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Agent_Zero : Toward Neurocognitive Foundations for Generative Social Science

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The Final Volume of the Groundbreaking Trilogy on Agent-Based Modeling In this pioneering synthesis, Joshua Epstein introduces a new theoretical entity: Agent_Zero. This software individual, or "agent," is endowed with distinct emotional/affective, cognitive/deliberative, and social modules. Grounded in contemporary neuroscience, these internal components interact to generate observed, often far-from-rational, individual behavior. When multiple agents of this new type move and interact spatially, they collectively generate an astonishing range of dynamics spanning the fields of social conflict, psychology, public health, law, network science, and economics. Epstein weaves a computational tapestry with threads from Plato, Hume, Darwin, Pavlov, Smith, Tolstoy, Marx, James, and Dostoevsky, among others. This transformative synthesis of social philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, and agent-based modeling will fascinate scholars and students of every stripe. Epstein's computer programs are provided in the book or on its Princeton University Press website, along with movies of his "computational parables." Agent_Zero is a signal departure in what it includes (e.g., a new synthesis of neurally grounded internal modules), what it eschews (e.
g., standard behavioral imitation), the phenomena it generates (from genocide to financial panic), and the modeling arsenal it offers the scientific community. For generative social science, Agent_Zero presents a groundbreaking vision and the tools to realize it.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 152 x 235 x 22.86mm | 680g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 113 color illus. 3 tables.
  • 0691158886
  • 9780691158884
  • 1,250,428

Back cover copy

"Agent Zero offers a solution to some of social science's great puzzles. Its behavioral basis is the interplay of emotion, cognition, and network contagion effects. It elegantly explains why so many human actions are so manifestly dysfunctional, and why some are downright evil."--George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics

"Rarely has a book stimulated me intellectually as much as this one. Particularly exciting is the incorporation of agents who feel (affect) and deliberate, as well as influence one another through social interaction. Epstein is a brilliantly creative scholar and the range of applications showcased here is stunning. In sum, this is a pathbreaking book."--Paul Slovic, University of Oregon

"Joshua Epstein proposes a parsimonious but powerful model of individual behavior that can generate an extraordinary range of group behaviors, including mob violence, manias and financial panics, rebellions, network dynamics, and a host of other complex social phenomena. This is a highly original, beautifully conceived, and important book."--Peyton Young, University of Oxford

"In social science generally and most notably in economics, the rational actor model has long been the benchmark for policy analysis and institutional design. Epstein now offers a worthy alternative: Agent_Zero, a mathematically and computationally tractable agent whose inner workings are grounded in neuroscience. Much like you and me, Agent_Zero is influenced by emotion, reason, and social pressures. Epstein demonstrates that collections of Agent Zeros perform amazingly like real groups, teams, and societies and can therefore serve as the fundamental building blocks for what he calls Generative Social Science. The rational actor now has a true competitor. Agent_Zero is a major advance."--Scott Page, University of Michigan

"This is social science based on how our brains actually work. Epstein's computerized 'agents' can feel passion and fear, and can influence each other emotionally. And when they interact, we see many of the realities of social life, from the dynamics of juries to racist violence to Arab springs. A remarkable and original piece of work."--W. Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute
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Table of contents

Foreword xi Preface xiii Acknowledgments xv INTRODUCTION 1 MOTIVATION 1 Generate Social Dynamics 2 A Core Target 2 THE MODEL COMPONENTS 5 Model Overview 6 Skeletal Equation 8 Specific Components 9 ORGANIZATION 10 Part I: Mathematical Model 10 Part II: Agent-Based Model 11 Part III: Extensions 13 Replicability and Research Resources on the Princeton University Press Website 16 Part IV: Future Research and Conclusions 17 PART 1. MATHEMATICAL MODEL 19 I.1. THE PASSIONS: FEAR CONDITIONING 19 Fear Circuitry and the Perils of Fitness 20 Nomenclature of Conditioning 29 The Rescorla-Wagner Model 33 Social Examples 37 Fear Extinction 41 I.2. REASON: THE COGNITIVE COMPONENT 46 I.3. THE SOCIAL COMPONENT 51 Simple Version of the Core Target 55 Examples of Fear Contagion 57 Mechanisms of Fear Contagion 59 Conformist Empirical Estimates 63 Generalizing Rescorla-Wagner 67 The Central Case 69 Tolstoy: The First Agent Modeler 71 A Mathematical Aside on Social Norms as Vector Fields 74 Extinction of Majorities 78 I.4. INTERIM CONCLUSIONS 80 PART II. AGENT-BASED COMPUTATIONAL MODEL 81 Affective Component 84 "Rational" Component 85 Social Component 88 Action 89 Pseudocode 89 II.1. COMPUTATIONAL PARABLES 90 Parable 1: The Slaughter of Innocents through Dispositional Contagion 90 Parable 2: Agent_Zero Initiates: Leadership as Susceptibility to Dispositional Contagion 94 Run 3. Information Cuts Both Ways 96 Run 4. A Day in the Life of Agent_Zero: How Affect and Probability Can Change on Different Time Scales 98 Run 5. Lesion Studies 102 PART III. EXTENSIONS 107 III.1. ENDOGENOUS DESTRUCTIVE RADIUS 107 III.2. AGE AND IMPULSE CONTROL 109 III.3. FIGHT VS. FLIGHT 110 Case 1: Fight 111 Case 2: Flight 112 Capital Flight 114 III.4. REPLICATING THE Latane-DARLEY EXPERIMENT 114 Threshold Imputation 115 The Dialogue 118 III.5. MEMORY 118 III.6. COUPLINGS: ENTANGLEMENT OF PASSION AND REASON 122 Mathematical Treatment 124 III.7.ENDOGENOUS DYNAMICS OF CONNECTION STRENGTH 128 Affective Homophily 128 General Setup 130 Agent-Based Model: Nonequlibrium Dynamics 135 III.8. GROWING THE 2011 ARAB SPRING 138 III.9. JURY PROCESSES 143 Phase 1. Public Phase 143 Phase 2. Courtroom Trial Phase 145 Phase 3. Jury Phase 147 III.10. EMERGENT DYNAMICS OF NETWORK STRUCTURE 152 Network Structure Dynamics as a Poincare Map 153 Relation to Literature 159 III.11. MULTIPLE SOCIAL LEVELS 160 Agent_Zero as Witness to History 161 III.12. THE 18TH BRUMAIRE OF AGENT_ZERO 165 III.13. INTRODUCTION OF PRICES AND SEASONAL ECONOMIC CYCLES 168 Prices 168 A Christmas Story 173 III.14. SPIRALS OF MUTUAL ESCALATION 176 PART IV. FUTURE RESEARCH AND CONCLUSION 181 IV.1. FUTURE RESEARCH 181 IV.2. CONCLUSION 187 Civil Violence 187 Economics 188 Health Behavior 189 Psychology 190 Jury Dynamics 191 The Formation and Dynamics of Networks 191 Mutual Escalation Dynamics 192 Birth and Intergenerational Transmission 192 IV.3. TOWARD NEW GENERATIVE FOUNDATIONS 192 Appendix I. Threshold Imputation Bounds 195 Appendix II. Mathematica Code 197 Appendix III. Agent_Zero NetLogo Source Code 213 Appendix IV. Parameter Settings for Model Runs 221 References 227 Index 243
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Review quote

"This is social science based on how our brains actually work. Epstein's computerized 'agents' can feel passion and fear, and can influence each other emotionally. And when they interact, we see many of the realities of social life, from the dynamics of juries to racist violence to Arab springs. A remarkable and original piece of work."-W. Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute "In social science generally and most notably in economics, the rational actor model has long been the benchmark for policy analysis and institutional design. Epstein now offers a worthy alternative: Agent_Zero, a mathematically and computationally tractable agent whose inner workings are grounded in neuroscience. Much like you and me, Agent_Zero is influenced by emotion, reason, and social pressures. Epstein demonstrates that collections of Agent Zeros perform amazingly like real groups, teams, and societies and can therefore serve as the fundamental building blocks for what he calls Generative Social Science. The rational actor now has a true competitor. Agent_Zero is a major advance."-Scott Page, University of Michigan "Joshua Epstein proposes a parsimonious but powerful model of individual behavior that can generate an extraordinary range of group behaviors, including mob violence, manias and financial panics, rebellions, network dynamics, and a host of other complex social phenomena. This is a highly original, beautifully conceived, and important book."-Peyton Young, University of Oxford "Rarely has a book stimulated me intellectually as much as this one. Particularly exciting is the incorporation of agents who feel (affect) and deliberate, as well as influence one another through social interaction. Epstein is a brilliantly creative scholar and the range of applications showcased here is stunning. In sum, this is a pathbreaking book."-Paul Slovic, University of Oregon "Agent Zero offers a solution to some of social science's great puzzles. Its behavioral basis is the interplay of emotion, cognition, and network contagion effects. It elegantly explains why so many human actions are so manifestly dysfunctional, and why some are downright evil."-George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics
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About Joshua M. Epstein

Joshua M. Epstein directs the Center for Advanced Modeling at The Johns Hopkins University, where he is a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine with joint appointments in the Departments of Applied Mathematics, Economics, International Health, Environmental Health Sciences, Biostatistics, Civil Engineering, and the Institute for Computational Medicine. He is also an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. This volume forms a trilogy on agent-based modeling, with Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up (MIT), with coauthor Robert Axtell, and Generative Social Science: Studies in Agent-Based Computational Modeling (Princeton).
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