Month: June 2021

Stewardship of global collective behavior

Joseph B. Bak-Coleman, et al.

PNAS July 6, 2021 118 (27) e2025764118

Collective behavior provides a framework for understanding how the actions and properties of groups emerge from the way individuals generate and share information. In humans, information flows were initially shaped by natural selection yet are increasingly structured by emerging communication technologies. Our larger, more complex social networks now transfer high-fidelity information over vast distances at low cost. The digital age and the rise of social media have accelerated changes to our social systems, with poorly understood functional consequences. This gap in our knowledge represents a principal challenge to scientific progress, democracy, and actions to address global crises. We argue that the study of collective behavior must rise to a “crisis discipline” just as medicine, conservation, and climate science have, with a focus on providing actionable insight to policymakers and regulators for the stewardship of social systems.

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Swarm Robotics: Past, Present, and Future

Marco Dorigo; Guy Theraulaz; Vito Trianni

Proceedings of the IEEE ( Volume: 109, Issue: 7, July 2021)

Swarm robotics deals with the design, construction, and deployment of large groups of robots that coordinate and cooperatively solve a problem or perform a task. It takes inspiration from natural self-organizing systems, such as social insects, fish schools, or bird flocks, characterized by emergent collective behavior based on simple local interaction rules [1] , [2] . Typically, swarm robotics extracts engineering principles from the study of those natural systems in order to provide multirobot systems with comparable abilities. This way, it aims to build systems that are more robust, fault-tolerant, and flexible than single robots and that can better adapt their behavior to changes in the environment.

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Rethinking cognition: From animal to minimal

Lucia Regolin and Giorgio Vallortigara

Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Volume 564

In its current use, cognition refers to all activities and processes dealing with the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and processing of information, and this seems to imply the involvement of a relatively complex nervous system. The term “relatively complex” usually refers to a direct comparison with the human or primate brain. And most research on comparative cognition and its neural bases has been restricted to a limited range of species within the vertebrate taxonomic groups. In the last 20 years, however, comparative research has been accumulating a huge bulk of scientific evidence for a wide range of processes in a variety of distantly related species, that seem to imply cognitive phenomena. Intriguing evidence of sophisticated behaviour has come from models which are extremely distant from primates, sometimes organisms with miniature brains. Great attention has attracted the (unexpected by many) evidence of cognitive behaviour in invertebrates and even in organisms classified outside of the Animal Kingdom. In 1980s Humberto Maturana suggested that: “Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition”, extending this statement to all organisms “with or without a nervous system” [1]. This was of course anticipated by the famous statement by Konrad Lorenz according to whom “Life itself is a process of acquiring knowledge” [2].

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See Special Issue: Rethinking Cognition: From Animal to Minimal

Association between COVID-19 outcomes and mask mandates, adherence, and attitudes

Dhaval Adjodah,Karthik Dinakar,Matteo Chinazzi,Samuel P. Fraiberger,Alex Pentland,Samantha Bates,Kyle Staller,Alessandro Vespignani,Deepak L. Bhatt

PLoS ONE 16(6): e0252315.

We extend previous studies on the impact of masks on COVID-19 outcomes by investigating an unprecedented breadth and depth of health outcomes, geographical resolutions, types of mask mandates, early versus later waves and controlling for other government interventions, mobility testing rate and weather. We show that mask mandates are associated with a statistically significant decrease in new cases (-3.55 per 100K), deaths (-0.13 per 100K), and the proportion of hospital admissions (-2.38 percentage points) up to 40 days after the introduction of mask mandates both at the state and county level. These effects are large, corresponding to 14% of the highest recorded number of cases, 13% of deaths, and 7% of admission proportion. We also find that mask mandates are linked to a 23.4 percentage point increase in mask adherence in four diverse states. Given the recent lifting of mandates, we estimate that the ending of mask mandates in these states is associated with a decrease of -3.19 percentage points in mask adherence and 12 per 100K (13% of the highest recorded number) of daily new cases with no significant effect on hospitalizations and deaths. Lastly, using a large novel survey dataset of 847 thousand responses in 69 countries, we introduce the novel results that community mask adherence and community attitudes towards masks are associated with a reduction in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Our results have policy implications for reinforcing the need to maintain and encourage mask-wearing by the public, especially in light of some states starting to remove their mask mandates.

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