Discussion papers

CPM-13-223 - 20 October 2013

Man on Earth - discovering viable ecological survival strategies

Bruce Edmonds


Many previous societies have killed themselves off and, in the process, devastated their environments. Perhaps the most famous of these is that of “Easter Island”. This suggests a grand challenge for the agent community: that of discovering what kinds of rationality and/or coordination mechanisms would allow humans and the greatest possible variety of other species to coexist. In particular, solving this challenge consists of designing and releasing a society of plausible agents into a simulated ecology and assessing: (a) whether the agents survive and (b) if they do survive, what impact they have upon the diversity of other species in the simulation. The simulated ecology needs to implement a suitably dynamic, complex and reactive environment for the test to be meaningful. Agents, as any other entity have to eat other entities to survive, but if they destroy the species they depend upon they are likely to die off themselves. Up to now there has been a lack of simulations that combine a complex model of the ecology with a multi-agent model of society. A suitable dynamic ecological model and simple tests with agents are described to illustrate this challenge.

An Associated paper entitled An Individual-Based Model of the Impact of Human Beings on an Ecosystem, which explores the properties of this particular model in greater depth is also available.