A series of Foundations of Intelligence meetings explored what "intelligence" means from the level of an individual ant to an anthill collective; in artificial intelligence; and during a pandemic.
Increasingly, algorithms rule our world. They guide doctors toward our medical treatments, advise bankers on whether to give us a home loan, help judges decide whether to release us on bail. They’re often hidden and mysterious, guiding our lives in ways we don’t understand. Are they doing a good job? In particular, are they fair, or are they treating some groups of people better than others? A March working group addresses the question: Can algorithms bend the arc toward justice?
In a time of climate change, inequality, polarization, and pandemic, what does it mean to be “useful?” This question from SFI President David Krakauer kicked off SFI’s live online course Complexity Interactive, which ran January 10 – 28, 2022. Is it better for complex systems scientists to keep their advice simple and be understood, or to advocate for complexity and nuance yet risk that no one will listen?
In a recent paper in the Journal of Social Computing, SFI Professor David Wolpert, SFI External Professor Tim Kohler (Washington State University), and their colleague, Darcy Bird (Washington State University) built on past research to explore patterns of change to collective computation that occur in human history.
A new study in Nature Communications shows that we may have to go all the way down to a single city block to study disease spread, and that the key feature is to choose areas with a similar population density.
From hunter-gatherer encampments to modern cities, permanent human settlements tend to densify as the population grows, while mobile human settlements do the opposite. New research in Current Anthropology explores these dynamics and the conditions that might lead impermanent, spread-out communities to transition to denser, stationary settlements.
The rise of the BA.2 Omicron variant — first in Europe and East Asia and now in the U.S. — makes it clear that the pandemic isn’t done with us, and it isn’t likely to be anytime soon — unless we achieve very high vaccination levels with recurring boosters. But so far, too few people are volunteering. In the U.S., for instance, less than a third of the population is boosted. Are vaccination mandates the answer? If so, how can they be effective, given the resistance they can stir up? A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Santa Fe Institute researchers Katrin Schmelz and Samuel Bowles offers guidance.
Since 1987, the Santa Fe Institute’s Community Lecture Series has shared complexity science with an enthusiastic local audience. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the series to go dark in March of 2020. Two years later, the series returned to its local home at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on March 22, 2022, with a talk by SFI External Professor Sara Walker, an astrobiologist at Arizona State University. In her talk “Recognizing the Alien in Us,” Walker expands on themes that were introduced in SFI’s first Community Lectures more than three decades ago.
Complexity science is essential to understanding many of the deepest and most perplexing questions facing humankind — and hence the John Templeton Foundation, which is devoted to addressing just such questions, is sponsoring a series of three essays on complexity by Santa Fe Institute researchers, accompanied by stories written by freelance writers.
A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-authored by SFI's Tamara van der Does and Mirta Galesic, demonstrates empirically for the first time that people use covert signals of their political identity online. Furthermore, they do so more often in mixed groups, preferring overt signals in groups that mostly share their beliefs.
SFI External Professor and Science Board Member Matthew Jackson has received a BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Economics, Finance and Management.
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identifies a new kind of biochemical universality in enzymes — the functional drivers of biochemistry — found in life on Earth. These patterns in the chemistry of life do not appear to depend on specific molecules and may help researchers develop tools to predict the features of life as we don’t know it.
To advance research on topics from climate change to machine learning, scientific models are crucial. These models often reveal patterns, but humans also have a tendency to see patterns everywhere, even where there are none. How can researchers recognize which patterns are real and which ones are not? Which kinds of real patterns are most useful to science? These are some of the questions that philosophers and scientists from various disciplines explored in a virtual SFI workshop on “Real Patterns in Science and Cognition” held February 28 – March 4.
From fireflies to ants to microbes to humans, we all form collectives. Figuring out how that happens can help us understand our responses to some of the world’s biggest challenges. A January workshop met to explore new directions for collective-behavior research.
The Santa Fe Institute has received funding for a new five-year research theme on emergent political economies. The theme, funded by a $6.5 million grant from the Omidyar Network, will take up the ethical imperative to develop better theoretical frameworks and methods to understand the social, ecological, and material inequalities at the core of the modern economy, as well as imagine the role that innovation will play in emergent political economies of the future – both for good and ill.
In South Africa's western cape, the shrubby Fynbos biome and the abutting Afrotemperate Forest biome share an underlying geology and are subject to the same climatic patterns, yet exist as alternative stable states. In a new study in PNAS, SFI Omidyar Fellow Mingzhen Lu and colleagues dive deep to understand the role of root systems in maintaining these two biomes.
Stefani Crabtree and Devin White receive high-performance computing award for archeological research
SFI archeologists Stefani Crabtree and Devin White win a prestigious HPC Innovation Excellence Award for their work developing supercomputing methods to study human migration.
SFI Science Board Member Simon Levin (Princeton University) was recognized by the BBVA Foundation for his essential mathematical contributions to the field of spatial ecology.
A recent study led by SFI External Professor Marten Scheffer identified a set of striking patterns in the written record that suggest that, in the universe of language, an era framed by sentiment and individuality has been on the rise for decades. A response from External Professor Simon DeDeo gives a replication of the findings with similar results and also offers remarks on both the methodological challenges and some of the interpretive questions the work raises.