CSCS 270: Agent based modeling

CSCS 270 home

Readings, assignments, etc. will be posted to the course ctools website

Lada Adamic



Winter 2011:

Lectures will be
Tuesdays and Thursdays
from 1:00 to 2:30 pm.
Location USB 3265

Office hours (in North Quad 4360):

Mon 4:00-4:30pm (SI 301 has priority)
Weds 9:30-10:30am (CSCS 270 has priority)
Fri 3:00-4:00pm (open)




Many systems can be modeled as being composed of agents interacting with one another and their environment. As a method, agent based modeling (ABM) can explain phenomena in the biological and social sciences, ranging from evolution to epidemic spread to flocking to cooperation to racial segregation in neighborhoods. Very simple rules governing agent behavior can lead to complex and emergent phenomena. In this course students will use NetLogo to examine and modify well-studied agent based models of complex systems, as well as formulate models of their own.

Learning objectives. At the conclusion of this course, students should:
1) be familiar with classic agent based models in complex systems
2) be able to design and implement their own agent based models
3) be proficient in NetLogo

There will be 8 homework assignments. In each assignment, students will be tasked with constructing or modifying an agent based model based on material introduced in lecture or reading. The subjects of the models may include evolution, animal and plant behavior, epidemic spread, social networks, and human interaction. Students will comment on the effects of varying parameters on outcomes of the models.
The final project will consist of a research paper and presentation based on an agent based model of the students’ design.

Primary texts
NGA: Nigel Gilbert: Agent-Based Models (Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences)
MPC: Miller & Page: Complex Adaptive Systems

Accommodations for students with disabilities

Academic integrity policy

You should bring a laptop to every class for hands-on in-class exercises and for using LectureTools. If you don't have one, please contact the instructor to arrange for a loaner laptop during classtime.

Course Syllabus

  date subject reading assignment due (at 12 pm)
1 Thu 1/6 introduction NGA Ch1: the idea of agent based modeling
Nino Boccara: Modeling Complex Systems p.1-5
2 Tue 1/11 NetLogo tutorial I
introduction to NetLogo
NetLogo Tutorial #1: Models
3 Thu 1/13 NetLogo tutorial II

MPC Ch 2: Complexity in Social Worlds
NetLogo Tutorial #2: Commands
NetLogo Tutorial #3: Procedures

4 Tue 1/18 model properties MPC Ch 6: Why agent-based objects
NGA Ch 2: Agents, environments, and timescales
5 Thu 1/20 biological systems: fireflies, flocking, slime mold, bees, ants flocking behavior
slime mold
6 Tue 1/25

"open" lab: modeling locust swarms

7 Thu 1/27 biological systems: predator/prey, "debugging" NGA Ch 3.2-3.4 Verification and validation HW 2
8 Tue 2/1 social systems: segregation Schelling, Micromotives and Macrobehavior, A self forming neighborhood model  
9 Thu 2/3 cellular automata Janssen, Cellular Automata HW 3
10 Tue 2/8 critical phenomena, sandpiles MPC Ch 7 A basic framework  
11 Thu 2/10 games Easley and Kleinberg, Networks, Crowds and Markets, Ch. 6: Games
12 Tue 2/15 social systems: coordination, El Farol MPC Ch. 3, Ch. 5, Ch. 9 social dynamics  
13 Thu 2/17 network formation: random
Newman, The Structure and Function of Complex Networks,Sec. 3.1-3.3, 4.1, 6, 7.1-2,5

HW 4

14 Tue 2/22 network formation: strategic Jackson, Social and Economic Networks: Strategic network formation


15 Thu 2/24 modeling disease spread Easley and Kleinberg, Networks, Crowds and Markets, Ch 21 Epidemics, Sec. 1-6 HW 5
  Tue 3/1 -- winter break --    
  Thu 3/3 -- winter break --    
16 Tue 3/8 opinion formation on networks Jackson, Social and Economic Networks, Ch 8  
17 Thu 3/10 model review presentations   model review
18 Tue 3/15 learning & evolution genetic algorithms
Zimmer, Testing Darwin, Discover Magazine Feb 2005
19 Thu 3/17 games on networks Jackson Chapter 9 project proposal
20 Tue 3/22 social systems: culture "Disseminating Culture", Chapter 7 of R. Axelrod's book The Complexity of Cooperation.  
21 Thu 3/24 social systems: culture II    
22 Tue 3/29 trading agent competition Epstein, J. & Axtell R. (1996). Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up., Chapter 2
Wilensky and Rand, Making Models Match, JASSS
HW 6: trading agent
23 Thu 3/31 financial markets Farmer & Foley, The economy needs agent-based modeling, Nature, 2009:460(6)
Blake LeBaron, Agent based computational finance
24 Tue 4/5 game competition   HW 7: game playing agent
25 Thu 4/7 guest lecture by Rick Riolo Active Nonlinear Tests (ANTs) of Complex Simulation Models
John H. Miller Management Science, Vol. 44, No. 6. (Jun., 1998), pp. 820-830.
Di Paolo, E. A., Noble, J. and Bullock, S. (2000) Simulation models as opaque thought experiments. In: Seventh International Conference on Artificial Life, pp. 497-506, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Jorge Luis Borges: Map Makers
Joshua Epstein, Why Model, JASSS 2008.
26 Tue 4/12 guest talk by Elizabeth Bruch TBD  
27 Thu 4/14 project demos  
28 Tue 4/19 project demos    
  Tue 4/26     project write-up due



assignment type % course grade
in class discussion 10
8 problem sets 40
model review 20
project 30