Social Complexity

Month: October 2020

Increasing the degrees of freedoms in agent-based models

A new preprint came out today from a work I developed together with Alejandro Dinkelberg and Prof. Mike Quayle at UL, Limerick.

Opinion dynamics is a field focused on understanding the evolution of people’s opinions. Within this field, opinions are usually represented as numbers without any other requirement. So we started wondering: can this have some implications on the models?

For example, as we convert meters to feet, we can also convert different scales for measuring people’s opinions. How do these models change when we change their “units?”

From our study, it appears that while physics equations are unaffected by changes of the variable (you just need to rescale) this is not true for opinion dynamics models.

Indeed, we found that scale conversion (even in the case of perfect measurement) can totally change the model’s dynamics. This result in a change on the final outcome up to 100%. Furthermore, by changing scale, we were able to convert one model into another one.

If you are interested in this research, you can find it here:

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 891347.

A brand new science vlog!

There is something that really makes me feel bad about science, and is the way it is communicated. Do not get me wrong, I do not think that science communicators are doing a bad job. I think the one working poorly is the system itself.

Indeed, today, if you want to succeed as a science communicator, you need to produce what people like. And people like the amazing part of science. They want to know facts, they want to discover more, and definitely, they do not want to spend hours in a lab trying to figure out why a device is not working properly. And this is fine!

The problem is that we never say to people that science is not much about knowing things, but mostly about asking interesting questions, working tons of hours to make those questions better, then, finding that all those questions do not make any sense, despair, find a new question that actually makes sense and, with a bit of luck, also a good answer.

To put it in a less dramatic tone science is not about knowing the right things, but about thinking in the right way. And if there is something that science can give to the common people is not how many neutrons can be found in helium isotopes, but to think like a scientist. Think critically, ask good questions and distinguish good answers from the bad ones.

All of this to say: I made a new vlog to show the behind the scenes of science. I hope it will be useful!

An exclusive competition

During this weird summer dedicated to starting a new career, working from home and moving to a new country (with all the COVID-related mess of travelling) someway I found myself participating in a very interesting competition.

The MSCA Falling Walls Lab is a competition in which each participant has to explain his whole project in just 3 minutes. Such a task is extremely challenging, but also fascinating. Indeed, it pushes people to re-think about their entire project and take a completely new perspective: how many details do you think can fit in a 3 minutes speech?

Unfortunately, I was not able to win (still a long way to go!) but I was still honoured to be in the top 5%. Especially considering the fact that the success rate of the Marie Curie applications is below 15%.

But what got me excited the most, is the fact that this presentation made me realize the strong connection between agent-based models and videogames. A connection that surely I am going to explore!

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