Social simulation aims to cross the gap between the descriptive approach used in the social sciences and the formal approach used in the natural sciences, by moving the focus on the processes/mechanisms/behaviors that build the social reality. In social simulation, computers support human reasoning activities by executing these mechanisms. This field explores the simulation of societies as complex non-linear systems, which are difficult to study with classical mathematical equation-based models.

The social simulation approach to the social sciences is promoted and coordinated by three regional associations, ESSA for Europe, North America (reorganizing under the new CSSS name), and PAAA Pacific Asia. The history of the agent-based model can be traced back to the Von Neumann machine, a theoretical machine capable of reproducing itself. The device von Neumann proposed would follow precisely detailed instructions to fashion a copy of itself.

Another improvement was brought by mathematician, John Conway. He constructed the well-known Game of Life. Unlike the von Neumann’s machine, Conway’s Game of Life operated by simple rules in a virtual world in the form of a 2-dimensional checkerboard. The birth of the agent-based model as a model for social systems was primarily brought about by a computer scientist, Craig Reynolds. He tried to model the reality of lively biological agents, known as the artificial life, a term coined by Christopher Langton.

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