Earlier this week, TIME Magazine announced its 2016 Person of the Year: President Elect Donald Trump. The recognition is given to the person who has affected the news the most—good or bad—embodying what was most important about 2016. Trump was in the running alongside Barack Obama, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, Hilary Clinton, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ahead of the announcement, TIME worked with IBM Watson and Opentopic to predict the winner of the award, declaring Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win significantly over the competition. According to the poll, Modi was set to receive 18 percent of the votes, with Obama, Trump and Assange getting just seven percent each.
Bringing these results to UNU however led to a different result. Based on the 75 randomly selected individuals connected online by real-time Swarm intelligence algorithms, Modi was actually the least likely to win TIME’s award. And as the system continued to whittle candidates down, it became obvious that it was going to come down to Clinton versus Trump, with the President Elect once again besting the senator.
UNU is a new form of artificial intelligence (AI) that combines real-time human input with advanced algorithms to create the world’s first hive mind. It’s anchored on the science of swarm intelligence, which works by allowing groups of online users to think as a collective, thus expressing itself as a single entity.
On the premise that groups, similar to the ones we see in nature, can make better decisions than individuals could make alone, swarm intelligence banks on the shared knowledge, experience, and intuition of groups.
This particular prediction, was not only made with less than a hundred people, but happened in just a matter of minutes. It shows how AI focused on harnessing the power of the crowd to make predictions can deliver results with remarkable accuracy.
Prior to this, swarm intelligence has accurately predicted winners of the Kentucky Derby, NFL playoffs, the Oscars, and the Golden Globes. While such predictions may not have any real world impact, applying the potential of swarm intelligence to business and political races could be a game changer.