Workshop SAS ’15

Workshop: The Science and Art of Simulation (SAS) Stuttgart: 12th – 13th October 2015
Simulations are the result of a scientific activity and an artistic practice (in the sense of a technē). The tension between scientific models and technical ingenuity, between the claims about exactitude, validity, and certainty on the one hand, and the necessities of intelligently dealing with technical conditions, epistemic uncertainty, and forms of visual representation on the other, typically characterize the processes of simulation. Understanding them is of key importance for social expectations as well as political decisions based on simulations. These considerations outline the main themes of the new workshop series The Science and Art of Simulation (SAS). Every fall, beginning this year, an international and interdisciplinary workshop will take place at the HLRS- Stuttgart. There, computer scientists, engineers, historians, and social scientists will meet philosophers researching the science and art of simulation. Contributions are expected to be published in a series of books by Springer.

SAS Program

The first workshop is divided into four sessions:

1. Basic lines of a philosophy of simulation

The first section will be dedicated to reaching an agreement on basic issues. The aim is to identify current problem areas and to develop systematic working lines (with a view to future workshops as well) based on these areas. The issue, however, seems to be that there is no consensus about what the problem areas of simulations actually are: are they related to modelling? Do they have to do with technical conditions? Are simulations to be understood as means for gathering (or rendering) knowledge about a target system, or are they the primary object of research in themselves? The disagreement on these and other issues is the reason and the motive for our first round of discussions.

2. Transforming thinking in the medium of simulation

Currently, there are two fundamentally different perspectives on supercomputers: the first one stems from a perspective inspired by the philosophy of science which focusses on epistemic questions and concentrates on the practice of modelling. The technical relevance of simulations tends to move into the background and remain silent. The second perspective brings the technical conditions of simulations to the fore. The underlying assumption is that, due to faster calculations, objects are thought, conceived and described Differently. It emphasizes, then, the technical relevance for epistemic questions. The second round of discussions begins with the questions: do scientific thoughts change their form due to simulations? And if so, is this change primarily due to a shift in the technical conditions of science?

3. Extending our knowledge over the uncertain

The ideal of exactitude, unambiguousness, and certainty marks the beginning of western knowledge. At the same time, however, the necessity of capturing the imprecise, the changing, the merely probably is understood. Both forms of knowledge are tightly connected with the history of mathematics. On the one hand, mathematics produces the very idea of exact knowledge. On the other hand, it has developed forms to deal with the uncertain and unstable; stochastic is the example par excellence for this. (Both concepts of knowledge, interestingly enough, converge in Laplace: the all-knowing daemon and the dicer). The numerical processes that are of crucial importance for simulation, represent another mathematical form through which the uncertain can be made accessible. But what kind knowledge do simulations have to offer? What does distinguished knowledge gain in this way from other forms of knowledge? How do we deal with it in a thorough manner?

4. Politics and simulation: a non-trivial relationship

Simulations make predictions possible. In some areas -due to a lack of suitable alternatives – they represent a privileged approach to the knowledge about future events or processes. The knowledge about their status and the validity of their results requires a reflected power of judgment. This is especially true when social and political decisions are being made based on simulations. Here, the ability of simulations to prove themselves as powerful tools for decision making may come to a fundamental limit. The decisions made due to predictions based on simulations change the area for which the simulations predict a certain development. How can the validity of a simulation be assessed? In what way can simulations be used for a political purpose in a smart and responsible manner?


Monday, 12. October 2015

09:00 Opening: Petra Gehring (TU Darmstadt), Michael Resch, Andreas Kaminski (Universität Stuttgart)

Basic lines of a philosophy of simulation

9:30 Christoph Hubig (TU Darmstadt) 10:00 Discussion

10:30 Break

10:45 Michael Resch (Universität Stuttgart): Is there a theory of simulation? (Gibt es eine Theorie der Simulation?)

11:15 Discussion

12:00 Lunch

Extending our knowledge over the uncertain

13:30 Claus Beisbart (Universität Bern)

14:00 Nicole J. Saam (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg) 15:00 Discussion

15:45 Break

16:00 Eric Winsberg (University of South Florida) 16:30 Discussion

17:15 End of the first day

Evening activities

18:00 Visit to the Rechnerraum & Cave 20:00 Dinner

Tuesday, 13. October 2015

Transforming thinking in the medium of simulation

09:00 Johannes Lenhard (Universität Bielefeld) 09:30 Diskussion

10:15 Break

10:30 Gabriele Gramelsberger (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg) 11:00 Discussion

12:00 Lunch

Politics and simulation: a non-trivial relationship

13:30 Thomas Ludwig (Universität Hamburg)

14:00 Christoph Engemann (Thomas Ludwig Lüneburg) 14:30 Discussion

15:30 Break

15:45 Ortwin Renn (Universität Stuttgart) 16:15 Discussion

17:00 Review of the workshop

17:30 End