Modelling Social Reality: Emergence of the Glass Ceiling

20 - 24 January 2014

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

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What do children really live for? How much of this is determined by nature, and how much by their upbringing? Of the latter, how much is intentional and how much simply emerges from path dependency? How does our youth shape our society?

This workshop is about social simulation, an application field of artificial intelligence close to the social sciences. It aims to take a foundational step forward: develop a generic model of social reality to be used in simulations. Such an ‘operational theory of social reality’ should focus on those aspects of human social life that are essential for creating recognizable patterns at the level of behaviour of groups or societies. It should be able to reproduce these aspects: “grow it to show it”. This is a truth test for theories of social behaviour.

The models should reproduce patterns found in reality. Gender roles that emerge during childhood are the case that provides us focus. There is no doubt that gender differences have both biological and cultural, both internal and contextual causes. Girls and boys are different in size and strength anywhere in the world. On the other hand, at society level there are culture-bound gender-related patterns of behaviour that are clearly recognizable to international travellers and multi-cultural individuals, and that are also clearly described in all kinds of literature. Reproducing such differences in an emergent way in models that are generic across social situations is a major challenge. To date, despite sophistication in data crunching and modelling, scholars are not able to model social reality as people experience it.

The organizers are spending the fall of 2013 at NIAS, developing models that they want to then share and refine with a variety of scholars and practitioners. They invite development psychologists, sociologists, gender specialists, social simulation experts, affective computing specialists and primate scholars to join. This is not for those who want to sit back: the aim is to come up with joint publications and proposals.


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