Rosaria Conte
Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, CNR, Roma

"From Simulation to Theory (and Backward)"


Simulation is essential for theory-testing and building, meaning by a theory an explicit assertion about what generates either actual or virtual phenomena. The first question that will be addressed during the talk is what is an explicit theory and whether a computer program can be seen as an explicit theory. The second question will concern the type of phenomena addressed. Scientists theorize upon phenomena as observed in nature or in society or in culture, but also about phenomena that are not yet in nature as such, and finally, that can be described in an inter-subjectively understandable way. Virtual phenomena have a great potential for abstraction and for scientific understanding. Indeed, most of the real advances in science, technology and culture result from our capacity to generate phenomena with our mind. However, from there one needs to go further. The circuit is indeed rather complex: from theory (at a rather abstract level) to simulation (theory-building) to theory (more explicit) to simulation and other data (for theory-testing)...

Nigel Gilbert
CRESS, University of Surrey, UK

"Kiss and Tell: In Praise of Abstraction"


In this talk, Iíll consider what has achieved a lasting impact in the field of social simulation during the last decade.  Iíll suggest that the most influential contributions have been the ones that start from a simple and abstract idea and develop its implications to clarify and understand a Ďsocial mechanismí that seems to be applicable in a wide range of artificial and natural societies.  Such Ďabstract social processesí are powerful ideas, but they donít seem to have any immediate practical applicability.  At the other end of the spectrum, there are studies that aim to contribute to practical, policy-relevant issues, and although there are many of these, often based on well-funded and large-scale research, it is hard to find any that have actually had any significant impact outside the academic community, and that have been taken up by Ďusersí.  The implications of this are considered for topics such as the relevance of validation, the possibility of the accumulation of knowledge, and methods for simulation research.