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A Neurocomputational Model of the Mismatch Negativity

A Neurocomputational Model of the Mismatch Negativity | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

The mismatch negativity (MMN) is an event related potential evoked by violations of regularity. Here, we present a model of the underlying neuronal dynamics based upon the idea that auditory cortex continuously updates a generative model to predict its sensory inputs. The MMN is then modelled as the superposition of the electric fields evoked by neuronal activity reporting prediction errors. The process by which auditory cortex generates predictions and resolves prediction errors was simulated using generalised (Bayesian) filtering – a biologically plausible scheme for probabilistic inference on the hidden states of hierarchical dynamical models. The resulting scheme generates realistic MMN waveforms, explains the qualitative effects of deviant probability and magnitude on the MMN – in terms of latency and amplitude – and makes quantitative predictions about the interactions between deviant probability and magnitude. This work advances a formal understanding of the MMN and – more generally – illustrates the potential for developing computationally informed dynamic causal models of empirical electromagnetic responses.

 

Paper: http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1003288

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Google Teaming up with Oxford University on Artificial Intelligence

Google Teaming up with Oxford University on Artificial Intelligence | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

It is a really exciting time for Artificial Intelligence research these days, and progress is being made on many fronts including image recognition and natural language understanding. Today we are delighted to announce a partnership with Oxford University to accelerate Google’s research efforts in these areas. 


Google DeepMind will be working with two of Oxford’s cutting edge Artificial Intelligence research teams. Prof Nando de Freitas, Prof Phil Blunsom, Dr Edward Grefenstette and Dr Karl Moritz Hermann, who teamed up earlier this year to co-found Dark Blue Labs, are four world leading experts in the use of deep learning for natural language understanding. They will be spearheading efforts to enable machines to better understand what users are saying to them.

Also joining the DeepMind team will be Dr Karen Simonyan, Max Jaderberg and Prof Andrew Zisserman, one of the world’s foremost experts on computer vision systems, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the only person to have been awarded the prestigious Marr Prize three times. As co-founders of Vision Factory, their aim was to improve visual recognition systems using deep learning. Dr Simonyan and Prof Zisserman developed one of the winning systems at the recent 2014 ImageNet competition, which is regarded as the most competitive and prestigious image recognition contest in the world.

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Time-variant clustering model for understanding cell fate decisions

Time-variant clustering model for understanding cell fate decisions | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
Both spatial characteristics and temporal features are often the subjects of concern in physical, social, and biological studies. This work tackles the clustering problems for time course data in which the cluster number and clustering structure change with respect to time, dubbed time-variant clustering. We developed a hierarchical model that simultaneously clusters the objects at every time point and describes the relationships of the clusters between time points. The hidden layer of this model is a generalized form of branching processes. A reversible-jump Markov Chain Monte Carlo method was implemented for model inference, and a feature selection procedure was developed. We applied this method to explore an open question in preimplantation embryonic development. Our analyses using single-cell gene expression data suggested that the earliest cell fate decision could start at the 4-cell stage in mice, earlier than the commonly thought 8- to 16-cell stage. These results together with independent experimental data from single-cell RNA-seq provided support against a prevailing hypothesis in mammalian development.
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Local and global epidemic outbreaks in populations moving in inhomogeneous environments

Local and global epidemic outbreaks in populations moving in inhomogeneous environments | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
We study disease spreading in a system of agents moving in a space where the force of infection is not homogeneous. Agents are random walkers that additionally execute long-distance jumps, and the plane in which they move is divided into two regions where the force of infection takes different values. We show the onset of a local epidemic threshold and a global one and explain them in terms of mean-field approximations. We also elucidate the critical role of the agent velocity, jump probability, and density parameters in achieving the conditions for local and global outbreaks. Finally, we show that the results are independent of the specific microscopic rules adopted for agent motion, since a similar behavior is also observed for the distribution of agent velocity based on a truncated power law, which is a model often used to fit real data on motion patterns of animals and humans.
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With Mindware Upgrades and Cognitive Prosthetics, Humans Are Already Technological Animals

With Mindware Upgrades and Cognitive Prosthetics, Humans Are Already Technological Animals | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
In recent years, the surprising idea that we’ll one day merge with our technology has warily made its way into the mainstream. Often it’s couched in a combination of snark and fear. Why in the world would we want to do that? It’s so inhuman.

That the idea is distasteful isn’t shocking. The imagination rapidly conjures images of Star Trek’s Borg, a nightmarish future when humans and machines melt into a monstrosity of flesh and wires, forever and irrevocably leaving “nature” behind.

But let’s not fool ourselves with such dark fantasies. Humans are already technological animals; tight integration with our inventions is in our nature; and further increasing that integration won’t take place in some distant future—it’s happening now.

To observe our technological attachment, we need simply walk out the door. It’s everywhere, all around us—on the bus or train, at work, at home, in the bathroom, in bed—people gazing into screens, living digital lives right next to their ordinary ones.

In the Matrix, the experience is involuntary, a tool of control and oppression. In our world, it’s voluntary, and mostly about freedom, expansion, and expression. As Jason Silva recently noted, our devices augment our brains, like cognitive prosthetics.
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Explosive synchronization in adaptive and multilayer networks

Explosive synchronization (ES) is nowadays a hot topic of interest in nonlinear science and complex networks. So far, it is conjectured that ES is rooted in the setting of specific microscopic correlation features between the natural frequencies of the networked oscillators and their effective coupling strengths. We show that ES, in fact, is far more general, and can occur in adaptive and multilayer networks also in the absence of such correlation properties. Precisely, we first report evidence of ES in the absence of correlation for networks where a fraction f of the nodes have links adaptively controlled by a local order parameter, and then we extend the study to a variety of two-layer networks with a fraction f of their nodes coupled each other by means of dependency links. In this latter case, we even show that ES sets in, regardless of the differences in the frequency distribution and/or in the topology of connections between the two layers. Finally, we provide a rigorous, analytical, treatment to properly ground all the observed scenario, and to facilitate the understanding of the actual mechanisms at the basis of ES in real-world systems.

 

Explosive synchronization in adaptive and multilayer networks
Xiyun Zhang, Stefano Boccaletti, Shuguang Guan, Zonghua Liu

http://arxiv.org/abs/1410.2986


Via Complexity Digest
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Spectral Signatures of Reorganised Brain Networks in Disorders of Consciousness

Spectral Signatures of Reorganised Brain Networks in Disorders of Consciousness | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
Theoretical advances in the science of consciousness have proposed that it is concomitant with balanced cortical integration and differentiation, enabled by efficient networks of information transfer across multiple scales. Here, we apply graph theory to compare key signatures of such networks in high-density electroencephalographic data from 32 patients with chronic disorders of consciousness, against normative data from healthy controls. Based on connectivity within canonical frequency bands, we found that patient networks had reduced local and global efficiency, and fewer hubs in the alpha band. We devised a novel topographical metric, termed modular span, which showed that the alpha network modules in patients were also spatially circumscribed, lacking the structured long-distance interactions commonly observed in the healthy controls. Importantly however, these differences between graph-theoretic metrics were partially reversed in delta and theta band networks, which were also significantly more similar to each other in patients than controls. Going further, we found that metrics of alpha network efficiency also correlated with the degree of behavioural awareness. Intriguingly, some patients in behaviourally unresponsive vegetative states who demonstrated evidence of covert awareness with functional neuroimaging stood out from this trend: they had alpha networks that were remarkably well preserved and similar to those observed in the controls. Taken together, our findings inform current understanding of disorders of consciousness by highlighting the distinctive brain networks that characterise them. In the significant minority of vegetative patients who follow commands in neuroimaging tests, they point to putative network mechanisms that could support cognitive function and consciousness despite profound behavioural impairment.
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From decisions to disorders: how neuroscience is changing what we know about ourselves

From decisions to disorders: how neuroscience is changing what we know about ourselves | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

People have wanted to understand our motivations, thoughts and behaviors since the ancient Greeks inscribed “know thyself” on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. And understanding the brain’s place in health and disease is one of this century’s greatest challenges – take Alzheimer’s, dementia and depression for example.


There are many exciting contributions from neuroscience that have given insight into our thoughts and actions. Three neuroscientists have just been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for their discoveries of cells that act as a positioning system in the brain – in other words, the mechanism that allows us to navigate spaces using spatial information and memory at a cellular level.


There are many exciting contributions from neuroscience that have given insight into our thoughts and actions. For example, the neural basis of how we make fast and slow decisions and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. There is also an understanding how the brain is affected by stress and how these stresses might switch our brains into habit mode, for example operating on “automatic pilot” and forgetting to carry out planned tasks, or the opposite goal-directed system, which would see you going out of your usual routine, for example, popping into a different supermarket to get special ingredients for a recipe.


Disruption in the balance between the two is evident in neuro-psychiatric disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, and recent evidence suggests that lower grey matter volumes in the brain can bias towards habit formation. Neuroscience is also demonstrating commonalities in disorders of compulsivity, methamphetamine abuse and obese subjects with eating disorders.


Neuroscience can challenge previously accepted views. For example, major abnormalities in dopamine function were thought the main cause of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, recent work suggests that the main cause of the disorder may instead be associated with structural differences in grey matter in the brain.


What neuroscience has made evidently clear is that changes in the brain cause changes in your thinking and actions, but the relationship is two-way. Environmental stressors, including psychological and substance abuse, can also change the brain. We also now know our brains continue developing into late adolescence or early young adulthood, it is not surprising that these environmental influences are particularly potent in a number of disorders during childhood and adolescence including autism.



Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Who Needs a Driver? These Navy Boats Are Programmed to Swarm Like Bees

Who Needs a Driver? These Navy Boats Are Programmed to Swarm Like Bees | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

Using algorithms based on the swarming behavior of ants and bees, the U.S. Navy is turning to driverless boats to protect its ships.

 

This August, on the James River in Virginia, the U.S. Navy staged the kind of scene you’d expect to see at the beginning of a James Bond movie. As a large ship moved through the water, a helicopter overhead spotted an unidentified boat approaching and sent a warning to a small fleet of escort boats. Some were armed with loudspeakers, others with flashing lights, another with a .50 caliber machine gun.  

 

Once the fleet zeroed in on the threatening vessel with radar and infrared sensors, some of the escort boats broke away and quickly encircled it. They flashed lights and blasted warnings through loudspeakers. Threat resolved.

All of the escort boats were unmanned—and yet they moved together as a group, thanks to what’s known as “swarm intelligence.”

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Google, Facebook and Coca-Cola unite for digital sustainability platform Collectively

Google, Facebook and Coca-Cola unite for digital sustainability platform Collectively | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
The digital platform, which launches today, is a website that "celebrates" and "connects" cutting-edge ideas that are shaping the future sustainably. It aims to "inspire" and accelerate sustainable living by showcasing the work individuals and organisations are doing to operate in a more sustainable way. It will also promote initiatives of the brands involved.

On its home page, Collectively says it has launched because: "Today's media is obsessed with fear-mongering tactics, and a pervasive pessimism that would have us all believing that 'everything is f*cked, and it's all our fault,' which has had the undesirable effect of making people feel alienated and ineffectual, unable to figure out what they can do to alter the current path we're on."

There are 29 companies signed up to the project including BT, Carlsberg, Diageo, McDonalds, Microsoft, Nestlé, Nike, PepsiCo, The Dow Chemical Company and Twitter.
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A Man Took This Photograph Of Birds, And Turned Their Positions Into Musical Notes

A Man Took This Photograph Of Birds, And Turned Their Positions Into Musical Notes | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
What would happen if birds perched on electrical wires were transformed into musical notes? How would their position in space translate sonically? Those were exactly the questions Jarbas Agnelli asked one day. “I saw this picture of birds on the electric wires,” said Jarbas Agnelli. “I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating." Watch the final result here.  
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The Evolutionary Mystery of Left-Handedness and What It Reveals About How the Brain Works

The Evolutionary Mystery of Left-Handedness and What It Reveals About How the Brain Works | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

From Medieval sword-fighters to Broca’s brains, or why the hand may hold the key to the link between creativity and mental illness.

 

“Sahara is too little price / to pay for thy Right hand,” Emily Dickinson wrote in a poem. “The right hand = the hand that is aggressive, the hand that masturbates,” Susan Sontag pondered in her diary in 1964. “Therefore, to prefer the left hand! … To romanticize it, to sentimentalize it!” The human hand has long carried cultural baggage, and yet we still struggle to unclutch from it the myths and reveal the realities.

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Cities as complex adaptative systems. Luis Bettencourt

http://youtu.be/vp6eKjQHNl0

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Office Networks Reveal Which Co-Workers To Avoid During Infectious Outbreaks

Office Networks Reveal Which Co-Workers To Avoid During Infectious Outbreaks | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
The way disease spreads through society is currently the subject of significant interest, not least because of the recent, frightening outbreaks of ebola and various strains of bird flu. One hope is that a better understanding of this process can lead to more efficient and cost-effective methods of vaccination.

Last week, we looked at just such a study of interpersonal contacts within schools. This suggested that an effective way to prevent an epidemic would be to close a single class rather than the entire school.

Today, Mathieu Genois at the University of Toulon in France and a few pals study the pattern of face-to-face contacts in an office building and say that this too suggests a novel and cost-effective vaccination strategy for preventing epidemics.

The team studied the face-to-face interactions over two weeks between people working in an office building belonging to the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (the InVS) near Paris. The building hosts three different scientific departments along with a human resources fepartment and a logistics department.

Workers within the building were given wearable sensors that detect the close proximity of others nearby. Since the body acts as a shield at the radio frequencies used by the sensors, the devices only detect contacts when people face each other at distances of less than 150 centimetres. In total, the team distributed 100 of these sensors to the two thirds of the staff who agreed to take part.
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A Must-Know for Data Scientists: Hyperloglog Algorithm

A Must-Know for Data Scientists: Hyperloglog Algorithm | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
As mentioned in Dave’s blog post, being able to act on insights from mobile data in real time is key to mobile data management. Before we think about fancy things like building a data pipeline that delivers predictive insights in real time, you need to focus on some basic but critical statistics of your mobile apps. In this blog post, I will review a powerful streaming algorithm, Hyperloglog (HLL), and discuss how it helps mParticle deliver real-time analytics products.
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The psychology of Web design: How colors, typefaces and spacing affect your mood

The psychology of Web design: How colors, typefaces and spacing affect your mood | Social Foraging | Scoop.it

A great website design is so much more than just delivering content and making it look good. When visitors come to your site, they produce a set of feelings about your website and your organization. The type of feelings they produce – positive or negative – are entirely in your hands and should not be overlooked when designing content.

Over the years, there has been a body of knowledge produced to help designers create effective visuals that play into the psychology of their viewers. In order to achieve this, one must understand how different design elements and how we use them affect the mood, attitude and experience the visitor will have while browsing our website.

Below are four major areas of website design and development that have the biggest impacts on the psychology of website visitors. These are the tools you’ll need to create a visually-engaging site that encourages visitors to return.

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Form of an evolutionary tradeoff affects eco-evolutionary dynamics in a predator–prey system

Form of an evolutionary tradeoff affects eco-evolutionary dynamics in a predator–prey system | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
Evolution on a time scale similar to ecological dynamics has been increasingly recognized for the last three decades. Selection mediated by ecological interactions can change heritable phenotypic variation (i.e., evolution), and evolution of traits, in turn, can affect ecological interactions. Hence, ecological and evolutionary dynamics can be tightly linked and important to predict future dynamics, but our understanding of eco-evolutionary dynamics is still in its infancy and there is a significant gap between theoretical predictions and empirical tests. Empirical studies have demonstrated that the presence of genetic variation can dramatically change ecological dynamics, whereas theoretical studies predict that eco-evolutionary dynamics depend on the details of the genetic variation, such as the form of a tradeoff among genotypes, which can be more important than the presence or absence of the genetic variation. Using a predator–prey (rotifer–algal) experimental system in laboratory microcosms, we studied how different forms of a tradeoff between prey defense and growth affect eco-evolutionary dynamics. Our experimental results show for the first time to our knowledge that different forms of the tradeoff produce remarkably divergent eco-evolutionary dynamics, including near fixation, near extinction, and coexistence of algal genotypes, with quantitatively different population dynamics. A mathematical model, parameterized from completely independent experiments, explains the observed dynamics. The results suggest that knowing the details of heritable trait variation and covariation within a population is essential for understanding how evolution and ecology will interact and what form of eco-evolutionary dynamics will result.
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Arsenal’s ‘secret’ signing: club buys £2m revolutionary data company

Arsenal’s ‘secret’ signing: club buys £2m revolutionary data company | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
US-based data company StatDNA provides expert analysis guiding everything from identifying new players to post-game tactical analysis

 

At the top of the agenda, as usual, was the subject of new signings. Why, the Arsenal shareholders wanted to know at Thursday’s AGM, had the club failed in the summer to sign the extra defender they so plainly needed? The numbers appeared simple enough. Arsène Wenger’s squad has five senior defenders while the club has £207.9m in the bank.

 

Ivan Gazidis, the club’s chief executive, did his best to explain that the vast majority of the headline cash figure was already accounted for, but down on the floor there was scepticism. He had a seven-figure signing he did want to promote. It is one that strikes a fundamental chord with him and the Arsenal majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, even if there continues to be a hush-hush quality that underpins it.

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Site-specific group selection drives locally adapted group compositions

Group selection may be defined as selection caused by the differential extinction or proliferation of groups. The socially polymorphic spider Anelosimus studiosus exhibits a behavioural polymorphism in which females exhibit either a ‘docile’ or ‘aggressive’ behavioural phenotype. Natural colonies are composed of a mixture of related docile and aggressive individuals, and populations differ in colonies’ characteristic docile:aggressive ratios. Using experimentally constructed colonies of known composition, here we demonstrate that population-level divergence in docile:aggressive ratios is driven by site-specific selection at the group level—certain ratios yield high survivorship at some sites but not others. Our data also indicate that colonies responded to the risk of extinction: perturbed colonies tended to adjust their composition over two generations to match the ratio characteristic of their native site, thus promoting their long-term survival in their natal habitat. However, colonies of displaced individuals continued to shift their compositions towards mixtures that would have promoted their survival had they remained at their home sites, regardless of their contemporary environment. Thus, the regulatory mechanisms that colonies use to adjust their composition appear to be locally adapted. Our data provide experimental evidence of group selection driving collective traits in wild populations.

 

Site-specific group selection drives locally adapted group compositions
• Jonathan N. Pruitt & Charles J. Goodnight

Nature 514, 359–362 (16 October 2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature1381


Via Complexity Digest
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Arjen ten Have's curator insight, October 17, 7:49 AM

Now the really interesting part would be of course to explain this emergent groups selection by gene selection. How do we define or, if you wish, describe the Evolutionary Stable Strategy that is behind this interesting phenomenon. What can we as human society learn from this?

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Cell memory and adaptation in chemotaxis

Cell memory and adaptation in chemotaxis | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
How cells direct motion in response to environmental stimuli has long fascinated biologists. Chemotaxis, the migration guided by chemical gradients, is a fundamental property of many cells and plays important roles in physiology and pathological conditions. One of the best-studied models for chemotaxis is the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. In nutrient-deprived environments, Dictyostelium cells initiate a developmental program that allows them to aggregate and form fruiting bodies. During this process, cells periodically secrete cAMP, which functions as a chemoattractant to guide their migration. In a field of cells, periodic waves of cAMP are initiated from an aggregation center every ∼6 min and sweep out in concentric circles or spirals. As the waves approach cells, they first experience a spatial gradient, with the high side facing the center. Thereafter, because the spatial profile of the waves is symmetric (1), as the peak of the wave passes cells are faced with an equivalent but oppositely directed gradient (Fig. 1). Despite this change of direction, the overall movement of cells is toward the center. How chemotactic cells are able to sense the approaching wave but appear to ignore it as it moves away is known as the “back of the wave” problem, and has perplexed the field for some time. Two possible explanations have been proposed. The first explanation relies on the fact that cells adapt—or cease to respond—to constant levels of stimuli (2). Therefore, cells are more sensitive during the rising phase of the wave, when the concentration of the chemoattractant is increasing over time, and lose sensitivity at the back of the wave when the concentration is declining. The second explanation notes that over time cells develop an intrinsic polarity with well-defined anterior and posterior regions, and this polarity allows cells to maintain their direction when the guidance cue fluctuates (3). The relative importance of each process in allowing cells to move unidirectionally in periodic waves has not been known, although both suggest that in addition to the spatial profile, cells make use of the temporal information of the concentration. In PNAS, Skoge et al. address this question through careful analysis of migration and the corresponding signaling activities of cells responding to spatiotemporal patterns of cAMP generated by a novel microfluidic device (4). The authors show that cells display a memory that persists beyond—but is modulated by—the adaptation process. This interplay between memory and adaptation allows cells to move against the gradient in the back of the wave.
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A Stochastic Process Approach to Model Distributed Computing on Complex Networks

In this work we present analytic expressions for the expected values of the performance metrics of parallel applications when the distributed computing infrastructure has a complex topology. Through active probing tests we analyse the structure of a real distributed computing environment. From the resulting network we both validate the analytic expressions and explore the performance metrics under different conditions through Monte Carlo simulations. In particular we gauge computing paradigms with different hierarchical structures in computing services. Fully decentralised (i.e., peer-to-peer) environments provide the best performance. Moreover, we show that it is possible to improve significantly the parallel efficiency by implementing more intelligent configurations of computing services and task allocation strategies (e.g., by using a betweenness centrality measure). We qualitatively reproduce results of previous works and provide closed-form solutions that link topology, application’s structure and allocation parameters when job dependencies and a complex network structure are considered.

 

Distributed Computing on Complex Networks
Francisco Prieto-Castrillo, Antonio Astillero, María Botón-Fernández

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10723-014-9317-4


Via Complexity Digest
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Computational Biology and Data Science at the New York Times

Nearly all fields have been or are being transformed by the availability of copious data and the tools to learn from them. Dr. Chris Wiggins (Chief Data Scientist, New York Times) will talk about using machine learning and large data in both academia and in business. He shares some ways re-framing domain questions as machine learning tasks has opened up new avenues for understanding both in academic research and in real-world applications.
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Wearables, robotics and cognitive computing are the future for Tesco

Wearables, robotics and cognitive computing are the future for Tesco | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
In the next five years, robotics, wearable technology and cognitive computing will start to be commonplace in retail, according to Tesco.
Speaking at the IGD Convention, Mike McNamara, chief information officer at Tesco, said disruptive technologies would become a part of the way that retailers operate, not within 20 years, but in the next five.

"We’ve only scratched the surface, we’re only just in the foothills of how we exploit technology. In this multichannel age the customer is in charge of the shopping process. The challenge for us is to help out business to make the most of tech."

He added that the demands of customers to "get what I want" and not queue, for example, translate well in the digital world where customers have the "internet in the palm of their hands" and are "in charge of the shopping process".

As a result, the industry needs to do more to innovate, harness and exploit the capability of disruptive technologies that could improve customer experience online and in store. 

"Tech gives us the opportunity to serve our customers even better," he said, adding that some colleagues were "trialling the latest smartwatch technology for stock control".
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Impact of heterogeneity and socioeconomic factors on individual behavior in decentralized sharing ecosystems

Impact of heterogeneity and socioeconomic factors on individual behavior in decentralized sharing ecosystems | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
Tens of millions of individuals around the world use decentralized content distribution systems, a fact of growing social, economic, and technological importance. These sharing systems are poorly understood because, unlike in other technosocial systems, it is difficult to gather large-scale data about user behavior. Here, we investigate user activity patterns and the socioeconomic factors that could explain the behavior. Our analysis reveals that (i) the ecosystem is heterogeneous at several levels: content types are heterogeneous, users specialize in a few content types, and countries are heterogeneous in user profiles; and (ii) there is a strong correlation between socioeconomic indicators of a country and users behavior. Our findings open a research area on the dynamics of decentralized sharing ecosystems and the socioeconomic factors affecting them, and may have implications for the design of algorithms and for policymaking.
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Confidence Sharing: An Economic Strategy for Efficient Information Flows in Animal Groups

Confidence Sharing: An Economic Strategy for Efficient Information Flows in Animal Groups | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
Social animals may share information to obtain a more complete and accurate picture of their surroundings. However, physical constraints on communication limit the flow of information between interacting individuals in a way that can cause an accumulation of errors and deteriorated collective behaviors. Here, we theoretically study a general model of information sharing within animal groups. We take an algorithmic perspective to identify efficient communication schemes that are, nevertheless, economic in terms of communication, memory and individual internal computation. We present a simple and natural algorithm in which each agent compresses all information it has gathered into a single parameter that represents its confidence in its behavior. Confidence is communicated between agents by means of active signaling. We motivate this model by novel and existing empirical evidences for confidence sharing in animal groups. We rigorously show that this algorithm competes extremely well with the best possible algorithm that operates without any computational constraints. We also show that this algorithm is minimal, in the sense that further reduction in communication may significantly reduce performances. Our proofs rely on the Cramér-Rao bound and on our definition of a Fisher Channel Capacity. We use these concepts to quantify information flows within the group which are then used to obtain lower bounds on collective performance. The abstract nature of our model makes it rigorously solvable and its conclusions highly general. Indeed, our results suggest confidence sharing as a central notion in the context of animal communication.
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Researcher Finds Support For One Of Darwin's Controversial Theories (Jump Dispersal)

Researcher Finds Support For One Of Darwin's Controversial Theories (Jump Dispersal) | Social Foraging | Scoop.it
When Charles Darwin first put forward his revolutionary theory of evolution, he was met with considerable opposition and skepticism from both scientific and religious circles. While this is now entirely accepted by the scientific community, some of his ideas have continued to cause controversy for more than 150 years. One contentious hypothesis, for example, suggested that organisms could cross vast distances and oceans and then successfully establish themselves in a new geographic location.

To achieve this “jump dispersal,” it was proposed that organisms could hitch a ride on various objects such as mats of vegetation and icebergs, or even just blow in the wind. Although this idea has been largely dismissed by the scientific community, new research on island dwelling organisms suggests that he may have been right after all. Using statistical modeling to compare Darwin’s theory with a competing theory, strong evidence in support of jump dispersal was found.  The work has been published in Systematic Biology.

Attempting to explain how certain species ended up in particular geographical locations across the globe becomes tricky when close relatives live on different continents, separated by vast oceans. Darwin thought that some organisms might have piggybacked to get to their destinations, but opponents thought that the idea of lizards floating on bits of wood for thousands of miles was a bit too far-fetched. Instead, it was suggested that organisms must have crossed “land bridges” to colonize new areas before the continents split apart. This “vicariance” theory was well-received by scientists, so much so that models used to estimate the biogeographic history of certain species completely excluded jump dispersal.

However, there are several lines of evidence to suggest that vicariance does not always cut the mustard. For example, some species’ ancestors are thought to have evolved millions of years after the continents separated, meaning that confidence in this theory has gradually waned over time. Because of this, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis researcher Nicholas Matzke took it upon himself to design a computer program to compare these two contrasting theories. 
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