Notes from 31 May ABM get-together

This ABM get-together was small (maybe because it was late in Trinity term) but very lively. There were 4 presentations and 7 participants.

Anders Sandberg started by describing Modeling Agents with Probabilistic Programs. It is an interactive book which describes itself with “Agents are implemented as differentiable functional programs in a probabilistic programming language based on Javascript. Agents plan by recursively simulating their future selves or by simulating their opponents in multi-agent games. Our agents and environments run directly in the browser and are easy to modify and extend.” Example programs can be run directly on the book’s web pages.

This led to a discussion more generally about running simulations on web pages. Ernesto remarked in response to a question about embedding simulations on presentation slides that ioslides (based upon R markdown) and reveal.js support this. Reveal.js may be a good way to embed NetLogo or AgentBase models in slides.

Wybo Wiersma then gave a demo of AgentBase which is a light-weight ABM system in JavaScript (or CoffeeScript). This was followed by a discussion of his model of the role of social media in movements such as those in the Arab Spring.

Adam Formica then presented his NetLogo model of farming in Kenya. It models both small holder farmers and aggregators whose trucks collect farm produce and take it to processing centres.  In addition to discussing the decision making of the aggregators and the consequences we discussed performance issues. We briefly discussed the recent paper Improving Execution Speed of Models Implemented in NetLogo. Performance discussions led to discussions of running very large models on clusters. Flame was brought up followed by a discussion of improbable.io. Perhaps we can get someone from Improbable to the next get-together.

A screenshot from running an example in Modeling Agents with Probabilistic Programs:

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