Retirement of the BC2NetLogo tool

As of 31 October, 2017 Google App Engine will no longer support “channels”. The BC2NetLogo tool relied upon this to receive messages from the server. Luckily NetLogo Web is very robust today and is generally a better way to use the Behaviour Composer. For more advanced uses we recommend you use the Download button and open the file in the NetLogo executable program.

Only some documentation pages have changed – the Behaviour Composer is the same – it is just that BC2NetLogo won’t know when the now obsolete “Send to NetLogo” button is pushed.

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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 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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ABM get-together hosted by the Future of Humanity Institute

Ken: Jan 1st NetLogo 6 “Hexy” release, incompatible with previous versions but includes an automated tool for converting to new version. It has good new functional programming features. Also LevelSpace is officially part of new release – models interacting with models e.g. sheep have a neural network in a predator-prey model. BehaviourSearch stopped working in version in 5.3, was reported to be fully restored in 6.1, however at least in Windows it is now working in 6.0. Lastly the web version is working better and better

Rob Wortham (Bath University): (slides) running a workshop in April in Bath. C++ environment for programming for robots with POSH plans (Joanna will send slides on POSH)

Andreas Duering: (slides) Population and cemetery simulator. Has used this model in a museum setting (Germany). Currently looking at a pit of dead people in Hinkley in Somerset, Talheim in Germany, and San Juan ante Portam Latinam in Spain. Now applying ABM in Ain Ghazal in Jordan and first organised religions. “Some fields like complexity, others not.”

Omar : (Using Jupyter) to model trading and inequality, studying the effect of institutions in an ecosystem of very simple agents. Agents start with same amount of assets, agents have lifecycle and mix, and then transact with each other.

Joanna Bryson: 19th-21st April for the Society with AI. Used word2vec to trawl internet for semantic meaning of words in relation to emotions i.e. insects unpleasant, flowers pleasant, left hand bad, right good. Is origin of this association purely cultural? Talked about cultural AI. “A mixture of “Cheats” and “co-operators” can enable maximal group benefit” Have turned this into a game for experiments on AI ethics, mentioned Oliver Brock: Engineers tell us what policies we can enable, Science how these policies could play out, Humanities which we should aim for. #1 Moral Hazard, #2 More Patiency (Miller & Hellstrom), Bryson 2016/17, #3 Legal Lacuna “try suing a bankrupt author, i.e. google has more money than they can spend, hence AI cars, #4 Fear of robots/AI – fear distracts us, #5 Coherence, we are part of a social species (Zahavi 1977, Sylwester 2013). “Why transfer our values onto a different platform”.

James Foley (wildcru, Zoology in Oxford): less than 500 Ethiopian wolves, threatened by diseases (and climate change), especially those carried by domestic dogs. Looking for management strategies. Gathering dog movement data by collar, showed us his predator prey SI model. “Minimum viable population models” Will use the model on website, in schools and to help argument around vaccination of wolves with policy makers.

Miles Brundage (Arizona and Oxford): will model how companies/people with access to AIs interact i.e. the game theory of people + AI. Interested in openness e.g. openAI  and Google’s Deep Mind. Openness, safety, preferences of human actors. Coding in MESA (python) framework. “Are there other similarly complicated models” – energy and nuclear game theory politics, also climate models. “Is this a ‘Map of Germany Problem’?” Inspired by paper by Deep Mind where differentiated AIs in terms of how many layers of decision making, how much memory, how much processing.


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Latest Behaviour Composer release works with both web and executable versions of NetLogo

NetLogo Web now supports the NetLogo 6.0 code that the Behaviour Composer emits.

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New release of Behaviour Composer

The latest release of the Behaviour Composer and the BC2NetLogo tool are now available. They are compatible with NetLogo 6.0. However, since NetLogo Web is not (yet) compatible with NetLogo 6.0 the default domain ( is still  compatible with NetLogo 5.3.1. To use the latest Behaviour Composer use the  domain. This is the default for new installations of BC2NetLogo. The new BC2NetLogo program works better with systems where security settings make it difficult to run an unsigned Java program (e.g. the MacOS).

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Report on today’s agent-based modelling get-together

13 people gathered at the Martin School to discuss agent-based modelling. About half the participants were doctoral students beginning to explore agent-based modelling as a possible part of their thesis research. The other half are researchers using agent-based modelling. Models discussed ranged from food security and gender equality, tropical deforestation, ethology-based robotics, farming in Vietnam, colonies of termites with simulated neural nets, modelling AI development, and international relations.

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ABM get-together report

Perhaps due to being so late in Trinity Term this was the smallest get-together in its long history. Maybe because there were only 9 participants it led to a wide range of interesting and deep discussions. Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute started by describing  his ABM projects including models of moral enhancement, small populations capable of restarting civilisation, insurance companies use of computer models (a model of model use), and galactic conflicts. Wybo Wiersma of the Oxford Internet Institute presented Agentbase  (available at which is a JavaScript tool for creating and sharing agent-based models. He also demonstrated and discussed his model of the influence of social media on political movements such as those in the Arab Spring. Ken Kahn of IT Services showed a video by the Modelling Religion Project and demonstrated Arthur Hjorth’s Level Space extension to NetLogo that enables agent-based models to be linked together.

As usual there was plenty of discussions over cake after the presentations.

Model of social media and political movements

Model of social media and political movements


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Next Oxford Agent-based Modelling Get-together 15 June

Interest in Oxford in agent-based modelling continues to grow, so we thought it is time to have another informal gathering to:

·  see who’s working on what sorts of problems
·  find out what software and packages are being used
·  see who has what expertise
·  create some new collaborations
·  assist those who are new to the technique
·  reinvigorate the network of existing informal contacts

Everyone is welcome whether you’re an undergraduate, postgraduate, research fellow, or academic staff. It doesn’t matter which department you are in, what topics you’re interested in, or what level of knowledge or experience you have.

We are offering 5-minute presentation slots to anyone who wants to discuss thoughts on ABM – particularly problems that might be well-suited for ABM or work-in-progress. We will be strict about the 5 minute limit but are encouraging people who may just want to ask questions to sign up for a slot. Please send email to

Date:            Wednesday 15 June
Time:            2:00pm – 4:00pm (though in previous meetings some stayed long past 5pm)
Venue:          Future of Humanity Institute, Suite 1, Littlegate House (1st floor, on the left)
16/17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT

Cake and refreshments will be provided.

Let your colleagues know about this.

If you’re unable to come along but would like to keep in touch, please send an email to

We hope to see you on the fifteenth of June.

Ken Kahn and Howard Noble (Research Support, IT Services)
Anders Sandberg and Andrew Snyder-Beattie (The Future of Humanity Institute)

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Taking Serious Games to the masses: Using game interfaces to widen the appeal of ABMs

BMU landing site

Asking questions can be problematic, particularly when there are disparities of outlook, education and nationality. Asking hypothetical questions and considering future scenarios is particularly difficult when working with, for example, rural African farmers (however we suggest such questions are problematic everywhere).

Participatory computer modelling is a technique that has been used to help researchers and communities understand issue and envisage future solutions in these contexts. We worked on two projects where we built agent-based models (using NetLogo) with subsistence farmers in Cameroon and artisanal fishers in Kenya. In both instance we also worked alongside local researchers and policy-makers to discuss climate adaptation strategies with respect to crop selection and fishing gear choice.

Watching and recording everything

David observing farmers in Somie using the model

We gained a better understanding of how computer models can be built that enable local participants to consider the status quo, gain insights into how to recover from crises, and envisage the future. In particular we focussed on the design and use of game-like elements that enable participants to express a deep understanding of their world through the way they interact with the model.

Using field experience of running ABMs in Africa we will discuss ways in which mobile based “games” can be used to collect data and to widen debates about environmental interventions, planning and implementation.

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Behaviour Composer updated for NetLogo 5.3

The Behaviour Composer and the Behaviour Composer to NetLogo tool have been updated for NetLogo 5.3. This fixes the problem with repeated spurious warning dialogues when running the 3D version from the BC2NetLogo tool.

This release relies upon Java version 8. A link to the older release for those who can’t update Java can be found in Behaviour Composer to NetLogo tool web page.

The older version of the BC2NetLogo tool will continue to work but it will trigger a version incompatibility warning from NetLogo that is annoying but harmless. You can stop these warnings by changing the server to in the advanced settings dialogue.


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