The ground truth program used simulations as test beds for social science research methods. The simulations had known ground truth and were capable of producing large amounts of data. This allowed research teams to run experiments and ask questions of these simulations similar to social scientists studying real-world systems, and enabled robust evaluation of their causal inference, prediction, and prescription capabilities. We tested three hypotheses about research effectiveness using data from the ground truth program, specifically looking at the influence of complexity, causal understanding, and data collection on performance. We found some evidence that system complexity and causal understanding influenced research performance, but no evidence that data availability contributed. The ground truth program may be the first robust coupling of simulation test beds with an experimental framework capable of teasing out factors that determine the success of social science research.
Measures of simulation model complexity generally focus on outputs; we propose measuring the complexity of a model’s causal structure to gain insight into its fundamental character. This article introduces tools for measuring causal complexity. First, we introduce a method for developing a model’s causal structure diagram, which characterises the causal interactions present in the code. Causal structure diagrams facilitate comparison of simulation models, including those from different paradigms. Next, we develop metrics for evaluating a model’s causal complexity using its causal structure diagram. We discuss cyclomatic complexity as a measure of the intricacy of causal structure and introduce two new metrics that incorporate the concept of feedback, a fundamental component of causal structure. The first new metric introduced here is feedback density, a measure of the cycle-based interconnectedness of causal structure. The second metric combines cyclomatic complexity and feedback density into a comprehensive causal complexity measure. Finally, we demonstrate these complexity metrics on simulation models from multiple paradigms and discuss potential uses and interpretations. These tools enable direct comparison of models across paradigms and provide a mechanism for measuring and discussing complexity based on a model’s fundamental assumptions and design.
The prevalence of COVID-19 is shaped by behavioral responses to recommendations and warnings. Available information on the disease determines the population’s perception of danger and thus its behavior; this information changes dynamically, and different sources may report conflicting information. We study the feedback between disease, information, and stay-at-home behavior using a hybrid agent-based-system dynamics model that incorporates evolving trust in sources of information. We use this model to investigate how divergent reporting and conflicting information can alter the trajectory of a public health crisis. The model shows that divergent reporting not only alters disease prevalence over time, but also increases polarization of the population’s behaviors and trust in different sources of information.
The causal structure of a simulation is a major determinant of both its character and behavior, yet most methods we use to compare simulations focus only on simulation outputs. We introduce a method that combines graphical representation with information theoretic metrics to quantitatively compare the causal structures of models. The method applies to agent-based simulations as well as system dynamics models and facilitates comparison within and between types. Comparing models based on their causal structures can illuminate differences in assumptions made by the models, allowing modelers to (1) better situate their models in the context of existing work, including highlighting novelty, (2) explicitly compare conceptual theory and assumptions to simulated theory and assumptions, and (3) investigate potential causal drivers of divergent behavior between models. We demonstrate the method by comparing two epidemiology models at different levels of aggregation.
Social systems are uniquely complex and difficult to study, but understanding them is vital to solving the world’s problems. The Ground Truth program developed a new way of testing the research methods that attempt to understand and leverage the Human Domain and its associated complexities. The program developed simulations of social systems as virtual world test beds. Not only were these simulations able to produce data on future states of the system under various circumstances and scenarios, but their causal ground truth was also explicitly known. Research teams studied these virtual worlds, facilitating deep validation of causal inference, prediction, and prescription methods. The Ground Truth program model provides a way to test and validate research methods to an extent previously impossible, and to study the intricacies and interactions of different components of research.
This project studied the potential for multiscale group dynamics in complex social systems, including emergent recursive interaction. Current social theory on group formation and interaction focuses on a single scale (individuals forming groups) and is largely qualitative in its explanation of mechanisms. We combined theory, modeling, and data analysis to find evidence that these multiscale phenomena exist, and to investigate their potential consequences and develop predictive capabilities. In this report, we discuss the results of data analysis showing that some group dynamics theory holds at multiple scales. We introduce a new theory on communicative vibration that uses social network dynamics to predict group life cycle events. We discuss a model of behavioral responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that incorporates influence and social pressures. Finally, we discuss a set of modeling techniques that can be used to simulate multiscale group phenomena.
There is a wealth of psychological theory regarding the drive for individuals to congregate and form social groups, positing that people may organize out of fear, social pressure, or even to manage their self-esteem. We evaluate three such theories for multi-scale validity by studying them not only at the individual scale for which they were originally developed, but also for applicability to group interactions and behavior. We implement this multi-scale analysis using a dataset of communications and group membership derived from a long-running online game, matching the intent behind the theories to quantitative measures that describe players’ behavior. Once we establish that the theories hold for the dataset, we increase the scope to test the theories at the higher scale of group interactions. Despite being formulated to describe individual cognition and motivation, we show that some group dynamics theories hold at the higher level of group cognition and can effectively describe the behavior of joint decision making and higher-level interactions.
Improved validation for models of complex systems has been a primary focus over the past year for the Resilience in Complex Systems Research Challenge. This document describes a set of research directions that are the result of distilling those ideas into three categories of research -- epistemic uncertainty, strong tests, and value of information. The content of this document can be used to transmit valuable information to future research activities, update the Resilience in Complex Systems Research Challenge's roadmap, inform the upcoming FY18 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) call and research proposals, and facilitate collaborations between Sandia and external organizations. The recommended research directions can provide topics for collaborative research, development of proposals, workshops, and other opportunities.
This report contains the written footprint of a Sandia-hosted workshop held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 22-23, 2016 on “Complex Systems Models and Their Applications: Towards a New Science of Verification, Validation and Uncertainty Quantification,” as well as of pre-work that fed into the workshop. The workshop’s intent was to explore and begin articulating research opportunities at the intersection between two important Sandia communities: the complex systems (CS) modeling community, and the verification, validation and uncertainty quantification (VVUQ) community The overarching research opportunity (and challenge) that we ultimately hope to address is: how can we quantify the credibility of knowledge gained from complex systems models, knowledge that is often incomplete and interim, but will nonetheless be used, sometimes in real-time, by decision makers?
This project evaluates the effectiveness of moving target defense (MTD) techniques using a new game we have designed, called PLADD, inspired by the game FlipIt . PLADD extends FlipIt by incorporating what we believe are key MTD concepts. We have analyzed PLADD and proven the existence of a defender strategy that pushes a rational attacker out of the game, demonstrated how limited the strategies available to an attacker are in PLADD, and derived analytic expressions for the expected utility of the game’s players in multiple game variants. We have created an algorithm for finding a defender’s optimal PLADD strategy. We show that in the special case of achieving deterrence in PLADD, MTD is not always cost effective and that its optimal deployment may shift abruptly from not using MTD at all to using it as aggressively as possible. We believe our effort provides basic, fundamental insights into the use of MTD, but conclude that a truly practical analysis requires model selection and calibration based on real scenarios and empirical data. We propose several avenues for further inquiry, including (1) agents with adaptive capabilities more reflective of real world adversaries, (2) the presence of multiple, heterogeneous adversaries, (3) computational game theory-based approaches such as coevolution to allow scaling to the real world beyond the limitations of analytical analysis and classical game theory, (4) mapping the game to real-world scenarios, (5) taking player risk into account when designing a strategy (in addition to expected payoff), (6) improving our understanding of the dynamic nature of MTD-inspired games by using a martingale representation, defensive forecasting, and techniques from signal processing, and (7) using adversarial games to develop inherently resilient cyber systems.