Our human society consists of many intertwined Large Scale Socio-Technical Systems (LSSTS), such as infrastructures, industrial networks, the financial systems etc. Environmental pressures created by these systems on Earth’s carrying capacity are leading to exhaustion of natural resources, loss of habitats and biodiversity, and are causing a resource and climate crisis. To avoid this sustainability crisis, we urgently need to transform our production and consumption patterns. Given that we, as inhabitants of this planet, are part of a complex and integrated global system, where and how should we begin this transformation? And how can we also ensure that our transformation efforts will lead to a sustainable world? LSSTS and the ecosystems that they are embedded in are known to be Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). According to John Holland CAS are "...a dynamic network of many agents (which may represent cells, species, individuals, firms, nations) acting in parallel, constantly acting and reacting to what the other agents are doing. The control of a CAS tends to be highly dispersed and decentralized. If there is to be any coherent behavior in the system, it will have to to arise from competition and cooperation among the agents themselves. The overall behavior of the system is the result of a huge number of decisions made every moment" by many individual agents. Understanding Complex Adaptive Systems requires tools that themselves are complex to create and understand. Shalizi defines Agent Based Modeling as "An agent is a persistent thing which has some state we find worth representing, and which interacts with other agents, mutually modifying each other’s states. The components of an agent-based model are a collection of agents and their states, the rules governing the interactions of the agents and the environment within which they live." This course will explore the theory of CAS and their main properties. It will also teach you how to work with Agent Based Models in order to model and understand CAS.
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