Crossing the chasm: a 'tube-map' for agent-based social simulation of policy scenarios in spatially-distributed systems
Agent based models (ABMs) simulate actions and interactions of autonomous agents/groups and their effect on systems as a whole, accounting for learning without assuming perfect rationality or complete knowledge. ABMs are an increasingly popular approach to studying complex, spatially distributed socio-environmental systems, but have still to become an established approach in the sense of being one that is expected by those wanting to explore scenarios in such systems. Partly, this is an issue
... awareness -ABM is still new enough that many people have not heard of it; partly, it is an issue of confidence -ABM has more to do to prove itself if it is to become a preferred method. This paper will identify advances in the craft and deployment of ABM needed if ABM is to become an accepted part of mainstream science for policy or stakeholders. The conduct of ABM has, over the last decade, seen a transition from using abstracted representations of systems (supporting theory-led thought experiments) to more accessible representations derived empirically (to deliver more applied analysis). This has enhanced the perception of potential users of ABM outputs that the latter are salient and credible. Empirical ABM is not, however, a panacea, as it demands more computing and data resources, limiting applications to domains where data exist along with suitable environmental models where these are required. Further, empirical ABM is still facing serious questions of validation and the ontology used to describe the system in the first place. Using Geoffrey A. Moore's Crossing the Chasm as a lens, we argue that the way ahead for ABM lies in identifying the niches in which it can best demonstrate its advantages, working with collaborators to demonstrate that it can deliver on its promises. This leads us to identify several areas where work is needed.