AIC Research Group, University of Southampton

AIC Research Group

Socio-economic systems

We are surrounded by and embedded in social systems that were not planned or designed but rather grew out of historical contingency.  For example, consider the global trade network, global financial markets, systems of national government, education systems, and demographic phenomena such as the family, the neighbourhood, the town, and the city.  In some cases we are confident that our social institutions are both well-adapted and worth preserving, e.g., the system of trial by jury, or the separation of powers between legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government.  In other cases (e.g., global trade imbalances and wealth inequality) most would agree that the current state of affairs is unjust or inefficient, but the difficulty is in finding a feasible path to a better arrangement.  Pervasive social systems are not easily "switched off" while a new and improved model is installed.

The AIC group uses agent-based computing and ideas from economics in order to build robust multi-agent systems in software and hardware.  The same methods (agent-based modelling, optimization, mechanism design) can be applied to problematic social systems with a view to making clear the potential inefficiencies in the current arrangement, and proposing better ways of doing things in the future.  

Examples of this work include the Care Life Cycle project, in which agent-based modelling researchers from the AIC group are working with social scientists in order to model the provision of formal and informal social care in the UK, a particularly pertinent issue given the demographic shift towards a more elderly population.  A second strand of work includes models that highlight inefficiency and suggest reform in the institutions of science itself (e.g., funding, peer review, training, etc.).