting them separately should be part of a cumulative process that ultimately determines the precise meaning of any particular passage in terms of its context." (Schleiermacher 1997 : 71) Understanding emerges from the analysis of sentence structure in relation to the paragraph, the work and other works of the author. As with the individual, where one might examine the beliefs, intentions and attitudes constituting their behavior, one may continue a literary analysis both into the morphology and the syntax of individual sentences. "Complete knowledge always involves an apparent circle, that each part can be understood only out of the whole to which it belongs, and vice versa. All knowledge which is scientific must be constructed in this way" (Schleiermacher 1997 : 113).
Thus different schools so to speak will rise among the masters, and different parties among the audience as followers of those schools, and even though the method is basically the same, different translations of the same work, undertaken from different points of view, will be able to exist side by side; and we shall not really be able to say that one is, as a whole, more or less perfect than another; only that certain parts will be more successful in one version and others in another, and not until they are all taken together and related to each other... not until then will they completely exhaust their task, for each one in itself will always be of relative and subjective value only (Schleiermacher 1982: 19).Following the circle we have almost returned to Doran's conundrum: how can we avoid our cultural preconceptions in designing and analyzing artificial societies? Reconceiving our theories and models as heuristics both instrumental and metaphorical renders them corrigible to scientists of different viewpoints within an ontologically rich simulation. Rather than claiming these simulations represent real world dynamics, cooperating scientist would instead claim to have described possible realities for substantive exploration. I think this cooperation sets the stage for an alternate truth claim, robustness, to become available. Wimsatt puts forward robustness (1994: 210) as a criterion "working scientists" can fulfill well enough for the stated aims of a particular program of substantive research. Something is robust if it is "accessible (detectable, derivable, definable, producible, or the like) in a variety of independent ways." (Wimsatt 1994: 210) He includes observation and measurement, mathematical and logical derivation as well as experimental manipulation as means of access to a phenomenon, "with many stops in between." Research then becomes an issue of matching results from these different means of access as well as the scientific assumptions informing the means. This process can first establish the existence of the studied phenomena, and report differences between the means to tell us more about the object. (215) Though the heuristics involved do not have the same force as deductive analysis, their mutual coordination and interpolation reduces the possibility for error in measurement.
If the checks and means of detection are probabilistically independent, the probability that they could all be wrong is the product of the probabilities that each could be wrong, and this declines very rapidly as the number of means of access increases even if the individual means are not very reliable. (Wimsatt 1994: 214)Perspectives provide the context then for the evolution of heuristics in rebounding relation to the subjects they inform. The mutual reduction and improvement in heuristics operated robustly points for Wimsatt to a piecemeal development of theories he would term "successional." (Wimsatt 1976: 682)
If one type of technology creates an 'artifact,' it is unlikely that the two or three or more other instruments which are aimed at the same phenomena will duplicate the instrumental artifact. Similarly a multivariant set of measurements can be regarded as more rather than less accurate when these different measurements converge. (1998: 186)
2 The authors, in sketching the polarization of the social sciences, listed several assumptions the sciences unwittingly held in common, such as "the study of collective action can do without a model of agents internal states(,) one should take either a holist or individualist view (of the subject) (and that) social institutions and organisations are products of social action (and so cannot address their implementation onto individual action)" (Conte, Hegselman, Terna 1997: 8)
3 Timothy Kohler (2000: 1)admitted that his models of Anasazi settlement were "just a game... I'm happy to admit that it is, so long as our definition of of games encompasses child's play — which teaches about and prepares for reality — and not just those frivolous pastimes of adults, which release them from it.". Conte, Hegselmann and Terna (1997: 14) admonish designers of artificial societies to "render our fantasy controllable, public and explicit." In reviewing critiques of social scientific modeling, Gilbert characterized the disdain for such simulations thus: "Clearly, the whole enterprise is just an excuse for playing around with computers." (2000: 356)
4 See Sanjek (1990) for a discussion of ethnographic methodology. Nor would any mention of thick descriptions pass without some acknowledgement of Geertz' Interpretation of Culture (1973)
5 For example, when we define a variable that represents the prestige of a political community we can decide that it should assume a real value between 01 and 1. How can we interpret the values assigned to this variable during the simulation? What does a prestige value of .4 mean , in a dynamic system?" (Moretti 2002: 54)
6 Here Doran (2000: 101) operates a distinction between views of the individual first suggested by Mageo (1995).
7 Steels drew this phrase from a conversation with Baas, who in turn may have been referring to the "second order cybernetics" of Von Foerster (1960). Ironically this insight comes by way of N. Katherine Hayles (1999: 10).
8 Lustick (1999, 2002) found artificial societies the perfect means to formalize theories of social constructivism that hitherto had received only a qualitative treatment.
9 Ihde and Heelan are not alone in advocating the utility of hermeneutics for understanding the technics and praxis of science. See the Heelan Fetschrift edited by Babich (See Harre 2002) and the proceedings of the Hungarian Academy of Science edited by Feher, Kiss and Ropolyi (See Eger 1998) for other discourse on the subject.
10 I paraphrase here his "fore-structure of understanding", where the presuppositions underlying the construction of theories, and the theoretical advantages and technical limits of their use remain in view. For an update see Latour and Woolgar (1986)
11 Wimsatt attributes his development of the robustness criterion to Levins (1966), Campbell and Fiske (1959) and Campbell (1966) This is not the place for a thorough exploration of the emergence of robustness. However the resonance between robustness, schools of feedback thought described by Richardson (1991), the learning machine model outlined by Hesse (1980: 182) and the hermeneutic circle outlined here by Schleiermacher, Hegel Dilthey and others deserves further treatment.
12 Conte, Hegselman and Terna (1997) suggest the same.
13 Axelrod (1997) demonstrated the efficacy of model alignment by efficient management of project constraints and good use of electronic communications. He found the most time-consuming aspect to be debugging the hybrid model for the alignment runs.
14 Assuming here that one has designed a model that incorporates the AI of Haddadi's agents with the social repertoires of Lustick's. While perhaps the ramblings of an amateur philosopher unversed in the difficulties of simulation design the further incorporation of environmental elements such as those found on the Sugarscape (Epstein and Axtell 1996) would add an additional fold to the complexity of agent behavior.
15 Wimsatt has examined and designed agent based models to address issues of nonaggregativity in emergence, developmental constraints, and the units of selection controversy in evolutionary biology. His approach recognizes constraints on model building, but from an instrumental viewpoint; how can we build successively more powerful models to explain the data? He has not addressed the impact of social and cultural constraints exogenous to contexts of model construction.
16 Hans Scholl (2001) at the University of Albany has already outlines operational similarities between ABMS and Systems Dynamics techniques. Troitzsch et. al. (1996: 341) in applying a multilevel modeling software to questions of technological innovation and diffusion, saw the integration of agent based models the next step in developing their own more classical approach .
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