Multiscale Information Theory and the Marginal Utility of Information

Complex systems display behavior at a range of scales. Large-scale behaviors can emerge from the correlated or dependent behavior of individual small-scale components. To capture this observation in a rigorous and general way, we introduce a formalism for multiscale information theory. Dependent behavior among system components results in overlapping or shared information. A system’s structure is revealed in the sharing of information across the system’s dependencies, each of which has an associated scale. Counting information according to its scale yields the quantity of scale-weighted information, which is conserved when a system is reorganized. In the interest of flexibility we allow information to be quantified using any function that satisfies two basic axioms. Shannon information and vector space dimension are examples. We discuss two quantitative indices that summarize system structure: an existing index, the complexity profile, and a new index, the marginal utility of information. Using simple examples, we show how these indices capture the multiscale structure of complex systems in a quantitative way.


Multiscale Information Theory and the Marginal Utility of Information
Benjamin Allen, Blake C. Stacey, and Yaneer Bar-Yam

Entropy 2017, 19(6), 273; doi:10.3390/e19060273


How to fight corruption

Anticorruption initiatives are often put forth as solutions to problems of waste and inefficiency in government programs. It’s easy to see why. So often, somewhere along the chain that links the many participants in public service provision or other government activities, funds may get stolen or misdirected, bribes exchanged for preferential treatment, or genuine consumers of public services supplemented by “ghost” users. As a result, corruption reduces economic growth and leaves citizens disillusioned and distrustful of government. It is tempting to think that more monitoring, stricter sanctions, or positive inducements for suitable behavior will reduce corruption. But every anticorruption or antifraud program elicits a strategic response by those who orchestrated and benefited from wrongdoing in the first place. How can these unintended consequences be anticipated and avoided?


How to fight corruption
Raymond Fisman, Miriam Golden

Science  26 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6340, pp. 803-804
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan081


Zika virus evolution and spread in the Americas

One hundred and ten Zika virus genomes from ten countries and territories involved in the Zika virus epidemic reveal rapid expansion of the epidemic within Brazil and multiple introductions to other regions.


Zika virus evolution and spread in the Americas
Hayden C. Metsky, et al.

Nature 546, 411–415 (15 June 2017) doi:10.1038/nature22402


The Human Microbiome and the Missing Heritability Problem

The “missing heritability” problem states that genetic variants in Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) cannot completely explain the heritability of complex traits. Traditionally, the heritability of a phenotype is measured through familial studies using twins, siblings and other close relatives, making assumptions on the genetic similarities between them. When this heritability is compared to the one obtained through GWAS for the same traits, a substantial gap between both measurements arise with genome wide studies reporting significantly smaller values. Several mechanisms for this “missing heritability” have been proposed, such as epigenetics, epistasis, and sequencing depth. However, none of them are able to fully account for this gap in heritability. In this paper we provide evidence that suggests that in order for the phenotypic heritability of human traits to be broadly understood and accounted for, the compositional and functional diversity of the human microbiome must be taken into account. This hypothesis is based on several observations: (A) The composition of the human microbiome is associated with many important traits, including obesity, cancer, and neurological disorders. (B) Our microbiome encodes a second genome with nearly a 100 times more genes than the human genome, and this second genome may act as a rich source of genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity. (C) Human genotypes interact with the composition and structure of our microbiome, but cannot by themselves explain microbial variation. (D) Microbial genetic composition can be strongly influenced by the host’s behavior, its environment or by vertical and horizontal transmissions from other hosts. Therefore, genetic similarities assumed in familial studies may cause overestimations of heritability values. We also propose a method that allows the compositional and functional diversity of our microbiome to be incorporated to genome wide association studies.


The Human Microbiome and the Missing Heritability Problem

Santiago Sandoval-Motta, Maximino Aldana, Esperanza Martínez-Romero and Alejandro Frank

Front. Genet., 13 June 2017 |



The Kreyon Conference Unfolding the dynamics of creativity and innovation conference will be held in Rome from 6th to 8th of September 2017 at Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

The aim of the conference is to gather scientists from many different disciplines (physics, mathematics, computer science, biology, social and cognitive sciences, arts, economics, business) to address fundamental questions about how people express their creativity and innovate both at the individual and collective levels.

The conference will feature three days (from september 6th to 8th) of scientific talks covering topics of creativity and innovation, while on Saturday the 9th plain conferences and discussions will engage a broad audience on the”Complexity of the future”.
The conference will also feature a set of interactive installations and ateliers aimed at engaging participants
in “creative” activities.

The Kreyon conference is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and organized by Sapienza University in collaboration with ISI Foundation and Complexity Science Hub Vienna.