Agent-based computational modeling is changing the face of social science. In Generative Social Science, Joshua Epstein argues that this powerful, novel technique permits the social sciences to meet a fundamentally new standard of explanation, in which one "grows" the phenomenon of interest in an artificial society of interacting agents: heterogeneous, boundedly rational actors, represented as mathematical or software objects. After elaborating this notion of generative explanation in a pair of overarching foundational chapters, Epstein illustrates it with examples chosen from such far-flung fields as archaeology, civil conflict, the evolution of norms, epidemiology, retirement economics, spatial games, and organizational adaptation. In elegant chapter preludes, he explains how these widely diverse modeling studies support his sweeping case for generative explanation.
This book represents a powerful consolidation of Epstein's interdisciplinary research activities in the decade since the publication of his and Robert Axtell's landmark volume, Growing Artificial Societies. Beautifully illustrated, Generative Social Science includes a CD that contains animated movies of core model runs, and programs allowing users to easily change assumptions and explore models, making it an invaluable text for courses in modeling at all levels.
"It should be noted that having all these contributions in one place is not only useful but pleasing...Epstein's book is a concise and well articulated defense of agent-based modeling. Generative Social Science is essential reading for anyone seriously interested in the foundations and the practice of agent-based modeling."--Daniel Diermeier, Science
"Epstein's Generative Social Science . . . is to be regarded as a success. It is a highly professional book, comestible also by non-experts without giving up scientific rigour. Probably because the author is fond of its subject matter, and manages to transfer his enthusiasm into the reader, the book may be read all at once, as a narrative. . . . In sum, there are good reasons to expect that the community of simulators will welcome this book with enthusiasm, and that other supporters will be recruited."--Rosaria Conte, JASSS
"Epstein's generative manifesto is essential reading for anyone seriously interested in explaining social life."--Michael Macy, American Journal of Sociology
"Joshua Epstein has been a leader in articulating and pursuing the agent-based generative approach to social science. This collection of his papers exemplifies both the depth of his methodological positions and the fruitfulness of agent-based analysis. The power of simple rules of local social interaction in generating explanations of complex social behavior is beautifully illustrated, most notably in the study of population fluctuations in Anasazi societies. I am convinced that agent-based approaches to economics will become a major tool."--Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University
Table of Contents