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Nesta invests 250k in ‘collective intelligence’ experiments to solve social issues

Nesta, an innovation foundation, has said that it will invest 250,000 GBP to fund 12 experiments aimed at using artificial intelligence and other technologies combined with human intelligence to “make something that is better than either on its own”.

The grants will be made available through the Legal Access Challenge to companies that are in the early stages of developing such solutions.

Experiments from the Alan Turing Institute in the UK and CitizenLab in Belgium are among some of the funded projects which are used to test machine-learning capabilities such as how it could be used to group online discussions that are not structured into organized policy proposals. Such a solution would enable people to use digital democracy platforms to express their ideas with ease and it would be more effective as it would make certain cases of public ideas more perceptible and noticeable to policy makers.

Nesta has done extensive research on the prospect of machine-human cooperation and how to design collective intelligence better in order to solve social problems.

On the topic of collective intelligence, Nesta’s Head of Collective Intelligence Design, Kathy peach, stated, “If correctly orchestrated the wisdom of crowds can do things that no individual, even an expert could do, and in recent years we’ve also begun to see the incredible power of AI and other digital technologies.”

She added, “By bringing together the power of machines to help us analyze, predict and learn, with the tacit knowledge of crowds we can mobilize collective intelligence at scale.”

“Making progress in how we understand, think and act together is critical to solving some of the most complex challenges of our times- from climate change to prosperity and wellbeing. As the experiments funded by these grants show, collective intelligence design has huge potential for societal benefits. If a tiny percentage of the resources dedicated to artificial intelligence were redirected to this emerging field, it would radically improve our democracies, bring human rights abusers to justice, strengthen disaster relief and help us to overcome our differences.”

With regards to using collective intelligence to revolutionize the legal industry in court cases, Professor Yvonne McDermott Rees from Swansea University carried out an experiment gathering crowd-sourced images of airstrikes within with she collaborated with NGOs such as GLAN Law and Syrian Archive.

She commented on the issue and said, “Technological advances have heralded a new era of human rights investigations, where witnesses can capture and share media of human rights violations in real time. However, getting that evidence into court processes is challenging, not least because of the huge volumes of content that lawyers have to sift through. Our experiment will ask whether a collective intelligence approach can combine human expertise with machine learning to identify and manage evidence that can be used in accountability processes.”

 Some of the grant winners are as follows:

·         Unanimous AI, a San Francisco-based technology company which plans to test algorithms modeled on ‘swarm’ behavior in fish and bees and how they could essentially enable groups with political views that conflict with one another to find acceptable solutions.

·         fanShen, a theatre company based in Newcastle, England which will look into group decision making with a particular focus on empathy and meta-cognition skills and how they could contribute to immersive storytelling.

·         The Alan Turing Institute plans to test the use of natural language processing in clustering proposals from like-minded citizens on digital democracy platforms in order to allow them to push for social change more effectively through working together more efficiently.

·         The Hong Kong Baptist University will test the use of crowdsourcing platforms and how they could be used to support the management and coordination of food rescue services.

·         HURIDOCS, which is based in Switzerland, will look into human rights and how machine learning could be used to better the chances of defenders to curate large amounts of documents.