New Book Provides Foundations for Application of Agent-Based Modeling

Wilensky’s book teaches modeling natural, social, and engineered complex systems with NetLogo

Rapid technological advances are revolutionizing work in science, mathematics, and complex theories. To introduce the powers of agent-based computer modeling for investigating complex problems, Northwestern University’s Uri Wilensky has written a widely praised book called An Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling: Modeling Natural, Social, and Engineered Complex Systems with NetLogo.

Agent-based modeling offers a new way of doing science by using computer-based experiments. An Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling shows how agent-based modeling applies to domains from chemistry to sociology to engineering. Intended for teachers, students, and scientists of all stripes, the book describes the key premises, methods, and uses of agent-based modeling.

For hands-on activities and examples, the book employs the computer language NetLogo, which Wilensky authored. NetLogo models, for example, may simulate how crystals develop, how birds flock, and how forest fires spread. Each chapter includes step-by-step guides for developing models, along with references, key concepts, and explorations. With these resources, readers can begin to construct models of their own.

“Few people in academia are as singularly connected with an achievement as Uri is with NetLogo,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering. “This book is a part of his legacy that will continue to bring value for many years to come.”

Respected authorities in the field have offered praise for the book. Rob Goldstone, Chancellor's Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, said, “This book eloquently captures the excitement of understanding natural and social phenomena by recreating them in computer simulations.”

Uri WilenskyLikewise, Joshua M. Epstein, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and the Santa Fe Institute, said the book has “set the standard for textbooks on this topic.” He described it as an “outstanding book” and “an essential contribution.”

Melanie Mitchell, professor at Portland State University and the Santa Fe Institute and the author of Complexity: A Guided Tour, recommends the book as “the best book out there for learning (or teaching) the art and science of agent-based modeling.”

Wilensky’s co-author for Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling is William Rand, assistant professor of marketing and computer science and director of the Center for Complexity in Business at the University of Maryland. The book was published by the MIT Press.

At Northwestern, Wilensky is professor of learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy and of computer science in the McCormick School of Engineering. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling (CCL), which is dedicated to the use of technology to deepen learning.