Playing with Emergence

Last Saturday, Seth Frey organized an awesome party at his Cambridge loft. Different people were given different tasks, and I had the mission to "prepare an artificial life demonstration, using the actually living in your audience". I remembered hearing at some conferences (was it a talk by Eric Bonabeau?) about games where people follow simple rules, and then end up creating interesting patterns, independently of the initial conditions, without the need of anybody knowing what was expected from them.

I didn't find some examples online, so I devised a few games, which were played at the party by about 30 people:
  • "approach one": each player chooses another player, and approaches one step at a time (I did the synchronizing with clapping). I thought everybody would end up in the center, but actually a few clusters were formed.
  • "retreat one": each player chooses another player, and runs away. I thought that everybody would end up at the edges of the room, and they did.
  • "between two": each player chooses two players, and tries to step in between them. I had no idea what would happen, and everybody ended cramming up in the center of the room.
The idea of these games is to try to understand the relationship between local behavior and global patterns... plus they are fun...

So, preparing for the next party, I made a simple simulation with NetLogo. This repeated the results from the party experiments, plus I programmed more strategies, and the ability to mix them i.e. to have some players approach and some retreating. You can play with it from your Java-enabled browser, or download the source code here.


If you found this interesting, you need to check these out:


Unknown said…
Dear Carlos.
Very nice demonstration. It will be nice to check if different initial social networks and relationships among party members (whom they choose to interact, e.g. many select one versus everybody randomly selects the others) could contribute to different final patterns. Meanwhile the game you were after (or the one I think you were after) it's indeed from Bonabeau. You can play with it online at ICOSYSTEMS, an entreprise founded by Bonabeau himself, here:

Also kind of related with Boids, I have produced the following animation (*). More here and here .

Hope you are doing ok. Best wishes, Vitorino Ramos

(*) A self-organized swarm emerging a characteristic flocking migration behaviour between one deep valley (South region) and one peak (North region), surpassing in intermediate steps (Mickey Mouse shape) some local optima. Over each foraging step, the population self-regulates.
Carlos said…
Hi Vitorino,

Thank you very much for the links.

Indeed, with the "approach one" rule, at the party more clusters were formed, because it seems people tended to choose people they know. You have clusters only if a subgroup of people choose only among themselves, and this occurs with a low probability if all links are random.
Unknown said…
Very interesting indeed.

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