The impact of the model structure in social simulations

By: Olivier Barthélémy
Date: 7th October 2003
CPM Report No.: CPM-03-121

Presented at the first international conference of the European Social Simulation Association, Gronigen, the Netherlands, September 2003.


The use of scenarios for planning is quite common, be it for industries, nations, shop chains, or technologies. They represent a specific approach where while dealing with uncertainties, one can either consider the whole (frequently continuous) range of alternatives, or specify particular cases that would capture key properties of this range.

From their appearance in the literature in the 40s, scenarios have been more and more frequent. It was generally extrapolated through past data and relationships, till the 80s, when the studies in innovation and diffusion showed that the future is depending on changes in social and economic systems which paths are multiple, and indeed not fixed, but evolving themselves. The goal of scenarios then became the analysis of some trends within a “possibility space”, and eventually the reduction of that space finding potential discontinuities, in order to improve the decision making process.

It is the case for climate change and social behaviour throughout time. Scenarios are used because the future is uncertain, and the ability to adapt to these future changes might have effects upon the longer term (e.g. technological changes).

A multi agent system can be used to represent formally these scenarios and its structure and components can then be analysed in order to evaluate their impact upon the outcome.

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