Free agents

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Science  13 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6385, pp. 144-147
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6385.144

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  • RE: Free Agents
    • Gert G. Wagner, Social Scientist, The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), 10117 Berlin, Germany, and German Institute for Economic R
    • Other Contributors:
      • Edward J. Castronova, Professor, Media School, Indiana University

    A recent article (Free Agents, 13 April, pp. 144-147) by M. Mitchell Waldrop praised the future development of sophisticated agent-based models to analyze crisis events. Readers might be interested to know that there is an entire industry, almost completely overlooked by scientists, devoted to developing and perfecting massive crowds of realistic non-human agents, just like the ones used in scientific research. We are speaking of the game industry (1), where these agents are called “non-player characters.”

    We strongly believe that scientists would gain by collaborating with this industry. Game industry revenues, at $108b in 2017, have grown beyond those of the movie industry. A significant share of those revenues go to perfecting the kinds of AI that are so important for research. Yet most scientists only know about this industry from looking over the shoulders of younger relatives.

    One studio, Paradox Entertainment, specializes in games where a single human player is embedded in a population of tens of thousands of AI-driven simulated people. These agents can choose every action the player can and they operate according to a model of realistic behavior. In Crusader Kings II, the agents (and the player) are trying to build powerful dynasties like the Valois or the Habsburgs. Marriage and succession are paramount concerns. Therefore the agents pay close attention to the personality of other agents. These traits include such things as kindness, appetite, ferti...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Agent-based models and epidemic outbreak prediction
    • Carlos Polanco, Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty of Sciences, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

    To the editor:
    Agent-based models and epidemic outbreak prediction
    The interesting article by Waldrop [Free agents, Science] (1), shows the importance of Agent-based models in the prediction of catastrophic events, as well as their use in everyday life.

    In my view, Agent-based models will have a relevant role in the early prediction of epidemic outbreaks, as they will make possible to estimate the speed and dissemination of an epidemic based on the interaction of the patient-zero with the population, but they will also give individual information of the infected subjects. Because precisely the prediction of an epidemic outbreak, should concentrate on the nearest circle of the patient-zero

    Sincerely yours,
    Carlos Polanco, Ph.D., D.Sc.
    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México City, México.

    Carlos Polanco is an Associate Professor at the Department of Mathematics in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México city, México. (polanco@unam.mx).

    (1) Waldrop MM. Free agents Science: 360:6385);144-147 DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6385.144

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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