A colleague recently asked how to get started with agent-based modeling (ABM).
It’s never been easier to learn ABM, whether you’re a social scientist, physical scientist, engineer, computer scientist, or from any discipline, really.
If you want to start right this minute, the very best thing to do is to head over to Uri Wilensky’s NetLogo website, download NetLogo (available for any OS) free of charge, and then work through the three learning tutorials available under “Learning NetLogo” in the User Manual.
The first tutorial is titled “Models” and, as its title suggests, introduces you to interacting with existing NetLogo models such as the Wolf-Sheep Predation model of an ecosystem.
The second tutorial is titled “Commands” and takes you a bit deeper in issuing commands to the NetLogo interface.
The third tutorial is titled “Procedures” and walks you through building a model from scratch – writing the necessary NetLogo code to implement a basic agent-based model.
After the three tutorials, the NetLogo website encourages reading through the guides available in the NetLogo documentation (Interface, Info Tab, Programming) and making use of the NetLogo Dictionary, a comprehensive index of NetLogo methods, procedures, and keywords.
What’s great about NetLogo is that it is fairly intuitive and “programming” or “coding” in NetLogo is very quickly learned, making a first agent-based model possible in a very short time.
If you prefer using a textbook as a guide, my recommendation is Uri Wilensky and Bill Rand’s Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling (find in a library), which uses NetLogo and includes companion code and models to run through all of the essentials of agent-based modeling.
Please see my review of Wilensky and Rand’s Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling for more detail on the book – which is excellent – and what it covers.
If you want to get started with ABM, download NetLogo today.
A short 2009 video describing NetLogo and some capabilities: