SIKS Masterclass "Modeling and simulating work practice"

Dr. William J. Clancey
Chief Scientist, Human-Centered Computing
Computational Sciences Division, NASA/Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA and Institute for Human-Machine Cognition (UWF, Pensacola)

Empirical Requirements Analysis for Mars Surface Operations Using the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station

Living and working on Mars will require model-based computer systems for maintaining and controlling complex life support, communication, transportation, and power systems. This technology must work properly on the first three-year mission, augmenting human autonomy, without adding yet more complexity to be diagnosed and repaired. One design method is to work with scientists in analog (Mars-like) settings to understand how they prefer to work, what constraints will be imposed by the Mars environment, and how to ameliorate difficulties. I describe how we are using empirical requirements analysis to prototype facilities, crew roles, procedures, and computer tools at a research station in the High Canadian Arctic. Emphasis is placed on combining the methods of integrated sims (distributed simulations with actual people and tools), systematic observation, and formal modeling using the Brahms simulation system.
Maarten Sierhuis
RIACS Senior Researcher
Human-Centered Computing
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA 94539

Brahms: a multiagent modeling and simulation language for work system analysis and design

Representing how people do work can be done at many different levels. In the knowledge engineering and AI world, people's work has been described in terms of their problem-solving expertise. There, the theory is that we can model people's problem-solving behavior by representing this behavior in a computational model that is able to duplicate some of this behavior. Work process models, such as Petri-Net models of a work process, describe what tasks are performed and when. In workflow models we describe how a specific product "flows" through an organization's work process. This describes the sequential tasks in the work process that "touch" a work-product. All these modeling approaches describe the work in a system at a certain level of detail. However, what is missing from all these types of modeling approaches is a representation of how work gets done. What is missing is a description of the work at the work practice level. Work practice includes those aspects of the work process that make people behave a certain way in a specific situation, and at a specific moment in time. To describe people's situation-specific behavior we need to include those aspects of the situation that explain the influence on the activity behavior of individuals (in contrast with problem-solving behavior), such as: situated activities, agent's beliefs, world facts, tools and artifacts, geography, situational effects on the activities, communication between agents and the use of communication tools, and agent reasoning.

Brahms is a tool for modeling and simulating the way people work and collaborate, and use systems to accomplish their tasks. Brahms can be used to describe current and future work processes and practices in human and other types of organizations. Another application of Brahms is to design the collaborative activities between multiple intelligent agents—human- and software agents.
Brahms consists of a number of tools to develop simulation models of the activities and collaboration of multiple agents:
  • A multi-agent modeling language for modeling agents.
  • A multi-agent discrete-event simulation engine for executing (i.e. simulating) Brahms models.
  • A relational simulation history database for capturing the data from a simulation for later analysis.
  • A multi-agent time-line view of the activities of agents, including the communication interaction between agents.
With Brahms we can model and simulate how people and systems work and interact. There are many tools and languages for describing and designing the formal specification of system behavior. However, there are not many systems that are able to describe the intelligent and social behavior of humans, as well as the cooperative and collaborative behavior between humans and systems, and the situational interaction with the environment. The Brahms environment includes aspects of human and system behavior and interaction. This means that with Brahms we can model and simulate how things happen in the real world. With Brahms it is possible to use a formal modeling and simulation approach as an analysis and design methodology in the development of Cooperative Multi-Agent Systems.

In this seminar, I will describe the Brahms multiagent modeling and simulation language in detail. I will cover some of the theoretical underpinnings of Brahms, as well as explain the representational capabilities, by using examples from my Human-Centered Computing research at NASA Ames Research Center. I will talk about my efforts in modeling and simulating how the Apollo Astronauts worked on the Moon, and how we intend to use Brahms for designing a work practice for human-robotic collaboration on the International Space Station and in future planetary robotic missions.