UPDATE: SFI Lecture: Leveraging Social Science for Prediction

Richard Colbaugh of Sandia National Laboratories will give the talk, “Leveraging Social Science for Prediction” at 12:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7 in the Medium Conference Room at the Santa Fe Institute.

Abstract: There is significant interest in developing methods for predicting human behavior, for instance to enable the outcomes of unfolding events to be forecast or the nature of ongoing but “hidden” activities to be inferred, and machine learning (ML) has proven to be a useful approach to such problems.

In this talk I suggest that the performance of ML algorithms can often be improved by incorporating social science concepts and models into their development and implementation, and offer three examples illustrating ways this can be accomplished.

First I consider the problem of predicting whether nascent social diffusion events will ultimately propagate widely or will instead quickly dissipate.

“Complex contagion” models from sociology are used to identify novel features of the diffusion phenomenon that are predictive of the diffusion’s fate, and these features are used in an ML algorithm to generate the desired forecasts.

Next the task of anticipating and defending future actions of opponents in adversarial settings is addressed, and it is shown that simple game-theoretic models from economics can be combined with ML to enable the design of effective defenses.

Finally I examine the problem of inferring the (unobserved) nature of relationships in social networks, and demonstrate that the social psychological theory of struc-tural balance can be exploited to enhance ML solutions for this task.

In all cases the social science-based learning algorithms are shown to outperform “gold-standard” methods in empirical tests.

Note: SFI is unable to accommodate members of the public for SFI’s limited lunch service; people are welcome to bring their own lunch.

SFI Host: Cris Moore

  • SFI community lectures are free, open and accessible to the public.
  • Seminars and colloquia are geared for scientists but free and open to the interested public.
  • All other SFI events are by invitation only.
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