Inspired by biological design and self-organizing systems, artist Heather Barnett co-creates with physarum polycephalum, a eukaryotic microorganism that lives in cool, moist areas. What can people learn from the semi-intelligent slime mold? Watch this talk to find out.
Research on human social interactions has traditionally relied on self-reports. Despite their widespread use, self-reported accounts of behaviour are prone to biases and necessarily reduce the range of behaviours, and the number of subjects, that may be studied simultaneously. The development of ever smaller sensors makes it possible to study group-level human behaviour in naturalistic settings outside research laboratories. We used such sensors, sociometers, to examine gender, talkativeness and interaction style in two different contexts. Here, we find that in the collaborative context, women were much more likely to be physically proximate to other women and were also significantly more talkative than men, especially in small groups. In contrast, there were no gender-based differences in the non-collaborative setting. Our results highlight the importance of objective measurement in the study of human behaviour, here enabling us to discern context specific, gender-based differences in interaction style.
The importance of complexity is well-captured by Hawking's comment: "Complexity is the science of the 21st century". From the movement of flocks of birds to the Internet, environmental sustainability, and market regulation, the study and understanding of complex non-linear systems has become highly influential over the last 30 years.
In this Very Short Introduction, one of the leading figures in the field, John Holland, introduces the key elements and conceptual framework of complexity. From complex physical systems such as fluid flow and the difficulties of predicting weather, to complex adaptive systems such as the highly diverse and interdependent ecosystems of rainforests, he combines simple, well-known examples -- Adam Smith's pin factory, Darwin's comet orchid, and Simon's 'watchmaker' -- with an account of the approaches, involving agents and urn models, taken by complexity theory.
We present theoretical and empirical results demonstrating the usefulness of voting rules for participatory democracies. We first give algorithms which efficiently elicit \epsilon-approximations to two prominent voting rules: the Borda rule and the Condorcet winner. This result circumvents previous prohibitive lower bounds and is surprisingly strong: even if the number of ideas is as large as the number of participants, each participant will only have to make a logarithmic number of comparisons, an exponential improvement over the linear number of comparisons previously needed. We demonstrate the approach in an experiment in Finland's recent off-road traffic law reform, observing that the total number of comparisons needed to achieve a fixed \epsilon approximation is linear in the number of ideas and that the constant is not large. Finally, we note a few other experimental observations which support the use of voting rules for aggregation. First, we observe that rating, one of the common alternatives to ranking, manifested effects of bias in our data. Second, we show that very few of the topics lacked a Condorcet winner, one of the prominent negative results in voting. Finally, we show data hinting at a potential future direction: the use of partial rankings as opposed to pairwise comparisons to further decrease the elicitation time.
Cooperating animals frequently show closely coordinated behaviours organized by a continuous flow of information between interacting partners. Such real-time coaction is not captured by the iterated prisoner׳s dilemma and other discrete-time reciprocal cooperation games, which inherently feature a delay in information exchange. Here, we study the evolution of cooperation when individuals can dynamically respond to each other׳s actions.
In this provocative and practical paper, social entrepreneurship leader Matthew Pike sets out a course of action for a wholesale change of culture, decision-making and accountability in the contracting of public services, to take advantage of a 'rare window of opportunity to transform how government works with others'.
Network methods have had profound influence in many domains and disciplines in the past decade. Community structure is a very important property of complex networks, but the accurate definition of a community remains an open problem. Here we defined community based on three properties, and then propose a simple and novel framework to detect communities based on network topology. We analyzed 16 different types of networks, and compared our partitions with Infomap, LPA, Fastgreedy and Walktrap, which are popular algorithms for community detection. Most of the partitions generated using our approach compare favorably to those generated by these other algorithms. Furthermore, we define overlapping nodes that combine community structure with shortest paths. We also analyzed the E. Coli. transcriptional regulatory network in detail, and identified modules with strong functional coherence.
A number of social-ecological systems exhibit complex behavior associated with nonlinearities, bifurcations, and interaction with stochastic drivers. These systems are often prone to abrupt and unexpected instabilities and state shifts that emerge as a discontinuous response to gradual changes in environmental drivers. Predicting such behaviors is crucial to the prevention of or preparation for unwanted regime shifts. Recent research in ecology has investigated early warning signs that anticipate the divergence of univariate ecosystem dynamics from a stable attractor. To date, leading indicators of instability in systems with multiple interacting components have remained poorly investigated. This is a major limitation in the understanding of the dynamics of complex social-ecological networks. Here, we develop a theoretical framework to demonstrate that rising variance—measured, for example, by the maximum element of the covariance matrix of the network—is an effective leading indicator of network instability. We show that its reliability and robustness depend more on the sign of the interactions within the network than the network structure or noise intensity. Mutualistic, scale free and small world networks are less stable than their antagonistic or random counterparts but their instability is more reliably predicted by this leading indicator. These results provide new advances in multidimensional early warning analysis and offer a framework to evaluate the resilience of social-ecological networks.
Early Warning Signs in Social-Ecological Networks.
PLoS ONE 9(7): e101851. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101851 (2014)
Collective decisions in animal groups emerge from the actions of individuals who are unlikely to have global information. Comparative assessment of options can be valuable in decision-making. Ant colonies are excellent collective decision-makers, for example when selecting a new nest-site.
Social technologies with their inherent democratic, anti-hierarchical quality easily transcend internal and external boundaries, suddenly creating a powerful thrust for horizontal collaboration and participation. They give each and every member of an organization a creative voice and enable real-time virtual connectivity in a way we have never seen before. This makes them a great catalyst for the organizational principles that are required by the new leadership context of the 21st century.
The following is an outline of the keynote I gave today at the 7th Social Business Forum in Milan, with slides embedded at the bottom of the post: When considering the ‘why’ of social business, it is worth starting at an even more fundamental level: why do large firms exist? Ronald Coase said it was …