Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Simulating the lives of hunter-gatherers with animation and visualization (and good humor)

Simulpast is a large interdisciplinary project organized by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BCS) intended to model past human behavior. Its latest effort is Simulados, a simulation of the lives of prehistoric hunter-gatherers in the region of modern Gujarat, India. From the technical description:
This region of India has a strong seasonality and one of the most unpredictable climates in theworld. The main goal is to build an agent based model (ABM), through which we can studythe management of resources and the decision making process of hunter­gatherer groups thatinhabited the region between 10000 BC and 2000 BC. We are interested in analyzing theircapacity for resilience to the extreme variability of the environment, as well as theirinteraction with agro­pastoral groups.
The project is based on a tool called Pandora:
Pandora is an agent based modeling tool designed to run complex simulation models in a high performance environment. The agents represent individuals or groups of people (a family in the case of Simulados) with a complex artificial intelligence algorithm that gives them power to make their own choices and act upon them, thereby interacting between them and with the environment in a totally autonomous way. Pandora is able to simulate millions of agents in large and detailed terrains.
If this sounds too geeky, watch this well-paced and fun animation combining 3D characters, charts, and maps that the BCS put together. It explains the science behind the project quite nicely. This video may inspire those struggling to explain complex ideas to the general public.

H/T Fernando Cucchietti