Interacting contagions call for complex models

When disease modelers map the spread of viruses like the novel coronavirus, Ebola, or the flu, they traditionally treat them as isolated pathogens. Under these so-called “simple” dynamics, it’s generally accepted that the forecasted size of the affected population will be proportional to the rate of transmission. But according to former SFI postdoc Laurent Hébert-Dufresne at the University of Vermont and his co-authors Samuel Scarpino at Northeastern University, a former Omidyar Fellow, and Jean-Gabriel Young at the University of Michigan, the presence of even one more contagion in the population can dramatically shift the dynamics from simple to complex.

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Working group views language as a window into human minds

In the field of computer science, recent advances in machine learning have begun to produce tools that could be used to mine the vast trove of communiqués in cyberspace that hold patterns that can provide rich insights into how our minds work. An SFI working group, which met online in April, brought together psychologists and computer scientists to explore how the two fields can collaborate. 

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How should we act now? A virtual workshop on the COVID-19 pandemic

On April 15, SFI hosted a flash discussion that focused on human behavior, incentives, and beliefs. The overarching message was that the financial and social fallout of the pandemic, while difficult to predict, will largely depend on actions at individual, community, and institutional levels.

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Study: ‘Near-unliveable’ heat for one-third of humans within 50 years if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut

Areas of the planet home to one-third of humans will become as hot as the hottest parts of the Sahara within 50 years, unless greenhouse gas emissions fall, according to research by an international research team of archaeologists, ecologists, and climate scientists. The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, resulted from a 2018 SFI working group on climate change and the human "niche." It finds that rapid heating would mean that 3.5 billion people would live outside the temperature and humidity combinations in which humans have thrived for 6,000 years.

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SFI welcomes postdoctoral fellow Anjali Bhatt

SFI welcomes Omidyar Fellow Anjali Bhatt, who holds an AB in physics from Harvard University and is completing a PhD in organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and blends organizational and cultural theories, which are grounded in sociology, with the mathematical models of evolutionary biology and the quantitative tools of computational linguistics.

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SFI welcomes postdoctoral fellow Jonas Dalege

SFI welcomes Progam Postdoctoral Fellow Jonas Dalege, who holds a PhD in psychology as well as a BSc and MSc from the University of Amsterdam and will work with SFI Professor Mirta Galesic and External Professor Henrik Olsson to develop a unifying theoretical framework that integrates two approaches to understanding our ability to develop and maintain beliefs.

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SFI welcomes postdoctoral fellow Eddie Lee

SFI welcomes Eddie Lee, a Program Postdoctoral Fellow working with SFI President David Krakauer and Professor Jessica Flack in the Collective Computation (C4) Group, who builds on his background in physics to study social phenomena.

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Research News Briefs, Spring 2020

Research News Briefs highlight new studies from the SFI community published in the last quarter. The following briefs appeared in SFI's Spring 2020 Parallax newsletter. 

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Recent SFI Achievements, Spring 2020

Ole Peter's "The ergodicity problem in economics" recieved an Altmetric score over 1,000 in April, 2020, making it the highest-scoring paper in the journal Nature Physics.

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Aeon: At the limits of thought

What happens when the instruments we use to make rigorous scientific predictions operate in ways that we cannot comprehend with natural cognition? In a recent essay published in Aeon, SFI President David Krakauer takes a philosophical deep dive into this fascinating and pressing question.

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What is an individual? Information Theory may provide the answer

Despite the near-universal assumption of individuality in biology, there is little agreement about what individuals are and few rigorous quantitative methods for their identification. A new approach may solve the problem by defining individuals in terms of informational processes.

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