Dr. James Evans, Max Palevksy Professor of Sociology, Director of Knowledge Lab, and Founding Faculty Director of Computational Social Science at the University of Chicago and the Santa Fe Institute
The wisdom of crowds hinges on the independence and diversity of their members’ information and
approach. Here I explore the wisdom of scientific, technological, business, and online crowds for
sustained discovery and invention, and I consider insights these provide for understanding and
redesigning democracy as a method for societal search and discovery. I show how science, technology and society operate through a process of collective abduction wherein unexpected conflicts or findings stimulate innovators to forge new insights that make the surprising unsurprising. Drawing on tens of millions of research papers and patents across science and technology, as also interactions between diverse collaborating groups online, I show that surprising designs and discoveries are the best predictor of outsized success and that surprising advances systematically emerge across, rather than within people or teams; most commonly when innovators from one field surprisingly publish or share problem-solving insights to an audience in a distant and diverse other. This relates to other research I summarize that shows how across innovators, teams, and communities, connection and conformity is associated with impeded innovation and reduced generality. Using these principles, I simulate processes of knowledge search to demonstrate the relationship between crowded fields and constrained collective inferences: I illustrate how inverting the traditional approach to artificial intelligence, to avoid rather than mimic human search, enables the design of diversity that systematically violates established field and community boundaries and is associated with marked success of predicted innovation. I conclude with a discussion of prospects and challenges in a connected age for sustainable innovation in science, technology and democracy through the design and preservation of difference.
Friday, 2/17/2023, 12:00-1:30 pm
In-Person: Mergenthaler 526, Homewood