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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Postdocs in Complexity X

SFI is hosting the 10th JSMF–SFI Postdocs in Complexity Conference from March 29–31. The biannual event provides a forum for postdoctoral fellows studying complex systems to share research ideas, develop new career skills, and expand their professional networks.

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SFI Press reissues Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information

The specter of information is haunting the sciences. With these words, Wojciech H. Zurek invited fellow scientists to attend the 1989 Santa Fe Institute workshop on which the proceedings volume Complexity, Entropy & the Physics of Information was based. In a two-volume reprint, the SFI Press offers an affordable and accessible update to the original text, with a new preface from attendee Seth Lloyd that contextualizes the significance of this record of a meeting that marked the intersection of information, physics, complexity, and computation.

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Research News Brief: Economics in nouns and verbs

In the last 50 years, economic theory has come to be based almost solely on mathematics. This brings logical precision, but according to a new paper by SFI economist Brian Arthur, it restricts what economics can easily talk about.

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Three SFI faculty elected to AAAS

SFI External Professors Amos Golan, Matthew Jackson, and Doug Eriwn have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for 2022, the association announced on January 31, 2023.

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In memoriam: Herb Gintis

Herb Gintis, who drew on a variety of disciplines to study human society, passed away on January 5, 2023, in Northampton, Massachusetts, at the age of 82. He had been an SFI External Professor since 2001 and was a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he taught since 1974.

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New Journal: Collective Intelligence

Collective Intelligence, a new online open-source journal, launched its inaugural issue this past fall. The editors hope the journal will help stimulate the discovery of the fundamental principles that underlie collective intelligence

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