Video: The science & practice of cooperation

In an October 13 SFI public lecture, Harvard's Yochai Benkler questions the centuries-old practice of managing people through rewards and punishment and reviews successful institutions that succeed through cooperation. Watch the video here.

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SFI welcomes four Omidyar Fellows

The Institute has named four new Omidyar Fellows to join the six current Omidyar Fellows at SFI. Meet SFI's four new Fellows and learn about, apply for, or support the Omidyar Fellowship.

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Exhibit: How did life emerge?

SFI is leading an NSF-supported collaboration to create a new permanent exhibit for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque. The exhibit takes a fresh look at the origins of life. 


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Massachusetts Undergrads team up with middle schools to rethink traffic corridor

Several DeVargas Middle School students who are part of Project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically), one of 28 such programs in the state hosted by the Santa Fe Institute that encourage young women and men to pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers, took time out of class to learn some real-world techniques for data collection from eight Massachusetts college students.

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Math Professor Helps Uncover Art Fakes

Daniel Rockmore, SFI External Professor and Dartmouth College mathematics department Chair, has developed a technique that sleuths out forgeries, estimated to make up 20 percent of the art market.

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The Enemy of My Enemy

Steven Strogatz, SFI External Professor and Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University, says it's traditional to teach kids subtraction right after addition.  "If you can cope with calculating 23 + 9, you’ll be ready for 23 – 9 soon enough," writes Strogatz.

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Is the Science Glass Half Full, or Half Empty?

Chris Mooney, Science Progress,  looks at the National Science Foundation's latest Science and Engineering Indicators report. The latest figures on the relationship between science and the U.S. public can be used to support either a positive or a negative perspective.

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"Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and the Dynamics of Inequality in Small-Scale Societies"

Research conducted by Samuel Bowles, SFI Professor, and colleagues on small-scale societies, ranging from egalitarian hunter gatherers to hierarchical farmers and herders in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, concludes that the degree of wealth inequality in a society is based on inheritance. This variation in inequality is explained by a dynamic model in which a population’s long-run steady-state level of inequality depends on the extent to which its most important forms of wealth are transmitted within families across generations. The passing on of material things such as farms, herds and other real property, or even knowledge, skills and other valuable resources plays a large role in whether the next generation will accumulate or maintain high wealth status.

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"Rethinking What Leads the Way: Science, or New Technology?"

Consider what the state of science would be without the microscope, the telescope, or a more recent technical advance like automated DNA sequencing. There would still be science, rooted in human perception and reason. But it would be far less potent than modern science, which has technologically expanded the senses, and with computers, the intellect, to explore and decipher reality, from the universe itself to the most elusive subatomic particle. The popular view is that technology is the handmaiden of science — less pure, more commercial. But in “The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves,” W. Brian Arthur, an economist, reframes the relationship between science and technology as part of an effort to come up with a comprehensive theory of innovation. In Dr. Arthur’s view, the relationship between science and technology is more symbiotic than is generally conceded. Science and technology move forward together in a kind of co-evolution. And science does not lead.

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Online Video from Multidisciplinary Workshop on Energy and Climate Change

A trove of material from the first SFI Global Sustainability Summer School is available for free to the public online. The scientists highlighted the following conclusions on climate and energy: Scientific evidence that our release of greenhouse gases risks dangerously warming the climate is incontrovertible. The technologies needed to start solving the problem exist today and many are ready for large-scale implementation, though a full solution will require a major commitment to further research and innovation. These low-carbon technologies represent a large economic opportunity, but the ordinary course of innovation and technological diffusion is too slow to meet the challenge of addressing climate change. Large-scale government intervention is therefore needed to accelerate this process.

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"Dialing for Answers Where Web Can’t Reach"

There is a new service helping people in Uganda, who don’t have access to computers, find answers to their questions. Question Box was started and has been successful. Workers use their cell phones to call the Question Box call center to ask a question for locals. The call center then gives them the answer. The worker is then given free minutes for their cell phone usage. SFI Omidyar Fellow Nathan Eagle has been doing research on cellphones and development in Africa. Eagle also runs a cellphone-based business in Kenya. Eagle states, “We can’t sit in our offices in America and decide what is useful to people and what is meaningful in their lives. The services only add value if they are open-ended.”

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