Blog | Andrew Ringsmuth: “How to deal with urgent global challenges”


May 12, 2021

Andrew Ringsmuth:

 

“Change the climate of empathy to tackle urgent global challenges”

 

Resources that can be openly accessed and depleted through over-exploitation are called ‘common-pool’ resources (CPRs). When a CPR is small, like a pasture or local fishery, resource harvesters can usually see how their behavior is affecting the resource level and restrain their harvesting accordingly to conserve the resource. However, when a CPR is very large, like the atmosphere or global biodiversity, it may be impossible for individuals to see how it is responding to their behavior. By the time society awakens to the need for conservation, it may be almost too late to organize successful collective action through behavioral change. Time is of the essence.

 

How to speed up behavior change

 

In our paper “Dynamics of collective action to conserve a large common-pool resource“, recently published in Scientific Reports with Astrid de Wijn and students, David Andersson and Sigrid Bratsberg of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, we used an agent-based model to study the spread of behavioral change through a social network when an initially small number of people realize that society-wide conservation action is needed as soon as possible. We also tested the potential of different interventions to speed up this process.

 

We were able to show that the social dynamics unfold in two distinct stages.

 

In the first stage, society rapidly polarizes into clusters of people who cooperate with the needed behavioral changes, and those who deny them. These clusters act as self-reinforcing echo chambers, tending to maintain social polarization.

 

Struggle between echo chambers

 

The second, slower dynamical stage is a slow struggle between the clusters. Here, meaningful changes happen only at the clusters’ ‘edges’, where cooperators and deniers interact directly, trying to convert one another. Although the process is gradual, one side eventually wins as the opposing clusters dissolve inwards from their edges and society converges to a consensus.

 

These results indicate that the speed at which large-scale social change happens is limited by the speed with which echo chambers can be dissolved.

 

We found that this speed depends most strongly on the level of connectivity between agents, and on the influence of their broader sociopolitical environment. When agents are better connected, there are more opportunities for constructive interactions between disagreeing people, and even gentle nudges from the sociopolitical environment can give one side the advantage in these interactions, thus speeding up the convergence to consensus. Moreover, under some conditions there are tipping points at which even small changes in parameters like the strength of the nudge from the sociopolitical environment can determine whether the system converges to full denial or full cooperation.

 

Crucial rule of social media

 

Our modeling results suggest that media, and in particular, large-scale social media networks play a crucial role in determining our collective ability to reach consensus on urgent global challenges. These networks’ algorithms have learned to keep users engaged by exploiting their basic tribal instincts, either reinforcing a sense of belonging with already-agreeable content or stoking outrage with content that is seen to represent an objectionable outside group. The result is ideological echo chambers at an unprecedented scale and oversimplified, emotionally charged public discourse that makes it difficult to have the kind of communications needed: constructive engagement between disagreeing groups about urgent realities.

 

Social media can also have positive impact

 

On the bright side, however, with their now-huge memberships, social media are in a position to have a huge positive effect if they can find ways to adjust their business models. If they can continue to engage users while also exposing them to content that challenges misinformed views on climate change, for example, and also encourage empathy and constructive interactions between disagreeing groups, they may be able to transform themselves into powerful catalysts for positive social change.

 

The core messages from our work are, first, that large-scale social change requires people to reach out across ideological lines and discuss, empathically and constructively, with people who initially disagree with them. Those can be difficult conversations to have because no one likes to have their worldview challenged and we all tend to ignore evidence that makes us uncomfortable. But our research suggests that these kinds of interactions are vitally important if we want to act at the speed now required to mitigate urgent, global challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss.

 

Our second core message is that we can improve our chances of successful collective action by combining helpful factors. Favourable social connectivity and a sociopolitical environment that encourages positive change are more powerful together than either is alone.

Andrew Ringsmuth’s contribution to this work was completed durhing his time as a PostDoc at the CSH Vienna and MedUni Vienna (Feb to Dec 2020). He is now a PostDoc at the Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change at the University of Graz. He remains a member of the CSH Associate Faculty, so we will be staying in close contact.


Research News

Sep 20, 2022

Data is a crucial tool against Covid-19

News

Sep 21, 2022

CSH awarded OENB basic funding

People

Sep 16, 2022

Andrea Rapisarda wins the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics

Event

An Evening with Art & Science at the Hub: "Diverse Views" by Peter Hassmann & Georg Hofer + Fariba Karimi


Sep 28, 2022 | 18:0021:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Daniel Martin Katz: "Measuring and managing legal complexity"


Sep 30, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH @ RIIAA: Panel on "Diversifying AI—How to achieve diversity?"


Sep 29, 2022 | 19:0020:30

Publication

T. Reisch, G. Heiler, C. Diem, P. Klimek, S. Thurner

Monitoring supply networks from mobile phone data for estimating the systemic risk of an economy

Scientific Reports 12 (13347) (2022)

Press

¿Qué han aprendido los científicos de los confinamientos de la COVID19? [Spanish] [feat. Peter Klimek]


Viento Sur, Sep 9, 2022

Press

SARS-Ani | Infographic of the week [feat. Amélie Desvars-Larrive & CSH Vis]


Nature Briefings, Sep 21, 2022

Publication

R. Prieto Curiel, A. Schumann, I. Heo, P. Heinrigs

Detecting cities with high intermediacy in the African urban network

Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 98 (2022) 101869

Publication

J. Lasser, S. Taofeek Aroyehun, et al.

Social media sharing of low quality news sources by political elites

PNAS Nexus (2022) pgac186

Press

Pourquoi la tech séduit de nouveau les étudiants américains [French] [feat. Peter Turchin]


L'Expansion, Sep 12, 2022

Research News

Sep 20, 2022

Data is a crucial tool against Covid-19

News

Sep 21, 2022

CSH awarded OENB basic funding

People

Sep 16, 2022

Andrea Rapisarda wins the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics

Event

An Evening with Art & Science at the Hub: "Diverse Views" by Peter Hassmann & Georg Hofer + Fariba Karimi


Sep 28, 2022 | 18:0021:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Daniel Martin Katz: "Measuring and managing legal complexity"


Sep 30, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH @ RIIAA: Panel on "Diversifying AI—How to achieve diversity?"


Sep 29, 2022 | 19:0020:30

Publication

T. Reisch, G. Heiler, C. Diem, P. Klimek, S. Thurner

Monitoring supply networks from mobile phone data for estimating the systemic risk of an economy

Scientific Reports 12 (13347) (2022)

Press

¿Qué han aprendido los científicos de los confinamientos de la COVID19? [Spanish] [feat. Peter Klimek]


Viento Sur, Sep 9, 2022

Press

SARS-Ani | Infographic of the week [feat. Amélie Desvars-Larrive & CSH Vis]


Nature Briefings, Sep 21, 2022

Publication

R. Prieto Curiel, A. Schumann, I. Heo, P. Heinrigs

Detecting cities with high intermediacy in the African urban network

Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 98 (2022) 101869

Publication

J. Lasser, S. Taofeek Aroyehun, et al.

Social media sharing of low quality news sources by political elites

PNAS Nexus (2022) pgac186

Press

Pourquoi la tech séduit de nouveau les étudiants américains [French] [feat. Peter Turchin]


L'Expansion, Sep 12, 2022

News

Sep 21, 2022

CSH awarded OENB basic funding

Research News

Sep 20, 2022

Data is a crucial tool against Covid-19

People

Sep 16, 2022

Andrea Rapisarda wins the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics

Research News

Aug 8, 2022

Scientists create computer risk model to tackle supply chain disruption

Research News

Jul 28, 2022

A stress test for the (Austrian) healthcare system

Research News

Jul 26, 2022

Study unveils first global dataset for SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals

People

Jul 18, 2022

Complexity GAINS | Toward a multifaceted and integrative science

People

Jul 13, 2022

Two months with two COSY Journalists in Residence

Spotlight

Jul 4, 2022

Complexity GAINs | The first SFI–CSH Summer School has started

Research News

Jun 24, 2022

Testing theories on What drove the Holocene transformation

Spotlight

Jun 23, 2022

Cooperation agreement with Bavaria to fight internet criminality

Research News

Jun 21, 2022

Want to improve the company’s performance? Get more women in the boardroom

Press

SARS-Ani | Infographic of the week [feat. Amélie Desvars-Larrive & CSH Vis]


Nature Briefings, Sep 21, 2022

Press

¿Qué han aprendido los científicos de los confinamientos de la COVID19? [Spanish] [feat. Peter Klimek]


Viento Sur, Sep 9, 2022

Press

Pourquoi la tech séduit de nouveau les étudiants américains [French] [feat. Peter Turchin]


L'Expansion, Sep 12, 2022

Press

What scientists have learnt from COVID lockdowns [feat. Peter Klimek]


Nature News, Sep 7, 2022

Press

Geography Lessons From the 9/11 Terrorist Network [feat. Rafael Prieto Curiel]


Lawfare Blog, Sep 5, 2022

Press

為何會有「報復性投票」?!損人不利己的惡意行為,可能是追求公平正義路上的必要之惡?[Opinion] [feat. Peter Turchin]


Vocus, Sep 2, 2022

Press

Student Loan Forgiveness: A Payoff for the Woke [Opinion] [feat. Peter Turchin]


The New York Sun, Sep 2, 2022

Press

Kreislaufwirtschaft jetzt!


respACT, Aug 31, 2022

Press

Wie wenige Unternehmen die Liefernetzwerke ins Schwanken bringen [feat. Stefan Thurner]


Factory Net, Sep 1, 2022

Press

Experte: Europa sollte seine Lieferketten besser kennen [feat. Stefan Thurner]


APA Science, Aug 27, 2022

Press

Innovation im Zeichen der Kreislaufwirtschaft


APA Science, Aug 26, 2022

Publication

J. Lasser, S. Taofeek Aroyehun, et al.

Social media sharing of low quality news sources by political elites

PNAS Nexus (2022) pgac186

Publication

R. Prieto Curiel, A. Schumann, I. Heo, P. Heinrigs

Detecting cities with high intermediacy in the African urban network

Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 98 (2022) 101869

Publication

T. Reisch, G. Heiler, C. Diem, P. Klimek, S. Thurner

Monitoring supply networks from mobile phone data for estimating the systemic risk of an economy

Scientific Reports 12 (13347) (2022)

Publication

G. De Marzo, F. Pandolfelli, V.D.P. Servedio

Modeling innovation in the cryptocurrency ecosystem

Scientific Reports 12 (12942) (2022)

Publication

A. Nerpel, et al.

SARS-ANI: a global open access dataset of reported SARS-CoV-2 events in animals

Scientific Data 9 (438) (2022)

Publication

M. Kaleta, J. Lasser, E. Dervic, et al.

Stress-testing the resilience of the Austrian healthcare system using agent-based simulation

Nature Communications 13 (4259) (2022)

Publication

F. Amman, et al.

Viral variant-resolved wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 at national scale

Nature Biotechnology (2022)

Publication

J. V. Camp, A. Desvars-Larrive, N. Nowotny, C. Walzer

Monitoring urban zoonotic virus activity: Are city rats a promising surveillance tool for emerging viruses?

Viruses 14 (7) (2022) 1516

Publication

M. Pellert, H. Metzler, M. Matzenberger, D. Garcia

Validating daily social media macroscopes of emotions

Scientific Reports 12 (2022) 11236

Publication

P. Turchin, et al.

Disentangling the evolutionary drivers of social complexity in human history: A comprehensive test of hypotheses

Science Advances 8 (25) (2022)

Publication

R. Prieto Curiel, H. González Ramírez, S. Bishop

A ubiquitous collective tragedy in transport

Frontiers in Physics (2022)

Publication

M. Oliveira, F. Karimi, et al.

Group mixing drives inequality in face-to-face gatherings

Communications Physics 5 (127) (2022)

Event

An Evening with Art & Science at the Hub: "Diverse Views" by Peter Hassmann & Georg Hofer + Fariba Karimi


Sep 28, 2022 | 18:0021:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH @ RIIAA: Panel on "Diversifying AI—How to achieve diversity?"


Sep 29, 2022 | 19:0020:30

Event

CSH Talk by Daniel Martin Katz: "Measuring and managing legal complexity"


Sep 30, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Kenji Itao: "Explaining universality and diversity in social phenomena using evolutionary simulation"


Oct 05, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Pedro Moreno-Sánchez: "Privacy-preserving blockchain applications with adaptor signatures"


Oct 07, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Tommaso Rughi: "Climate change and labour-saving technologies"


Oct 14, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Workshop: "Evolution and geography of collective knowledge"


Oct 17, 2022Oct 19, 2022

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Workshop: "Collective Resilience"


Oct 19, 2022Oct 21, 2022

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Elisa Omodei: "Complexity and data-driven approaches to monitor the SDGs..."


Oct 28, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Philipp Koch: "The historical role of migrants in the geography of knowledge"


Nov 04, 2022 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna