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The Dilemma of American Social Welfare argues against the idea that there are inexpensive cures for serious societal sicknesses. Epstein takes on an immense literature in psychotherapy, social work, and welfare, all offering simple answers to complex problems. Two of the largest social experiments ever undertaken in the U.S. are evaluated in depth. The Negative Income Tax experiments of the 1960s and early 1970s tested the feasibility of an income guarantee; and the Evaluation of State Work/Welfare Initiatives employed a variety of programs to stimulate welfare recipients to find jobs. Epstein also analyzes social services associated with social work and examines approaches to juvenile delinquency and drug addiction.
Epstein is blunt in his denial that traditional welfare can readily resolve major social and economic questions of the times. His work, addressed to the malaise in thesocial welfare or helping professions, should serve asan early warning signal that easy solutions are hard for recipients to identify and harder still for donors to put forth. Although it was originally published in the early 1990s, the book remains relevant to political and social questions of the day, which makes it of interest to sociologists, political scientists, policymakers, researchers, and others interested in policy and urban studies.
In this pioneering synthesis, Joshua Epstein introduces a new theoretical entity: Agent_Zero. This software individual, or "agent," is endowed with distinct emotional/affective, cognitive/deliberative, and social modules. Grounded in contemporary neuroscience, these internal components interact to generate observed, often far-from-rational, individual behavior. When multiple agents of this new type move and interact spatially, they collectively generate an astonishing range of dynamics spanning the fields of social conflict, psychology, public health, law, network science, and economics.
Epstein weaves a computational tapestry with threads from Plato, Hume, Darwin, Pavlov, Smith, Tolstoy, Marx, James, and Dostoevsky, among others. This transformative synthesis of social philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, and agent-based modeling will fascinate scholars and students of every stripe. Epstein's computer programs are provided in the book or on its Princeton University Press website, along with movies of his "computational parables.?
Agent_Zero is a signal departure in what it includes (e.g., a new synthesis of neurally grounded internal modules), what it eschews (e.g., standard behavioral imitation), the phenomena it generates (from genocide to financial panic), and the modeling arsenal it offers the scientific community.
For generative social science, Agent_Zero presents a groundbreaking vision and the tools to realize it.