Science of science workshop: discovery & inequality

The “science of science” turns the scientific method inward, on the scientific ecosystem itself, to understand its structure and dynamics. Largely confined to sociology and philosophy for decades, advances in computer technology at the turn of the century broadened the discipline into what is now an interdisciplinary field encompassing computer scientists, statisticians, biologists, physicists, and more. This May 5-6, the Institute will host a meeting called “A New Synthesis for the Science of Science” to synthesize concepts, models, methods, and data to craft a new vision for the science of science. 

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Can algorithms bend toward justice?

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?

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In a time of upheaval, what does it mean to be useful?

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?

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Research brief: Information & scaling thresholds in human societies

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.

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Research brief: Scaling of hunter-gatherer camp size and human sociality

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.

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Changing beliefs is critical to sustaining high levels of vaccination

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.

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Community lecture series re-emerges

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.

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Bridging the Dogma Divide in the Origins of Life

A group of early career researchers studying the origins of life hope their March 9-11 meeting might help foster a community that heals divisions of dogma within the field, promote cross-pollination, and include new voices. 

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John Templeton Foundation series on complexity features SFI researchers

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.

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Covert and overt political signaling online

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.

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Scaling laws in enzymes may help predict life ‘as we don’t know it’

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.

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