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In 2-D lattice random walks by multiple drunks who can't step onto each other, mathematically I would just say the whole cellular automaton updates "at once".

But to simulate this on a computer, I need to perform computations in some order. This presents obvious complications.

Can anyone point me in the right direction with Google or the research literature? I'm sure I'm not the first person to stumble across this issue, but I don't know what vocabulary others have used to talk about it.

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I think the keyword you want is concurrency: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concurrency_(computer_science) –  Qiaochu Yuan Aug 13 '12 at 22:30

1 Answer 1

(1) You might look at simulations of the Game of Life, e.g., at the Wikipedia article:

There is also a method, applicable to other cellular automata too, for implementation of the Game of Life using arbitrary asynchronous updates whilst still exactly emulating the behaviour of the synchronous game.

(2) Following Qiaochu's suggestion, you might look at the literature on "concurrent writes," e.g., the CRCW parallel processing model. Here, for example, is a 1977 paper by Lamport (the L in LaTeX), "Concurrent reading and writing" (ACM link).

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