Register for virtual access to Collective Intelligence Symposium & Short Course

Registration for virtual participation in SFI’s three-day Collective Intelligence Symposium & Short Course (CISSC) is now open. With a sold-out in-person event, organizers are offering live streaming and virtual access to posters for remote participants. The $100 online-only registration fee also provides lifetime access to video recordings of the meeting. Seats via Zoom are limited. Interested participants are encouraged to register soon. 

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Study: Reproductive inequality in humans and other mammals

Is human reproduction exceptionally egalitarian compared to other mammals, or do we have high "reproductive skew"? It's a question that a team of more than 100 researchers tackled in a recent paper published in PNAS. Their finding? “Human exceptionalism has been greatly exaggerated,” says SFI External Professor Monique Borgerhoff Mulder (UC Davis).

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In memoriam: James Pelkey

James Pelkey, former member of the SFI Board of Trustees, passed away on February 16, 2023, at the age of 77 in Maui, Hawaii. A committed supporter of the research carried out at SFI, Pelkey served on SFI’s Board of Trustees for a decade, and became the Chair of the Board from 1990-1992.

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Simulation games for pandemic preparedness

SFI Science Board member and External Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers and colleagues organized a May 17-18 workshop to reimagine how pandemic simulation games can help us prepare for the superbugs of the future, bringing together epidemiologists; military war game specialists; officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and experts in human behavior, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. 

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Humans and AI: The many dimensions of understanding

AI and the Barrier of Meaning 2, a workshop held at the Santa Fe Institute on April 24–26, brought together experts working in AI, cognitive science, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, neuroscience, and law. Videos of the talks from the workshop are now available on YouTube. Similar to the first AI and the Barrier of Meaning workshop, held in 2018, the event focused on questions related to “understanding” and what it means to “extract meaning” in a humanlike way.

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New book: Sleeping Beauties examines the mysteries of dormant innovations

Human innovations often arise "ahead of their time," but evolution, we’re told, innovates only in response to environmental conditions. In his new book, Sleeping Beauties: The Mystery of Dormant Innovations in Nature and Culture, SFI External Professor Andreas Wagner urges us to consider another possibility. “What if,” he asks, “many innovations arise before their time,” in nature just as in human culture? 

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From pathogens to fads: Interacting contagions

Most people think of a disease outbreak when they hear the word “contagion.” But it’s a concept that extends beyond pathogens. It could be an infectious disease, a fad, an online meme, or even a positive behavior in a population. An April 19–21 workshop will explore the dynamics of interacting contagions. 

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Study: Do higher-order interactions promote synchronization?

Understanding higher-order interactions — phenomena that involve three or more entities — can be tricky, says SFI Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow Yuanzhao Zhang. In a new paper in Nature Communications, Zhang and his colleagues show how the choice of network representation can influence the observed effects.

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How the pandemic exacerbated racial inequalities in the US criminal legal system

As Covid roared through prisons in 2020, the U.S. prison population fell by as much as 30 percent, creating the largest, fastest reduction in prison population in American history. But this decarceration disproportionately benefited white incarcerated people, sharply increasing the fraction of incarcerated Black and Latino people. A new study in Nature shows that this increased racial disparity in U.S. prisons stems in large part from a long-standing problem with the justice system: Non-white people tend to get longer sentences than white people for the same crimes.

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Conceptual framework for how societies adapt to change

In times of crisis, groups of people respond in a variety of ways — with sometimes vastly different outcomes. A company might be resilient during a recession while another business fails. Some groups refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19, remaining more vulnerable to the virus, while others quickly adopted the new vaccine. Why do some communities and organizations struggle to respond deftly to threats? A new paper in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface presents a new conceptual framework that could provide answers in the future.

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Study: Rethinking how we report on AI research

AI research papers typically report only aggregate results, without the granular detail that will allow other researchers to spot important issues like errors in recognizing certain faces on racial and gender lines. In a new paper, SFI Professor Melanie Mitchell and co-authors explore this problem and suggest solutions. 

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Could AI ever truly "understand"?

ChatGPT knows how to use the word “tickle” in a sentence but it cannot feel the sensation. Can it then be said to understand the meaning of the word tickle the same way we humans do? In a paper for PNAS, SFI researchers Melanie Mitchell and David C. Krakauer survey the ongoing debate in which AI researchers are teasing apart whether Large Language Models like ChatGPT and Google’s PaLM understand language in any humanlike sense.

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