Archive for May 4th, 2008

I need a real world situation involving a rich, but somewhat contained behavior space to attempt a cellular automata model.

In watching the rather lame De La Hoya and Forbes fight last night (gosh, I haven’t seen a blockbuster match in 3-4 years and I watch a lot of boxing!) it occurred to me that boxing might be a very good subject to study.


  • Fixed physical space (boxing ring, arena)
  • Rich, but contained environment (ring, corners, arena, crowd, cities)
  • A huge amount of historical data (we can watch and record 100s of recent fights and study individual boxers)
  • Rewards and Punishments are severe and are both immediate and historical (large payouts, punches to the face, crowd chants… both in current bout and previous bout)
  • Possible use of local rules showcasing emergent bout behavior (avoid punch or punch at X moment drawn out over time reveals overall bout outcome, boxer movement, energy depletion…)
  • Readers would find the subject interesting outside of academics (boxing!)
  • I can remove some of the variables and likely not lose a lot of the value of the research (I might be able to ignore culture/social status/marital problems/etc. and still build a reliable model of a boxing bout and hopefully draw some connections between behavior and cellular automata modeling)
So who cares? or what does any of this have to do with anything?
Behaviorism has a robust theoretical framework but lacks a mathematical framework.  Up to now most of the mathematical explanations in behaviorism involves pretty standard multivariate statistics and statistics experimental design. (here’s a typical approach in schedule analysis) Researchers more and more use game theory models to generalize certain relationships.  However there is no robust mathematics of behavior (nothing even close to what we see in economics and physics) and there is no generalized computer modeling (that I can find… and I’m looking for modeling like we do with markets, the weather, and cosmology – all highly complex dynamic systems)
Some links to explore if interested in existing mathematical “laws and models.
Cellular Automata might provide a framework.  
Studying boxing might be a fun and interesting way to explore the capabilities to of automata to model human behavior.  What’s particularly interesting about boxing as a study of operant behavior is the number of obvious reinforcement schedules at play and the easy to spot emitted behavior.  
Boxing is equally interesting as a subject for automata because of the fixed space, dynamic physical motion and finite duration (i.e. we might actually be able to model in a reasonable time).  Lastly, in both cases we should be able to verify our findings against a lot of real data, both historical and in upcoming bouts.
More to come, certainly!

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