The chapter begins by briefly describing two contrasting simulations: the iconic system dynamics model publicized under the “Limits to Growth” book and a detailed model of 1st millennium Native American societies in the south west of the U.S.
These are used to bring out the issues of: abstraction, replicability, model comprehensibility, understanding vs. prediction, and the extent to which simulations go beyond what is observed. These issues and difficulties result in three “dimensions” in which simulation approaches differ. These issues are each rooted in some fundamental difficulties in the project of simulating observed societies that are then briefly discussed.
The core of the chapter is a look at 15 different possible simulation goals, both abstract and concrete, giving some examples of each and discussing them. The different inputs and results from such simulations are briefly discussed as to their importance for simulating human societies. The chapter ends with a brief critical assessment of the state of the art in terms of using simulation techniques for helping to understand human societies.
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