EffLab was built to support the study of the efficiency of agents in an evolving complex adaptive system. In particular:
- There is a definition of efficiency used in ecology, and an analogous definition widely used in business. In ecological studies it is called EROEI (energy returned on energy invested), or, more briefly, EROI (pronounced E-Roy). In business it is called ROI (dollars returned on dollars invested).
- In addition, there is the more well-known definition of efficiency first described by Sadi Carnot, and widely used by engineers. It is usually represented by the Greek letter ‘h’ (pronounced as ETA). These two measures of efficiency bear a peculiar relationship to each other: EROI = 1 / ( 1 - ETA )
In EffLab, blind seekers wander through a forest looking for energy-rich food. In this multi-generational world, they live and reproduce, or die, depending on whether they can find food more effectively than their contemporaries. Data is collected to measure their efficiency as they evolve more effective search patterns.
In 1985 Dr Michael Palmiter, a high school teacher, first built a very innovative agent-based model called “Simulated Evolution” which he used for teaching the dynamics of evolution. In his model, students can see the visual effects of evolution as it proceeds right in front of their eyes. Using his schema, small linear changes in the agent’s genotype have an exponential effect on the agent’s phenotype. Natural selection therefore happens quickly and effectively. I have used his approach to managing the evolution of competing agents in a variety of models that I have used to study the fundamental dynamics of sustainable economic systems. For example, here is a brief list of some of my models that use “Palmiter Genes”:
- ModEco - Palmiter genes are used to encode negotiation strategies for setting prices;
- PSoup - Palmiter genes are used to control both motion and metabolic evolution;
- TpLab - Palmiter genes are used to study the evolution of belief systems;
- EffLab - Palmiter genes are used to study Jevon’s Paradox, EROI and other things.