UK SimCity-Style Social Policy Model - A Kingdom In A Box

The Modelling and Simulation for e-Social Science project has been funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council National Centre for e-Social Science. It's purpose? To build a real-life "SimCity" simulation model of the entire UK population. SimCity is a simulation and city-building computer and video game originally designed by Will Wright.

The data comes from the 2001 census; no individual person or individual household will be identifiable. The term "e-Science" refers specifically to science that can be done when researchers have access to resources held on widely-dispersed computers as though they were on their own desktops.

Dr. Mark Birkin and some of his colleagues at the University of Leeds will be demonstrating their model at the UK e-Science supercomputing conference in Florida this week.

"We're building a core model which represents the whole of the UK at the level of (synthetic) individuals and households with many attributes and behaviours," says Dr Birkin.

"Historically, people have assembled data on a single PC or workstation. E-Science provides exciting opportunities to access multiple databases from remote, virtual locations, making it possible to develop highly generic simulation models which are easy to update."

The model can be projected into the future to look at demographic trends; it can also be used to test the consequences of policy decisions. The software will be able to accurately profile populations by area, forecasting attributes like health status and employment ten or twenty years in advance.

(The original SimCity)

Most people are unaware of the science-fictional roots of the real-life SimCity software, which was introduced in 1989. Creator Will Wright acknowleges that Stanislaw Lem's marvelous 1965 story The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age is one of the key inspirations for his software.

In the story, Trurl the constructor robot gives an amazing gift to an exiled dictator - a kingdom in a box:

...all of this ... fit into a box ... just the size to be carried about with ease. This Trurl presented to Excelcius, to rule and have dominion over forever; but first he showed him where the input and output of his brand-new kingdom were, and how to program wars, quell rebellions, exact tribute, collect taxes ... and explained everything so well that the king, an old hand in the running of tyrannies, instantly grasped the directions and, without hesitation, while the constructor watched, issued a few trial proclamations, correctly manipulating the control knobs, which were carved with imperial eagles and regal lions.
(Read more about Stanislaw Lem's kingdom in a box)

Read a bit more in the Modelling and Simulation for e-Social Science press release.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/14/2006)

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