Elements of a theory of simulation

  • Steen Rasmussen
  • Christopher L. Barrett
4. Artificial Worlds
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 929)


Artificial Life and the more general area of Complex Systems does not have a unified theoretical framework although most theoretical work in these areas is based on simulation. This is primarily due to an insufficient representational power of the classical mathematical frameworks for the description of discrete dynamical systems of interacting objects with often complex internal states.

Unlike computation or the numerical analysis of differential equations, simulation does not have a well established conceptual and mathematical foundation. Simulation is an arguable unique union of modeling and computation. However, simulation also qualifies as a separate species of system representation with its own motivations, characteristics, and implications. This work outlines how simulation can be rooted in mathematics and shows which properties some of the elements of such a mathematical framework has.

The properties of simulation are described and analyzed in terms of properties of dynamical systems. It is shown how and why a simulation produces emergent behavior and why the analysis of the dynamics of the system being simulated always is an analysis of emergent phenomena. Indeed, the single fundamental class of properties of the natural world that simulation will open to new understanding, is that which occurs only in the dynamics produced by the interactions of the components of complex systems. Simulation offers a synthetic, formal framework for the experimental mathematics of representation and analysis of complex dynamical systems.

A notion of a universal simulator and the definition of simulatability is proposed. This allows a description of conditions under which simulations can distribute update functions over system components, thereby determining simulatability. The connection between the notion of simulatability and the notion of computability is defined and the concepts are distinguished. The basis of practical detection methods for determining effectively non-simulatable systems in practice is presented.

The conceptual framework is illustrated through examples from molecular self-assembly end engineering.


simulatability computability dynamics emergence system representation universal simulator 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steen Rasmussen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christopher L. Barrett
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA
  2. 2.Santa Fe InstituteSanta FeUSA

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