[TheWorld] Swiss cows, virtual agents and government decisions

DO COWS improve the view? This question is seriously taken by the swiss government according to the economist. The question actually is rather how much do cows improve the view and where do they provide most value for money? One justification for the subsidy is that cows eat young trees, and fewer trees mean better vistas of the sort beloved by tourists.

To help answer these questions, Kai Nagel and his colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich, have developed computer models of the Alps and populated them with virtual tourists (or “autonomous agents” in computer-speak) that can wander the electronic landscape. The agents are programmed to behave, as far as possible, like real tourists, and to record their impressions as they go.