“The Simpo: Learn Through Simulating Society”

On June 13th, 2014, the study association for Cognitive Artificial Intelligence Utrecht (USCKI Incognito) held her annual symposium. This year’s symposium was titled The Simpo: Learn Through Simulating Society. Various speakers talked about their research in the field of Artificial Intelligence and simulations.

Dr. Marco Wiering, the day’s moderator from Groningen, opened the symposium with a short introductatory talk on the subject. Soon, he gave the floor to the first speaker, prof. dr. Albert Visser. In his philosophy lecture, titled It’s All In The Game, Albert Visser talked about our inability to prove life isn’t a simulation, by discussing Descartes’ Demon and reality itself.

After a short break, it was dr. Tibor Bosse’s turn to hit the stage. He told about the STRESS-project: a projects that focusses on the training of emergency workers in ‘stressful situations’, using a simulation that takes negative emotions and the trainees’ mental state into account.

With newly gained knowledge, the visitors then started the workshop rounds. A first workshop was given by Valentijn Muijrers, researcher at the HKU. Using a tool, he showed the audience how to build a simple simulation and adjust parameters for different outcomes. Another workshop was given by Jorrit Kuiper, owner of Green Dino, a company which develops driving simulators. Jorrit Kuiper showed how technical development in the area of driving simulators gives way to use psychological findings about memory use. The use of their simulator in driving-schools results in a better learning curve for students, by optimizing there memorizing capabilities.

The third workshop was given by Joost van Ooijen from VSTEP, who created a serious game that simulates a disaster on a marine vessel. By using clever agents he showed how the game can easily adapt to new situations and can give a more realistic feedback to marine officers in practicing emergency situations.

The workshops where followed by a lunch, after which dr. Rense Corten entered the stage. Dr. Corten put the concept of simulation in a more sociological light. He discussed the research he did to make a model of alcohol use among adolescents in a dynamic system. He also gave us an insight in the problems of modeling complex social phenomena, and the relevance of finding the right parameters.

Lecturer Paul Vogt gave a talk about cultural and social aspects of language acquisition. In his research, Vogt investigates the way children learn words. The results of this investigation are then used in a computer model to simulate the evolution and acquisition of language.

The symposium concluded with a discussion in which the speakers defended their opinions on simulation-related statements, which resulted in an interesting debate.

Now, 3 month later, we look back at our symposium with pride, and think the lectures inspired students interested in all different aspects of AI. We received several positive comments on the speakers and workshop leaders. Thanks to the support of the BNVKI, it was possible for us to organize this day full of interesting talks, workshops and knowledge.