The VI AMMCS International Conference

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada | August 14-18, 2023

AMMCS 2023 Plenary Talk

Mechanistic Modeling of Complex Social Systems

Hiroki Sayama (Binghamton University, State University of New York)

Discovering patterns in experimental and observational data is an essential step in any scientific endeavor and has been dramatically accelerated by recent advances in data science, machine learning, and AI. However, pattern discovery alone cannot complete the full cycle of scientific research. Mechanistic modeling complements pattern discovery and plays a critical role in generating deeper understanding of and insight into the hidden mechanisms that may have produced the observed patterns. While current trends of data science/ML/AI research and applications focus primarily on the pattern discovery side (e.g., classification, clustering, prediction), there is also a growing demand for knowledge, skills, capabilities, and tools for mechanistic modeling. This is because many of our complex societal problems arise with high uncertainty yet with very limited data available, and often require the exploration and testing of numerous hypothetical scenarios, not for prediction, but for preparation.
In this talk, I will illustrate the importance of mechanistic modeling, especially when dealing with complex societal problems, using examples from our recent work on (1) pandemic response planning in early 2020 when COVID-19 hit our daily lives but no one knew much about the disease, and (2) socio-political opinion dynamics modeling to explore alternative pathways for society other than the currently dominant divide and polarization. I will also argue that there is an urgent need for education and training in mechanistic modeling, in which systems thinking and creativity play a key role.
Hiroki Sayama is a Professor in the Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering, and the Director of the Center for Collective Dynamics of Complex Systems (CoCo), at Binghamton University, State University of New York, USA. He also serves as a non-tenure-track Professor in the School of Commerce at Waseda University, Japan, as well as an External Faculty member of the Vermont Complex Systems Center at the University of Vermont, USA. He received his B.Sc., M.Sc. and D.Sc. in Information Science, all from the University of Tokyo, Japan. He did his postdoctoral work at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His research interests include complex dynamical networks, human and social dynamics, collective behaviors, artificial life/chemistry, interactive systems, and complex systems education, among others. He is an expert on mathematical/computational modeling and analysis of various complex systems. He has published more than 220 peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings papers and has written or edited 14 books and conference proceedings about complex systems related topics. His open-access textbook on complex systems modeling and analysis has been downloaded more than 70,000 times globally and has become one of the standard textbooks on this subject. He currently serves as a Board member of the Network Science Society (NetSci) and the International Society for Artificial Life (ISAL), the Chief Editor of Complexity (Wiley/Hindawi), the Founding Co-Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Journal of Complex Systems (NEJCS), an Associate Editor of Artificial Life (MIT Press), and as an editorial board member for several other journals.