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The utility of multi-agent modeling

April 1, 2011

One must always ask why one is employing a particular tool for a job. Your affinity for the tool is not a good primary reason to use that tool — it must provide something particularly useful in answering a question. This goes doubly for complex tools — one must always justify not using a simpler tool.

One broad usefulness of multi-agent models is the ability to add enormous detail to a particular model. Now, enormous detail is a double-edged sword. In my mind, every bit of detail one adds is a potential systematic error introduced into the workings of the system, and this must be given careful thought.

When I say “enormous detail,” I mean both in terms of data and theory. A lot of micro-data exists, and there is a lot of microeconomic theory that I think is a long way from making it into economic models, macroeconomic and otherwise. A related topic is the incorporating real geography into an economic model — I think this area is ripe for research.

Not that implementing these things well will be straightforward in a multi-agent framework, but I think it is feasible. I will report some examples as soon as I have some fleshed out a little more.

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