Adaptive Systems Laboratory

The overall goal of the Adaptive Systems Laboratory is to study complex adaptive systems as they appear in natural and artificial contexts. The research activities reflect two complementary themes: a scientific approach to understanding complex adaptive systems, and an engineering focus on the ability to control, modify, and design complex adaptive systems.

The motivation behind this research is the pervasiveness of complex adaptive systems: economies, social networks, ecologies, power grids, computer networks, immune systems, the brain, and so on. The problem is that they are difficult to understand, to design, to modify, and to make predictions about. Because they are highly non-linear and time-varying, they are difficult to analyze using formal mathematical tools. In addition, human cognitive systems appear to be quite inadequate for seeing beyond first order effects (see, for example, the exquisite illustrations of this developed by Eric Bonabeau at ICOSystem).

Our approach is to use computer modeling and simulation as the primary tools for understanding complex adaptive systems. In particular, we use agent-based modeling techniques in conjunction with evolutionary computation methods to capture and analyze the critical properties of complex adaptive systems. Agent-based modeling allows us to construct models from the bottom up with the complexity emerging from the interactions of many simple agents. Evolutionary computation allows the agents to adapt and evolve over time rather than exhibiting time-invariant behaviors.

A key element of this approach is the availability of a multi-agent simulation system that is sufficiently powerful and scalable to handle large complex adaptive system models. A system with precisely these design goals has been developed and continues to be enhanced by one of our collaborators, Sean Luke and his graduate students. Details of his MASON system as well as an open-source version can be found at ECLAB-tools.

A description of some of the ASL projects can be found by following the Research link on the menu.


Adaptive Systems Laboratory, Krasnow Institute
Mail Stop 2A1, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: (703) 993-4333 Fax: (703) 993-4325

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