Thursday, February 18, 2010 • 3:30 PM • Robert N. Noyce Conference Room, SFI
Colloquium - Developing an Emergent Perspective: from Physics to Complex Adaptive Systems to Science Education
Thursday, February 4, 2010 • 3:30 PM • Robert N. Noyce Conference Room, SFI
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.”
In their study, James Crutchfield, SFI External Professor and Physics Professor at the University of California at Davis, and graduate students Christopher Ellison and John Mahoney, developed the analogy of scientists as cryptologists who are trying to glean hidden information from Nature. As they explain, “Nature speaks for herself only through the data she willingly gives up.”
Murray Gell-Mann, SFI Distinguished Professor and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics was one of the originators of the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary research center in New Mexico that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Gell-Mann recently addressed a group of about 150 high school students gathered at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for Adventures of the Mind, a biennial summit for academically outstanding 15- to 18-year-olds. Gell-Mann described the origins of and philosophy behind the Santa Fe Institute’s approach to science.
SFI External Professor Douglas White and colleagues present their research into finding an approach to facilitate the design of policies in the complexity of economic networks. The research into economic networks has been studied by two perspectives: sociology and physics or computer science. White and colleagues describe what is needed in order to be able to predict and propose economic policies. With computational models, large-scale network date can be processed quickly and can reflect agent interactions.
In August Thomas Kepler, a Duke University computational immunologist and former SFI Vice President, is leading a workshop at SFI on “Quantitative and Systems Biology” to introduce graduate students and postdocs to new techniques on how vaccines work and why they sometimes fail.
Cyber phenom feels home with the ‘smart crazies’ — ‘Disruptive technologist’ drawn to Santa Fe Institute
Virgil Griffith, the creator of WikiScanner, has spent the past four summers as an undergraduate researcher at SFI. WikiScanner is a program that lets you see who is editing content in Wikipedia. Griffith began his work on WikiScanner while at SFI. This WikiScanner program has busted Wal-Mart and several other major corporations editing and removing content from the Wikipedia entry of their companies. Griffith has been drawn to SFI since he was in high school. He always wanted to be “where all the really smart crazies are.” And as SFI President Geoffrey West said, “He’s certainly one of our crazy smart people. He’s very interesting and he’s very SFI-ish.” Griffith will spend all of September at SFI continuing work on his plethora of projects.
The Computer, the Brain, and the Internet The quest to understand intelligence and consciousness remains one of the greatest scientific challenges of our age. In an effort to explain the brain, scientists have turned historically to computers, both as a tool for studying the brain and mind, and as a model for how the brain might work. We now live in the age of distributed data and computers, and the internet has emerged as a giant cobweb of communication among computers and their users. Some now suggest that the internet is our best current model for the brain, and thought is nothing but a form of search in the space of ideas. As we move towards more advanced technology, the brain, the computer, and the internet are progressively merging, and our identities and insights are assuming a radically new form. In this series of talks and discussions we shall explore this new hybrid world and its implications for the intellectual future of our species.
We live in a post-Darwinian world, and it is no longer possible to conceive of life without some reference to Darwin's theories. But the world is more complex than Darwin supposed. Whereas an evolutionary perspective pervades all of biology, economics and politics, we are confronted by a range of post-Darwinian complexities and challenges that require a new and expanded set of ideas. Five short presentations by SFI faculty explore both the influence and the limitations of Darwin's thought on modern science, and introduce several of the ways the Santa Fe Institute has responded to and built upon Darwin's legacy.
Jeanette Wing, President’s Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and Associate Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the NSF, spoke at SFI July 11 about the need for computational thinking to become a fundamental skill used by everyone.
Julie Hébert and David Zucker — writer/director and producer, respectively — of the CBS television series Numb3rs gave a joint presentation June 25 as part of the 20th-anniversary celebration for the Complex Systems Summer School.
The Journal of Financial Planning recommended and linked to (SFI Trustee) Michael Mauboussin's recent paper for being among the better practitioner-oriented research papers. “Fat Tails and Nonlinearity” (Michael Mauboussin, Legg Mason, December 20, 2007, http://www.leggmason.com/individualinvestors/documents/insights/D4114-FatTailsNonlinearityLMIS.pdf). (... this (is an ) excellent non-journal article. Bringing Nassim Taleb’s now well-known black swan metaphor to the worlds of investment planning, Mauboussin introduces the reader to the concept and risk associated with the complex system we call “the market.”
STEVEN N. DURLAUF has edited another edition of The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, established as the leading reference work in the field. Durlauf is the Kenneth J. Arrow Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA. He has served as Co-Director of the Economics Program at the Santa Fe Institute for which he currently serves as a Science Board and external faculty member. A Fellow of the Econometric Society, Durlauf's research covers a range of topics in macroeconomics, econometrics, and income inequality. The second edition will retain many individual classic essays of enduring importance from its predecessor plus over one thousand new or heavily revised articles.
A Wall Street Journal article about what happens in various societies to people who don't share, solicits the opinion of SFI Professor Howard Gintis. The article notes, "social appearances and the good opinion of others do regulate our behavior. In the only other major cross-cultural study of this sort, Dr. Gintis and his colleagues several years ago examined 15 primitive societies of farmers, foragers, hunters and nomads in 12 countries, not unlike those in which humanity might have first evolved. The researchers found that these people all cared as much about fairness as the economic outcome of a trade." "They care about the ethical value of what they do," said Dr. Gintis.