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University of Surrey

Chris Goldspink
Nigel Gilbert

Centre for Research in Social Simulation, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK

Phone: +44 (0) 1483683760

Programme Committee

Joanna Bryson
Rosaria Conte
Kerstin Dautenhahn
Nigel Gilbert
Chris Goldspink
Bruce Edmonds
Klaus Troitzsch

Key Dates


All papers presented at this workshop will be published in the proceedings of the AISB Convention.

Symposium: Agent cognitive ability and orders of emergence

Wednesday 2nd April 2008

AISB Convention - Communication, Interaction and Social Intelligence

Aberdeen, 1- 4 April 2008

This symposium is relevant to advancing our understanding of both Agent-Agent communication and Human-Human communication. The aim is to discuss how change in the cognitive capability of agents may give rise to qualitatively distinct 'orders' of emergence and the implications this may have for the dynamics of both real and simulated social systems. This may include identification of anticipated critical thresholds in agent capability and the state of the art in simulating them. Our intention would be to outline a research framework for advancing our understanding of this relationship.

Call For Papers

The concept of emergence has become widely used within the agent community. However, it continues to be vaguely defined and to stand in for different propositions about social generative mechanisms. To date the community has focused primarily on upward causation (consistent with its usage within complex systems theory and artificial life) (Sawyer, 2003). Relatively little attempt has been made to re-examine critically the concept within the context of human agency.  Similarly, derivative concepts such as downward causation and 'immergence' (Castelfranchi, 1998) have only recently begun to be explored in the simulation of human social systems.

Gilbert has referred to a form of emergence which cannot be explained using the conventional bottom up notion and which implies that emergence involving agents with advanced cognitive ability may be qualitatively different from when it is absent. This 'second order' emergence occurs, he argues, when agents recognize emergent phenomena, such as societies, clubs, formal organizations, institutions, localities and so on, where the fact that you are a member or a non-member changes the rules of interaction between you and other agents. In a similar vein, Goldspink and Kay (2007) have argued for the need to at least distinguish between:

They have also attempted to identify the effect of these two orders on system characteristics and dynamics.

There is a need to advance the debate about the nature and form of emergence associated with human social systems and therefore relevant to human to human and human to agent interaction. Specifically there is a need to identify linkages between current theories of cognitive developmental thresholds, including but not limited to the development of language, narrative ability, self-identity and theory of mind, and to examine the implications that these developmental stages may have in supporting qualitatively distinct orders of emergence in social systems.

Contributions, of less than 6000 words, that consider emergence in the context of:

will all be welcome. Format submissions using the ECAI format and send as attachments with an email to


Castelfranchi, C. (1998) Through The Minds of the Agents. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 1(1) 5
Gilbert, N. (1995). Emergence in social simulation. In N. Gilbert & R. Conte (Eds.), Artificial Societies: the computer simulation of social life (pp. 144-156). London: UCL Press.
Gilbert, N. (2002) Varieties of Emergence. Paper presented at the Social Agents: Ecology, Exchange, and Evolution Conference Chicago.
Goldspink, C. & Kay, R. 2007. Social Emergence: Distinguishing Reflexive and Non-reflexive Modes Paper presented at the AAAI Fall Symposium Washington.
Sawyer, K. R. 2003. Artificial Societies: Multiagent Systems and the Micro-macro Link in Sociological Theory. Sociological Methods & Research, 31: 38.