Animats in the modeling ecosystem

Adaptive Behavior 17 (4):287-292 (2009)
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There are many different kinds of model and scientists do all kind of things with them. This diversity of model type and model use is a good thing for science. Indeed, it is crucial especially for the biological and cognitive sciences, which have to solve many different problems at many different scales, ranging from the most concrete of the structural details of a DNA molecule to the most abstract and generic principles of self-organization in networks. Getting a grip (or more likely many separate grips) on this range of topics calls for a teeming forest of techniques, including many different modeling techniques. Barbara Webb’s target article strikes us as a proposal for clear-cutting the forest. We think clear-cutting here would be as good for science as it is for non-metaphorical forests. Our argument for this is primarily a recitation of a few of the ways that diversity has been useful. Recently, looking at the actual practice of artificial life modelers, one of us distinguished four uses of simulation models classified in terms of the position the models take up between theory and data (see Figure 1). The classification is not exhaustive, and the barriers between kinds are not absolute. Rather, the purpose of the taxonomy is to open up the view for an epistemic ecology of modeling practices. First, and closest to the empirical domain, there are mechanistic models, in which there is an almost one-to-one correspondence between variables in the model and observables in the target system and its environment. Webb’s..

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Xabier Barandiaran
University of the Basque Country


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