Levins and the legitimacy of artificial worlds

Seth Bullock, Eric Silverman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


For practitioners across a growing number of academic disciplines there is a strong sense that simulation models of complex realworld systems provide something that differs fundamentally from that which is offered by mathematical models of the same phenomena. The precise nature of this difference has been difficult to isolate and explain, but, occasionally, it is cashed out in terms of an ability to use simulations to perform 'experiments', e.g., [9]. The notion here is that empirical data derived from costly experiments in the real world might usefully be augmented with data harvested from the right kind of simulation models. We will reserve the term 'artificial worlds' for such simulations. In this paper, rather than tackle the problems inherent in this type of claim head on, we will approach them obliquely by asking: what is the root of the attraction of constructing and exploring artificial worlds? By combining insights drawn from the work of Levins, Braitenberg, and Clark, we arrive at an answer that at least partially legitimises artificial worlds by allocating them a useful scientific role, without having to assign the status of empirical enquiry to their exploration.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationThird Workshop on Epistemological Perspectives on Simulation
EditorsNuno David
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Event Dates: October 2-3

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