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Event Details

Consensus and Deliberation

For the researchers of AMMACHI Labs and CWEGE to be exposed to the high calibre of research and work that [insert name] has done, and to gain insights into the research process through [his/her] experiences. Additionally, any potential collaboration that comes out of these interactions is welcomed.

Participants: AMMACHI Labs & CWEGE Research Staff & Scholars
Number of Participants: 39
Name of speaker: Dr. Mariano Sigman

Biography of Speaker

Dr. Mariano Sigman, a physicist by training, is a leading figure in the cognitive neuroscience of learning and decision making. Sigman was awarded a Human Frontiers Career Development Award, the National Prize of Physics, the Young Investigator Prize of “College de France,” the IBM Scalable Data Analytics Award and is a scholar of the James S. McDonnell Foundation. In 2016 he was made a Laureate of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

In his book, The Secret Life of the Mind, Sigman’s ambition is to explain the mind so that we can understand ourselves and others more deeply. He shows how we form ideas during our first days of life, how we give shape to our fundamental decisions, how we dream and imagine, why we feel certain emotions, how the brain transforms and how who we are changes with it. Spanning biology, physics, mathematics, psychology, anthropology, linguistics, philosophy and medicine, as well as gastronomy, magic, music, chess, literature and art, The Secret Life of the Mind revolutionizes how neuroscience serves us in our lives, revealing how the vast number of neurons inside our brains manufacture how we perceive, reason, feel, dream and communicate.

He has also written scripts for a TV series and had a minor role as an actor in a recent Argentinian film.

Discussion Points of Talk

The kind of science Dr. Mariano presented is about what happens when people speak and how they change their minds and how they make decisions in the moment they have an opportunity to share their ideas with others. This science is about how thoughts influence others and may be a helpful process both for the person that receives the teaching content and the learner but also to the person that is actually teaching. As Seneca said with teaching we learn or by teaching we learn twice and how humans share information and the willingness and what happens when they do so and how and how eventually our understanding of our environment improves by talking to other ones. The second topic is about the introduction of how we are living now in peculiar days relating to the last 20 or 30 yrs. Dr. Mariano presented “wisdom of crowds”. The aggregation of many independent estimates can outperform the most accurate individual judgment. This centenarian finding, popularly known as the “wisdom of crowds”, has recently been applied to problems ranging from the diagnosis of cancer to financial forecasting. It is widely believed that the key to collective accuracy is to preserve the independence of individuals in a crowd. Contrary to this prevailing view, we show that deliberation and discussion improves collective wisdom. Dr. Mariano explained an experiment with a live crowd (N = 5180) to respond to general knowledge questions (eg. the height of the Eiffel Tower). Participants first answered individually, then deliberated and made consensus decisions in groups of five, and finally provided revised individual estimates. They found that consensus and revised estimates were less biased and more diverse than what a uniform aggregation of independent opinions could achieve. Consequently, the average of different consensus decisions was substantially more accurate than aggregating the independent opinions. Even combining as few as four consensus choices outperformed the wisdom of thousands of individuals. Their results indicate that averaging information from independent debates is a highly effective strategy for harnessing our collective knowledge.


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