from the world's big
Can AI simulations predict the future?
Move over deepfakes. Multi-agent artificial intelligence is poised to manipulate your mind.
- While multi-agent artificial intelligence was first used in the sixties, advances in technology have made it extremely sophisticated.
- Everything from online trading to disaster response training can be accomplished with MAAI.
- The dark side of MAAI is the potential manipulation of voters and other insidious applications.
The recent U.S. backflip on Syria has certainly not helped the nation's residents. Before the Syrian Civil War in 2017, the estimated population was 22 million; today it is roughly five million fewer, with another six million "internally displaced." With Turkey launching an invasion, we can expect more Syrian citizens to become refugees.
Beyond the occasional news feature inside of refugee camps, you hear very little about where Syrians end up, save when far right leaders demand it not be in their backyard. How can you tell if they will successfully integrate into the foreign populations they must seek aid from?
This question needs to be asked without knee-jerk reactions from either side of the partisan aisle. It appears that an emerging application of AI might help us in this quest.
Multi-agent artificial intelligence (MAAI) is predictive modeling at its most advanced. It has been used for years to create digital societies that mimic real ones with stunningly accurate results. In an age of big data, there exists more information about our habits — political, social, fiscal — than ever before. As we feed them information on a daily basis, their ability to predict the future is getting better.
Multi-Agent Hide and Seek
Multi-agent systems have been used to predict online trading behaviors, disaster response protocols, and social structure modeling. They can help us understand dimensionality, discreteness, determinism, and episodicity. To return to Syrian refugees, such models allow us to ask the following questions:
- Are the spatial characteristics of host nations relevant to refugees?
- Can we accurately predict the number of potential outcomes of integration?
- Will integration lead to social turmoil or harmony?
- How will refugee integration in 2019 affect the nation in 2029?
Syria is not the only model that can be constructed using MAAI. An even more contentious example is voting. While there has been a lot of talk about the potential role of deepfakes in the 2020 election in America — even though, currently, most videos are used to pornographically degrade women — MAAI might play an even bigger role.
As New Scientist reports, constructing an artificial society to better understand voting patterns offers political campaigns essential, and really, never before available, data on constituents. Four key advances — computing power, data, scientific understanding of human behavior, and AI — offers political teams a new way of understanding voters.
Personel of National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) rescue victims during a simulation of Vehicle Accident Rescue (VAR) Management in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia on September 11, 2019
Photo by WF SIhardian/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The debate over free will is ancient, yet data don't lie — and we have been giving tech companies access to our deepest secrets, as I wrote about human sexuality from Google and Pornhub data last week. We like to believe we're not predictable, but that's simply not true. It just took more sophisticated technologies to pinpoint our patterns. As F. LeRon Schults of the Center for Modeling Social Systems in Norway notes:
"One of the things that has changed is an acceptance that you really can model humans. Our agents are cognitively complex. They are simulated people with genders, ages and personalities. They can get married, have children, get divorced. They can get a job or get fired, they can join groups, they can die. They can have religious beliefs. They're social in the way humans are. They interact with each other in social networks. They learn from each other, react to each other and to the environment as a whole."
Tamagotchi this is not.
As New Scientist states, and as the history of any emergent technology proves, how we use MAAI depends on what we're looking for. There is evidence that such modeling might have prevented over a million people from falling victim to Ebola in 2014. Perhaps researchers can accurately predict where Syrian refugees would thrive and where they might not. Apparently, and sadly, owning a restaurant in Toronto is not a good decision.
Given the current political climate around the planet, however, MAAI will most certainly be put to insidious means. With in-depth knowledge comes plenty of opportunities for exploitation and manipulation, no deepfake required. The intelligence might be artificial, but the target audience most certainly is not.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.