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The path of complexity

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 18:13

Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, Antoine Allard, Joshua Garland, Elizabeth A. Hobson & Luis Zaman 
npj Complexity volume 1, Article number: 4 (2024)

Complexity science studies systems where large numbers of components or subsystems, at times of a different nature, combine to produce surprising emergent phenomena apparent at multiple scales. It is these phenomena, hidden behind the often deceptively simple rules that govern individual components, that best define complex systems. Since these behaviors of interest arise from interactions between parts, complex systems are not counterparts to simple systems but rather to separable ones. Their study therefore often requires a collaborative approach to science, studying a problem across scales and disciplinary domains. However, this approach introduces challenges into the ways collaborations function across traditionally-siloed disciplines, and in the publication of complexity science, which often does not fall cleanly into disciplinary journals. In this editorial, we provide our view of the current state of complex systems research and explain how this new journal will fill an important niche for researchers working on these ideas.

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A taxonomy of multiple stable states in complex ecological communities

Sun, 04/21/2024 - 13:35

Guim Aguadé-Gorgorió, Jean-François Arnoldi, Matthieu Barbier, Sonia Kéfi

Ecology Letters

Natural systems are built from multiple interconnected units, making their dynamics, functioning and fragility notoriously hard to predict. A fragility scenario of particular relevance concerns so-called regime shifts: abrupt transitions from healthy to degraded ecosystem states. An explanation for these shifts is that they arise as transitions between alternative stable states, a process that is well-understood in few-species models. However, how multistability upscales with system complexity remains a debated question. Here, we identify that four different multistability regimes generically emerge in models of species-rich communities and other archetypical complex biological systems assuming random interactions. Across the studied models, each regime consistently emerges under a specific interaction scheme and leaves a distinct set of fingerprints in terms of the number of observed states, their species richness and their response to perturbations. Our results help clarify the conditions and types of multistability that can be expected to occur in complex ecological communities.

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Price of Anarchy in Algorithmic Matching of Romantic Partners

Sat, 04/20/2024 - 15:28

Andrés Abeliuk, Khaled Elbassioni, Talal Rahwan, Manuel Cebrian, Iyad Rahwan

Algorithmic matching is a pervasive mechanism in our social lives and is becoming a major medium through which people find romantic partners and potential spouses. However, romantic matching markets pose a principal-agent problem with the potential for moral hazard. The agent’s (or system’s) interest is to maximize the use of the matching website, while the principal’s (or user’s) interest is to find the best possible match. This creates a conflict of interest: the optimal matching of users may not be aligned with the platform’s goal of maximizing engagement, as it could lead to long-term relationships and fewer users using the site over time. Here, we borrow the notion of price of anarchy from game theory to quantify the decrease in social efficiency of online algorithmic matching sites where engagement is in tension with user utility. We derive theoretical bounds on the price of anarchy and show that it can be bounded by a constant that does not depend on the number of users in the system. This suggests that as online matching sites grow, their potential benefits scale up without sacrificing social efficiency. Further, we conducted experiments with human subjects in a matching market and compared the social welfare achieved by an optimal matching service against a self-interested matching algorithm. We show that introducing competition among matching sites aligns the self-interested behavior of platform designers with their users and increases social efficiency.

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Stress Sharing as Cognitive Glue for Collective Intelligences: a computational model of stress as a coordinator for morphogenesis

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 13:20

Lakshwin Shreesha and Michael Levin

Individual cells have numerous competencies in physiological and metabolic spaces. However, multicellular collectives can reliably navigate anatomical morphospace towards much larger, reliable endpoints. Understanding the robustness and control properties of this process is critical for evolutionary developmental biology, bioengineering, and regenerative medicine. One mechanism that has been proposed for enabling individual cells to coordinate toward specific morphological outcomes is the sharing of stress (where stress is a physiological parameter that reflects the current amount of error in the context of a homeostatic loop). Here, we construct and analyze a multiscale agent-based model of morphogenesis in which we quantitatively examine the impact of stress sharing on the ability to reach target morphology. We found that stress sharing improves the morphogenetic efficiency of multicellular collectives; populations with stress sharing reached anatomical targets faster. Moreover, stress sharing influenced the future fate of distant cells in the multi-cellular collective, enhancing cells’ movement and their radius of influence, consistent with the hypothesis that stress sharing works to increase cohesiveness of collectives. During development, anatomical goal states could not be inferred from observation of stress states, revealing the limitations of knowledge of goals by an extern observer outside the system itself. Taken together, our analyses support an important role for stress sharing in natural and engineered systems that seek robust large-scale behaviors to emerge from the activity of their competent components.

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Explosive Cooperation in Social Dilemmas on Higher-Order Networks

Thu, 04/18/2024 - 13:15

Andrea Civilini, Onkar Sadekar, Federico Battiston, Jesús Gómez-Gardeñes, and Vito Latora

Phys. Rev. Lett. 132, 167401

Understanding how cooperative behaviors can emerge from competitive interactions is an open problem in biology and social sciences. While interactions are usually modeled as pairwise networks, the units of many real-world systems can also interact in groups of three or more. Here, we introduce a general framework to extend pairwise games to higher-order networks. By studying social dilemmas on hypergraphs with a tunable structure, we find an explosive transition to cooperation triggered by a critical number of higher-order games. The associated bistable regime implies that an initial critical mass of cooperators is also required for the emergence of prosocial behavior. Our results show that higher-order interactions provide a novel explanation for the survival of cooperation.

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Collective behavior from surprise minimization

Thu, 04/18/2024 - 08:27

Conor Heins, Beren Millidge, Lancelot Da Costa,  Richard P. Mann,  Karl J. Friston, Iain D. Couzin


We introduce a model of collective behavior, proposing that individual members within a group, such as a school of fish or a flock of birds, act to minimize surprise. This active inference approach naturally generates well-known collective phenomena such as cohesion and directed movement without explicit behavioral rules. Our model reveals intricate relationships between individual beliefs and group properties, demonstrating that beliefs about uncertainty can shape collective decision-making accuracy. As agents update their generative model in real time, groups become more sensitive to external perturbations and more robust in encoding information. Our work provides fresh insights into understanding collective dynamics and could inspire strategies in the study of animal behavior, swarm robotics, and distributed systems.

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Biocomputation: Moving Beyond Turing with Living Cellular Computers

Wed, 04/17/2024 - 15:18

Ángel Goñi-Moreno

Communications of the ACM

Leveraging the synergies between theoretical CS and synthetic biology to create powerful cellular computers and move beyond Turing computation.

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CSS Scientific Awards, deadline approaching

Wed, 04/17/2024 - 13:14

The Complex Systems Society announces the ninth edition of the CSS Scientific Awards. 

The Emerging Researcher Award recognizes promising researchers in Complex Systems within 3 years of the PhD defense.

The Junior Scientific Award is aimed at recognizing excellent scientific record of young researchers within 10 years of the PhD defense.

The Senior Scientific Award will recognize outstanding contributions of Complex Systems scholars at whatever stage of their careers.

Deadline: April 30th, 2024.

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A Dynamical Systems View of Psychiatric Disorders—Theory: A Review

Sat, 04/13/2024 - 09:18

Marten Scheffer, Claudi L. Bockting, Denny Borsboom, et al.

JAMA Psychiatry

Importance Psychiatric disorders may come and go with symptoms changing over a lifetime. This suggests the need for a paradigm shift in diagnosis and treatment. Here we present a fresh look inspired by dynamical systems theory. This theory is used widely to explain tipping points, cycles, and chaos in complex systems ranging from the climate to ecosystems.

Observations In the dynamical systems view, we propose the healthy state has a basin of attraction representing its resilience, while disorders are alternative attractors in which the system can become trapped. Rather than an immutable trait, resilience in this approach is a dynamical property. Recent work has demonstrated the universality of generic dynamical indicators of resilience that are now employed globally to monitor the risks of collapse of complex systems, such as tropical rainforests and tipping elements of the climate system. Other dynamical systems tools are used in ecology and climate science to infer causality from time series. Moreover, experiences in ecological restoration confirm the theoretical prediction that under some conditions, short interventions may invoke long-term success when they flip the system into an alternative basin of attraction. All this implies practical applications for psychiatry, as are discussed in part 2 of this article.

Conclusions and Relevance Work in the field of dynamical systems points to novel ways of inferring causality and quantifying resilience from time series. Those approaches have now been tried and tested in a range of complex systems. The same tools may help monitoring and managing resilience of the healthy state as well as psychiatric disorders.

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See Also: A Dynamical Systems View of Psychiatric Disorders—Practical Implications: A Review

The Third Story of the Universe: an evolutionary worldview for the noosphere

Fri, 04/12/2024 - 09:22

Francis Heylighen, Shima Beigi, Clement Vidal

This report is a first survey of a new, evolutionary narrative, called the Third Story, intended to replace and complement the earlier religious (First) and mechanistic (Second) worldviews. We first argue that the confusions created by a world that is ever more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) have eroded people’s sense of coherence, that is, the degree to which they experience the world as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. The First Story provides meaning and values, but its descriptions no longer provide an accurate understanding of how the universe functions. The Second Story, which sees the universe as a clockwork mechanism governed by the laws of nature, provides more accurate predictions that allow us to build powerful technologies. However, it does not provide meaning or values. The Third Story sees the universe as self-organizing towards increasing complexity and consciousness, subsequently producing matter, life, mind and society. It understands the fundamental mechanism of evolution as mutual adaptation or “fit” between interacting systems, thus generating synergetic wholes that in turn interact, so as integrate into even more complex wholes. Its implicit value is the search for fitness and synergy, thus inviting individuals to work towards a further integration of the noosphere, i.e. the planetary superorganism formed by humanity, its technological extensions, and the ecosystem.

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Emergence of fractal geometries in the evolution of a metabolic enzyme

Thu, 04/11/2024 - 09:19

Franziska L. Sendker, Yat Kei Lo, Thomas Heimerl, Stefan Bohn, Louise J. Persson, Christopher-Nils Mais, Wiktoria Sadowska, Nicole Paczia, Eva Nußbaum, María del Carmen Sánchez Olmos, Karl Forchhammer, Daniel Schindler, Tobias J. Erb, Justin L. P. Benesch, Erik G. Marklund, Gert Bange, Jan M. Schuller & Georg K. A. Hochberg 
Nature (2024)

Fractals are patterns that are self-similar across multiple length-scales. Macroscopic fractals are common in nature; however, so far, molecular assembly into fractals is restricted to synthetic systems. Here we report the discovery of a natural protein, citrate synthase from the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus, which self-assembles into Sierpiński triangles. Using cryo-electron microscopy, we reveal how the fractal assembles from a hexameric building block. Although different stimuli modulate the formation of fractal complexes and these complexes can regulate the enzymatic activity of citrate synthase in vitro, the fractal may not serve a physiological function in vivo. We use ancestral sequence reconstruction to retrace how the citrate synthase fractal evolved from non-fractal precursors, and the results suggest it may have emerged as a harmless evolutionary accident. Our findings expand the space of possible protein complexes and demonstrate that intricate and regulatable assemblies can evolve in a single substitution.

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Misinformation and harmful language are interconnected, rather than distinct, challenges

Wed, 04/10/2024 - 09:28

Mohsen Mosleh, Rocky Cole, David G Rand Author Notes
PNAS Nexus, Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2024, pgae111,

There is considerable concern about users posting misinformation and harmful language on social media. Substantial—yet largely distinct—bodies of research have studied these two kinds of problematic content. Here, we shed light on both research streams by examining the relationship between the sharing of misinformation and the use of harmful language. We do so by creating and analyzing a dataset of 8,687,758 posts from N = 6,832 Twitter (now called X) users, and a dataset of N = 14,617 true and false headlines from professional fact-checking websites. Our analyses reveal substantial positive associations between misinformation and harmful language. On average, Twitter posts containing links to lower-quality news outlets also contain more harmful language (β = 0.10); and false headlines contain more harmful language than true headlines (β = 0.19). Additionally, Twitter users who share links to lower-quality news sources also use more harmful language—even in non-news posts that are unrelated to (mis)information (β = 0.13). These consistent findings across different datasets and levels of analysis suggest that misinformation and harmful language are related in important ways, rather than being distinct phenomena. At the same, however, the strength of associations is not sufficiently high to make the presence of harmful language a useful diagnostic for information quality: most low-quality information does not contain harmful language, and a considerable fraction of high-quality information does contain harmful language. Overall, our results underscore important opportunities to integrate these largely disconnected strands of research and understand their psychological connections.

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Dynamical stability and chaos in artificial neural network trajectories along training

Wed, 04/10/2024 - 08:11

Kaloyan Danovski, Miguel C. Soriano, Lucas Lacasa
The process of training an artificial neural network involves iteratively adapting its parameters so as to minimize the error of the network’s prediction, when confronted with a learning task. This iterative change can be naturally interpreted as a trajectory in network space — a time series of networks — and thus the training algorithm (e.g. gradient descent optimization of a suitable loss function) can be interpreted as a dynamical system in graph space. In order to illustrate this interpretation, here we study the dynamical properties of this process by analyzing through this lens the network trajectories of a shallow neural network, and its evolution through learning a simple classification task. We systematically consider different ranges of the learning rate and explore both the dynamical and orbital stability of the resulting network trajectories, finding hints of regular and chaotic behavior depending on the learning rate regime. Our findings are put in contrast to common wisdom on convergence properties of neural networks and dynamical systems theory. This work also contributes to the cross-fertilization of ideas between dynamical systems theory, network theory and machine learning

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Human Mobility in the Metaverse

Tue, 04/09/2024 - 13:42

Kishore Vasan, Marton Karsai, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

The metaverse promises a shift in the way humans interact with each other, and with their digital and physical environments. The lack of geographical boundaries and travel costs in the metaverse prompts us to ask if the fundamental laws that govern human mobility in the physical world apply. We collected data on avatar movements, along with their network mobility extracted from NFT purchases. We find that despite the absence of commuting costs, an individuals inclination to explore new locations diminishes over time, limiting movement to a small fraction of the metaverse. We also find a lack of correlation between land prices and visitation, a deviation from the patterns characterizing the physical world. Finally, we identify the scaling laws that characterize meta mobility and show that we need to add preferential selection to the existing models to explain quantitative patterns of metaverse mobility. Our ability to predict the characteristics of the emerging meta mobility network implies that the laws governing human mobility are rooted in fundamental patterns of human dynamics, rather than the nature of space and cost of movement.

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Stability, Integration, and Higher-Order Interactions in Complex Systems

Tue, 04/09/2024 - 11:45

Binghamton Center of Complex Systems (CoCo) Seminar April 3, 2024 Thomas Varley (Vermont Complex Systems Center, University of Vermont) “Stability, Integration, and Higher-Order Interactions in Complex Systems”

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Neuro AI. Will it be the future in AI and overcome the LLM limitations?

Tue, 04/09/2024 - 09:57

Interview with Dr. Gabriele Scheler.

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The Origin of Information Handling

Tue, 04/09/2024 - 09:10

Amahury Jafet López-Díaz, Hiroki Sayama, Carlos Gershenson

A major challenge when describing the origin of life is to explain how instructional information control systems emerge naturally and spontaneously from mere molecular dynamics. So far, no one has clarified how information control emerged ab initio and how primitive control mechanisms in life might have evolved, becoming increasingly refined. Based on recent experimental results showing that chemical computation does not require the presence of life-related chemistry, we elucidate the origin and early evolution of information handling by chemical automata, from information processing (computation) to information storage (memory) and information transmission (communication). In contrast to other theories that assume the existence of initial complex structures, our narrative starts from trivial self-replicators whose interaction leads to the arising of more powerful molecular machines. By describing precisely the primordial transitions in chemistry-based computation, our metaphor is capable of explaining the above-mentioned gaps and can be translated to other models of computation, which allow us to explore biological phenomena at multiple spatial and temporal scales. At the end of our manuscript, we propose some ways to extend our ideas, including experimental validation of our theory (both in vitro and in silico).

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Debates on the nature of artificial general intelligence

Sat, 04/06/2024 - 14:18



21 Mar 2024
Vol 383, Issue 6689

Given the pervasiveness of AGI talk in business, government, and the media, one could not be blamed for assuming that the meaning of the term is established and agreed upon. However, the opposite is true: What AGI means, or whether it means anything coherent at all, is hotly debated in the AI community. And the meaning and likely consequences of AGI have become more than just an academic dispute over an arcane term. The world’s biggest tech companies and entire governments are making important decisions on the basis of what they think AGI will entail. But a deep dive into speculations about AGI reveals that many AI practitioners have starkly different views on the nature of intelligence than do those who study human and animal cognition—differences that matter for understanding the present and predicting the likely future of machine intelligence.

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Song lyrics have become simpler and more repetitive over the last five decades

Fri, 04/05/2024 - 14:07

Emilia Parada-Cabaleiro, Maximilian Mayerl, Stefan Brandl, Marcin Skowron, Markus Schedl, Elisabeth Lex & Eva Zangerle 
Scientific Reports volume 14, Article number: 5531 (2024)

Music is ubiquitous in our everyday lives, and lyrics play an integral role when we listen to music. The complex relationships between lyrical content, its temporal evolution over the last decades, and genre-specific variations, however, are yet to be fully understood. In this work, we investigate the dynamics of English lyrics of Western, popular music over five decades and five genres, using a wide set of lyrics descriptors, including lyrical complexity, structure, emotion, and popularity. We find that pop music lyrics have become simpler and easier to comprehend over time: not only does the lexical complexity of lyrics decrease (for instance, captured by vocabulary richness or readability of lyrics), but we also observe that the structural complexity (for instance, the repetitiveness of lyrics) has decreased. In addition, we confirm previous analyses showing that the emotion described by lyrics has become more negative and that lyrics have become more personal over the last five decades. Finally, a comparison of lyrics view counts and listening counts shows that when it comes to the listeners’ interest in lyrics, for instance, rock fans mostly enjoy lyrics from older songs; country fans are more interested in new songs’ lyrics.

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The universal probabilistic reward based on the difference of payoff realizes the evolution of cooperation

Thu, 04/04/2024 - 13:00

Tetsushi Ohdaira

Chaos, Solitons & Fractals
Volume 182, May 2024, 114754

• The universal probabilistic reward based on the difference of payoff is proposed.
• The greater payoff difference leads to the higher rewarding probability.
• This new reward mechanism effectively enhances the evolution of cooperation.

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