Patrick Grim - CSCS Resident Philosopher, and his multi-disciplinary group of collaborator/coauthors have been publishing together for nine years, while located across continents and countries.  What is now the Computational Social Philosophy Lab (CSPL) began as a collaboration between Grim and graduate and undergraduate students who were affiliated with the Complex Systems program. The current group retains many of those original affiliations. Aaron Bramson (PhD 2012, Philosophy and Political Science) and William (Zev) Berger (PhD 2015, Political Science) were both IGERT Fellows with CSCS, Daniel J. Singer (PhD 2012, Philosophy) joined from the Department of Philosophy, and Jiin Jung came to the group while at the ICPSR Summer School. 

The BBC article highlights some counter-intuitive conclusions around rational and irrational thinking and polarization of a population in “How the views of a few can determine a country’s fate”  The article refers to the original research paper by the Grim group “Rational Social and Political Polarization” 

Social scientists have historically explained polarisation as the result of irrational thinking. Surely, any reasonable, although mis-informed, person will accept when they are mistaken, the argument goes. Someone who stubbornly sticks to their wrongly held beliefs when presented with evidence is, you would think, clearly acting irrationally.

But a recently published study challenges that common-sense theory. In fact, polarisation could happen in populations of perfectly rational people when you consider the limitations of the human brain.

One issue with studying rational and irrational beliefs is that no human can be said to be completely rational. It is also hard to predict when someone might react rationally or irrationally, or to control that behaviour in an experiment. So, a group of researchers from the US, Japan, Belgium and South Korea worked with computer models of agents who they programmed to act either rationally or irrationally.

Their collaborative research was also chosen to be featured in a special issue of  American Psychologist “Multidisciplinary Research Teams: Psychologists Helping to Solve Real-World Problems” addressing the advantages of multi-disciplinary research, despite the  inherent/perceived pitfalls and difficulties. Grim et al take a break from their prolific list of publications to pen an article discussing their group dynamic.

The prior most recent publication resulting from this collaborative group “Representation in models of epistemic democracy” appeared in Episteme, with an added co-author, CSCS Professor Scott Page.  The entire publication list for this group is extensive.

Professor Grim has been a long time staple in the fabric of CSCS after first coming here in 2005, as a visiting scholar on sabbatical from Stony Brook.  After also spending the next fall at UM as Weinberg Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Philosophy department he found his way back to CSCS and has been here every fall thereafter.  For the last several years Professor Grim has been ‘more than ready’ to fully retire from teaching duties, but was needed every year to teach one course or another and so he did - continuing to be a student favorite and mentor to many.  This fall the Professor is finally able to retire from teaching, but can still be found at CSCS working tirelessly on his research projects.

Professor Grim attributes his time at CSCS as being instrumental in his becoming a major force in the development of the field of computational philosophy.

Group Members:  William J. Berger, Aaron Bramson, Patrick Grim, Bennett Holman, Jiin Jung, Karen Kovaka, Anik Ranginani (Undergraduate Researcher), Daniel J. Singer

CLICK HERE for more coverage on the Polarization work.