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Non-stationary Transition Path Theory with applications to tipping and agent-based models

  • The interesting dynamical regimes in agent-based models (ABMs) of social dynamics are the transient dynamics leading to metastable or absorbing states, and the transition paths between metastable states possibly caused by external influences. In this thesis, we are particularly interested in the pathways of rare and critical transitions such as the tipping of the public opinion in a population or the forming of social movements. For a detailed quantitative analysis of these transition paths, we consider the agent-based models as Markov chains and employ Transition Path Theory. Since ABMs are usually not considered in stationarity and possibly even forced, we generalize Transition Path Theory to time-dependent dynamics, for example on finite-time intervals or with periodically varying transition probabilities. We also specifically consider the case of dynamics with absorbing states and show how the transitions prior to absorption can be studied. These generalizations can also be useful in other application domains such as for studying tipping in climate models or transitions in molecular models with external stimuli. Another obstacle when analysing the dynamics of agent-based models is the large number of agents resulting in a high-dimensional state space for the model. However, the emergent dynamics of the ABM usually has significantly fewer degrees of freedom and many symmetries enabling a model reduction. On the example of two stationary ABMs we demonstrate how a long model simulation can be employed to find a lower-dimensional parametrization of the state space using a manifold learning algorithm called Diffusion Maps. In the considered models, agents adapt their binary behaviour to the local neighbourhood. When the interaction network consists of several densely connected communities, the dynamics result in a largely coherent behaviour in each community. The low-dimensional structure of the state space is therefore a hypercube. The corners represent metastable states with coherent agent behaviour in each group and the edges correspond to transition paths where agents in a community change their behaviour through a chain reaction. Finally, we can apply Transition Path Theory to the effective dynamics in the reduced space to reveal, for example, the dominant transition paths or the agents that are most indicative of an impending tipping event.

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Author:Luzie HelfmannORCiD
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Granting Institution:Freie Universität Berlin
Advisor:Christof Schütte
Date of final exam:2022/07/06
Year of first publication:2022
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