Complex systems may have billion components making consensus formation slow and difficult. Recently several overlapping stories emerged from various disciplines, including protein structures, neuroscience and social networks, showing that fast responses to known stimuli involve a network core of few, strongly connected nodes. In unexpected situations the core may fail to provide a coherent response, thus the stimulus propagates to the periphery of the network. Here the final response is determined by a large number of weakly connected nodes mobilizing the collective memory and opinion, i.e. the slow democracy exercising the 'wisdom of crowds'. This mechanism resembles to Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" discriminating fast, pattern-based and slow, contemplative decision making. The generality of the response also shows that democracy is neither only a moral stance nor only a decision making technique, but a very efficient general learning strategy developed by complex systems during evolution. The duality of fast core and slow majority may increase our understanding of metabolic, signaling, ecosystem, swarming or market processes, as well as may help to construct novel methods to explore unusual network responses, deep-learning neural network structures and core-periphery targeting drug design strategies.
(Illustrative videos can be downloaded from here:this http URL)
Fast and slow thinking -- of networks: The complementary 'elite' and 'wisdom of crowds' of amino acid, neuronal and social networks Peter Csermely
Large-scale protests occur frequently and sometimes overthrow entire political systems. Meanwhile, online social networks have become an increasingly common component of people’s lives. We present a large-scale longitudinal study that connects online social media behaviors to offline protest. Using almost 14 million geolocated tweets and data on protests from 16 countries during the Arab Spring, we show that increased coordination of messages on Twitter using specific hashtags is associated with increased protests the following day. The results also show that traditional actors like the media and elites are not driving the results. These results indicate social media activity correlates with subsequent large-scale decentralized coordination of protests, with important implications for the future balance of power between citizens and their states.
Online social networks and offline protest Zachary C Steinert-Threlkeld, Delia Mocanu, Alessandro Vespignani and James Fowler
The Centered Mind offers a new view of the nature and causal determinants of both reflective thinking and, more generally, the stream of consciousness. Peter Carruthers argues that conscious thought is always sensory-based, relying on the resources of the working-memory system. This system has been much studied by cognitive scientists. It enables sensory images to be sustained and manipulated through attentional signals directed at midlevel sensory areas of the brain. When abstract conceptual representations are bound into these images, we consciously experience ourselves as making judgments or arriving at decisions. Thus one might hear oneself as judging, in inner speech, that it is time to go home, for example. However, our amodal (non-sensory) propositional attitudes are never actually among the contents of this stream of conscious reflection. Our beliefs, goals, and decisions are only ever active in the background of consciousness, working behind the scenes to select the sensory-based imagery that occurs in working memory. They are never themselves conscious.
Drawing on extensive knowledge of the scientific literature on working memory and related topics, Carruthers builds an argument that challenges the central assumptions of many philosophers. In addition to arguing that non-sensory propositional attitudes are never conscious, he also shows that they are never under direct intentional control. Written with his usual clarity and directness, The Centered Mind will be essential reading for all philosophers and cognitive scientists interested in the nature of human thought processes.
An important challenge in several disciplines is to understand how sudden changes can propagate among coupled systems. Examples include the synchronization of business cycles, population collapse in patchy ecosystems, markets shifting to a new technology platform, collapses in prices and in confidence in financial markets, and protests erupting in multiple countries. A number of mathematical models of these phenomena have multiple equilibria separated by saddle-node bifurcations. We study this behaviour in its normal form as fast–slow ordinary differential equations. In our model, a system consists of multiple subsystems, such as countries in the global economy or patches of an ecosystem. Each subsystem is described by a scalar quantity, such as economic output or population, that undergoes sudden changes via saddle-node bifurcations. The subsystems are coupled via their scalar quantity (e.g. trade couples economic output; diffusion couples populations); that coupling moves the locations of their bifurcations. The model demonstrates two ways in which sudden changes can propagate: they can cascade (one causing the next), or they can hop over subsystems. The latter is absent from classic models of cascades. For an application, we study the Arab Spring protests. After connecting the model to sociological theories that have bistability, we use socioeconomic data to estimate relative proximities to tipping points and Facebook data to estimate couplings among countries. We find that although protests tend to spread locally, they also seem to ‘hop' over countries, like in the stylized model; this result highlights a new class of temporal motifs in longitudinal network datasets.
Coupled catastrophes: sudden shifts cascade and hop among interdependent systems
Charles D. Brummitt, George Barnett, Raissa M. D'Souza
Money is a flashpoint. It illuminates existing and historic inequities in our movements and communities. It often sparks organizational anxiety about competition. It stirs personal feelings around money and class. Network conversations around funding are conversations about power. Yet, to have impact at scale, networks must both leverage existing resources and raise additional new resources.
Many find ourselves asking: How can we build resources and use them to have impact (in the short
A donation of 50 cents a day sounds a lot more palatable than roughly $150 a year, or $12 a month. Who doesn’t have two spare quarters? That pocket change could help to end world hunger—but the traditional model of soliciting donations by mail means that what amounts to a daily donation of 50 cents is barely enough to cover the cost of stamps and paper. Instead of costly mailers, return envelopes, and stamps, a new app called Share the Meal is billing itself as the first mobile crowdfunding app to end global hunger. U.N. leaders hope to use this low-overhead means to help Syrians fleeing the current conflict and other refugees in the future. The free app is available for iOS and Android starting Thursday. As the app mentions upon login, “Smartphone users outnumber hungry children by 20 to 1,” and its goal isn’t just to get people to help feed hungry children via the World Food Programme—first in Lesotho and, once the funding goal is met there, other hunger-ravaged countries—but to get people to give and keep giving. “We don’t want you to donate on one day,” said Massimiliano Costa, the app’s growth manager. “The biggest potential for such a product is to make a habit of donating.” More than 64 percent of Americans own smartphones, and those people check their phones an average of 100 times a day. Nonprofits are hoping they can harness app and mobile-Web addictions to make giving as easy as checking another push notification on your lock screen. Test runs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland gathered 120,000 users to donate the equivalent of 1.7 million daily rations to children in Lesotho. The app was developed by two former business consultants to the U.N.’s antihunger program during a sabbatical and took one year from inception to launch. The time it takes to actually develop an app like this is the biggest obstacle for nonprofits, many of whom don’t have the resources of a large organization such as the U.N. They had to test the app in a few markets before the global launch, make it available in eight different languages, and make other time-consuming efforts. “It’s so obvious that microdonations can work, and it’s been a trend for a long time, but no one has really picked up on it,” said Maria Pepine, a spokesperson for Share the Meal. “It needs a lot of resources and lots of support to make it happen.” There are a few major benefits to using an app to bring in donations. “The overhead cost is so low that at least 90 percent of donations go to delivering food where it’s needed,” Costa said. By comparison, 70 percent of the organizations evaluated by the website Charity Navigator spend just 75 percent of donations “on the programs and services they exist to provide.” The other advantages are convenience for the user and, for the organization, ease of access to potential donors. Costa explained that even when a video or advertisement does manage to speak to a donor enough to prompt him to donate, it’s a one-time occasion. “We think the app can be different because it keeps you in the loop.” It can connect and update information to social media and send push notifications to nudge users to keep giving. The app’s single-country focus is another interesting departure from the traditional charity model. Share the Meal will set a goal for each location and plans to focus the app’s donations on that locale until the goal is met. Because of the enormity of the Syrian crisis, Share the Meal has plans to focus efforts there once its goals in Lesotho are met.
To ensure that no government, company or person with sole control of digital filters can manipulate our decisions, we need information systems that are transparent, trustworthy and user-controlled. Each of us must be able to choose, modify and build our own tools for winnowing information.
Society: Build digital democracy Dirk Helbing & Evangelos Pournaras
Excerpted from a conference review by Jay Cassano: “Some of the most exciting developments came from the self-organized breakout sessions, such as one on where@ — a proposal for a secure location-sharing app for activists. Other workshops focused on alternative currencies, ethical user interface design, and data science. The most contentious moments of the gathering …
The spreading of information is of crucial importance for the modern information society. While we still receive information from mass media and other non-personalized sources, online social networks and influence of friends have become important personalized sources of information. This calls for metrics to measure the influence of users on the behavior of their friends. We demonstrate that the currently existing metrics of friends’ influence are biased by the presence of highly popular items in the data, and as a result can lead to an illusion of friends influence where there is none. We correct for this bias and develop three metrics that allow to distinguish the influence of friends from the effects of item popularity, and apply the metrics on real datasets. We use a simple network model based on the influence of friends and preferential attachment to illustrate the performance of our metrics at different levels of friends’ influence.
Unbiased metrics of friends’ influence in multi-level networks Alexandre Vidmer, Matúš Medo and Yi-Cheng Zhang
My origin story is a tale of constant change. The most recent transition, from running the multimedia desk at the New York Times to chairing the University of Oregon's Agora Journalism Center, is filled with many life lessons.
The Complex Systems Summer School offers an intensive four week introduction to complex behavior in mathematical, physical, living, and social systems for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the sciences and social sciences. The school is for participants who seek background and hands-on experience to help them prepare to conduct interdisciplinary research in areas related to complex systems. The program consists of an intensive series of lectures, laboratories, and discussion sessions focusing on foundational ideas, tools, and current topics in complex systems research. These include nonlinear dynamics and pattern formation, scaling theory, information theory and computation theory, adaptation and evolution, network structure and dynamics, adaptive computation techniques, computer modeling tools and specific applications of these core topics to various disciplines. In addition, participants will formulate and carry out team projects related to topics covered in the program.
The Evolution of Everything is about bottom-up order and its enemy, the top-down twitch—the endless fascination human beings have for design rather than evolution, for direction rather than emergence. Drawing on anecdotes from science, economics, history, politics and philosophy, Matt Ridley’s wide-ranging, highly opinionated opus demolishes conventional assumptions that major scientific and social imperatives are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or morality. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Patterns emerge, trends evolve. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to, and termites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning can happen without teaching and morality changes without a plan.
Although we neglect, defy and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The growth of technology, the sanitation-driven health revolution, the quadrupling of farm yields so that more land can be released for nature—these were largely emergent phenomena, as were the Internet, the mobile phone revolution, and the rise of Asia. Ridley demolishes the arguments for design and effectively makes the case for evolution in the universe, morality, genes, the economy, culture, technology, the mind, personality, population, education, history, government, God, money, and the future.
You know that time you kill on your phone? Candy Crush blah blah, or just vacantly swiping through a negative news feed? The Elbi community are putting that time to good use and helping a new school in Ghana with English and Art lessons, straight from their phones.
The hypothesis that living systems can benefit from operating at the vicinity of critical points has gained momentum in recent years. Criticality may confer an optimal balance between exceedingly ordered and too noisy states. We here present a model, based on information theory and statistical mechanics, illustrating how and why a community of agents aimed at understanding and communicating with each other converges to a globally coherent state in which all individuals are close to an internal critical state, i.e. at the borderline between order and disorder. We study --both analytically and computationally-- the circumstances under which criticality is the best possible outcome of the dynamical process, confirming the convergence to critical points under very generic conditions. Finally, we analyze the effect of cooperation (agents try to enhance not only their fitness, but also that of other individuals) and competition (agents try to improve their own fitness and to diminish those of competitors) within our setting. The conclusion is that, while competition fosters criticality, cooperation hinders it and can lead to more ordered or more disordered consensual solutions.
Cooperation, competition and the emergence of criticality in communities of adaptive systems Jorge Hidalgo, Jacopo Grilli, Samir Suweis, Amos Maritan, Miguel A. Munoz
There is relatively little material on what self-organising teams are about and how to support them effectively. This first article from a series of on Leading Self-Organising Teams explores what self-organising teams are.
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