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Simulating Dystopian Worlds: A Sci-Fi Agent-based Modeling Anthology

Science fiction is immensely popular, particularly over the last two decades where over half of the top domestic grossing movies of the 2010s were science fiction. Many scientists also share this enthusiasm for Sci-fi, including the authors, so why not apply various research techniques to different Sci-fi worlds? We want to create a Sci-fi computational community, where we can explore different worlds and understand how different phenomena emerge in these worlds. Sci-fi Agent-based Modeling Anthology (https://www.scifiabm.com/) is an open-source and fully volunteer-based project; thus, we also hope to find new collaborators who can take on different stories with their unique approach. The participants explore their favorite science fiction stories with new mediums like agent-based modeling or even differential equations. We believe that this project will get the attention of a new audience and bring them into the science fiction genre. Here, we explore our favorite science fiction stories (i.e., Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and The Purge) with new mediums and hope to bring them to a new audience. We hope that the application of computational complexity science to these Sci-fi dystopian worlds will help us to learn more about our own world, our own histories, or even future potential trajectories. For example, how easily could our society turn into a 1984 world or vice versa? These models give you a sense of control, where you can change the variables. Therefore, you are no longer passively watching science fiction, but you are actively engaging in it, you are changing it, seeking to understand something meaningful.

Model URL: https://www.comses.net/codebases/ebab6112-d26d-413b-970a-b25979773df1/releases/1.0.0/

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I’m really excited for this project!

I don’t know whether it’s within scope for what you’re planning, but I also think there’s a lot of potential in thinking of agent-based models as a form of fiction in and of themselves. One way to do that is just models of fictional worlds (along the lines of James Ryan’s work on storyworlds, https://www.jamesryan.world/publications), but I can also imagine a science fiction story told in the form of ODD documentation describing a model being developed for use in a dystopian society.

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Thanks very much!

We don’t have a strict scope for the project going forward. I think that’s a fascinating idea of using agent-based modeling as a form of fiction. This project is not limited to being strictly derivative of existing sci-fi worlds. The idea of using of agent-based modeling for the purposes of sci-fi world building would be super interesting. Although the model would not be tied to a particular narrative in the beginning, the model could end up producing a very interesting narrative/story. There is no telling what might emerge from a new sci-fi world!

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Another thing that comes to mind is dystopias emerging from models anchored in the ‘real’ world. For example, I’m familiar with two models of corporate growth/decline (Axtell’s firm formation model (https://scholar.google.com/scholar?rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS821US821 and a similar proprietary model) which can sometimes converge to the entire simulated economy being swallowed by one giant corporation.

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Indeed this is an interesting application of ABM. Especially for getting humanity type of students interested in computational modeling. ABMs are already creating fictional worlds, but connecting it with SF literature provides new ways to explore that literature and learning ABM.

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I am really excited by the project! I especially like the Thought-crime analysis in 1984 world - its nonlinear dynamics is amazing! Reading 1984 gives me feeling of impossibility of change, but your analysis show that in the darkest hour, in the time of almost unification of minds, the Thought-crime spreads. Am I right? It is really fascinating, cos usually social scientists and common people as well think, that you need some external force to completely change atmosphere - but you show that this change is internal feature of the system! My question is simple:

How it is possible? How to explain the fact that in your model Thought-crime almost dis appears, but then suddenly spreads? Is it connected with 2nd law of thermodynamics (system is exhausted by the lowering entropy by suppressing Thought-crimes)?

With deference,
Francesco

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Ahoj, Francesco!

That is a lovely interpretation–and definitely goes along the lines of what I’ve seen in the results. Now, there are a two mechanisms that may be responsible for the observed phenomenon (my money’s on the second):

  1. The stochastic changes in the warzone draining the budget (and the rest going into the rule of fear, leaving no money for appeasing the community)

  2. Integrators. Integrators are what made this a system of differential equations–otherwise, it would be purely algebraic. Now, that pretty much means there is a lot of memory in the system, especially in the crime loops, and that pretty much means that cumulative values of crime are relevant for the state of the system, not just the instantaneous ones.

I’m inclined to say that the second cause is dominant, as I’ve examined the situation with and without integrators while building the model. However, there’s a catch here. Orwell does insist on the manipulation of memory as an important part of Big Brother’s rule, so it’s questionable whether it’s justified to include all those integrators in the dynamics. But even if it’s not justified, we can still say–preserving an ability to remember events from the past obviously helps in keeping dictators away!

Thanks once again for your comment!
Harun

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The project is interesting from an academic point of view and entertaining for many at the same time. Thanks for sharing!

For 1984, how & why did you decide to opt for a system dynamics model rather than an agent-based model? Do you anticipate any significant behavioral change in the system if it is modeled through an agent-based approach? Would it be different, for instance, if social links between people (or lack thereof) came into play?

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Hi Furkan! Glad you like the project.

I would definitely love to see an ABM take on 1984. In particular, I’m curious about the lack of empathy in the 1984 world and the lack of trust (fear of snitches). My choice of a system dynamics model was pragmatic: I thought of Strogatz’s Love Affairs and thought that similar loop structures could be built for this society as well. If you want to give an ABM model of 1984 a try, please do–by all means! We’d be more than happy to host multiple models of same universes in the anthology.

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