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H2020

IBSEN Report Summary

Project ID: 662725
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.2.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IBSEN (Bridging the gap: from Individual Behaviour to the Socio-tEchnical MaN)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

IBSEN Project

A UC3M-coordinated team researches simulator of human behavior

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid is investigating how to build a system that recreates human behavior. This technology could be applied to anticipate behavior in socioeconomic crises, create more human-like robots or develop avatars of artificial intelligence which are almost indistinguishable from those that represent people.

The research project, called IBSEN (Bridging the gap: from individual behaviour to the socio-tEchnical Man), is part of a call for “novel ideas for radically new technologies” (FET-Open) by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. The UC3M coordinates the project and scientists in Spain from the Universitat de València and the Universidad de Zaragoza also participate, as well as other British, Finnish and Dutch researchers.

“We are going to lay the foundations to start a new way of doing social science for the problems that arise in a society that is very technologically connected”, explains the head of the project, Anxo Sánchez, from the UC3M Interdisciplinary Mathematics group.

The goal of the project is to understand the behavior of people on an individual level, especially when they are connected by new technologies like mobile telephones or social networks. To this end, this group of scientists is preparing experiments which will present certain problems of cooperation, social problems and economic games simultaneously to thousands of people to try to decipher the hidden patterns behind their decisions.

With this information, researchers will afterwards be able to create a simulator of human behavior, a technology that will provide a basis for socioeconomic simulations that will radically change many fields, from robotics to economics, with technological and social impacts like the formulation of policies and decisions about pressing social issues.

“The greatest difficulty is to design a new experimental protocol that allows us to ensure that all the participants in the experiment are available at the same time and really interact, because you are not observing them in a laboratory,” say the researchers, who are used to doing this kind of experiment in laboratories where they work with groups of 50 to 60 people, when in this case there are more than 1,000 participants.

The challenge posed by this project, once the experiments are done, is to obtain a repertoire of human conduct that makes it possible to simulate the behavior of a person and apply it to a robot or recreate what large groups of people will do in certain circumstances. “On an individual level, it could be used to improve the realism of characters in video games and humanize the avatars one interacts with in the help section of web pages,” said Sánchez. “And with regard to the simulation of collective behavior, it would allow us to try to understand the evolution of the economy and the appearance of social disorders.”

The project requires a high degree of interdisciplinarity, for which reason the team of researchers is composed of economists, physicists, mathematicians and social psychologists. The scientists who work on the IBSEN project (FET-Open Research and Innovation Action, H2020 Grant Agreement: 662725) come from the following institutions: in Spain, the UC3M, the Universidad de Zaragoza and the Universitat de València; in England, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge; in the Netherlands, the Universiteit van Amsterdam; and in Finland, Aalto University. The IBSEN project, which began in September of 2015, lasts three years. This is one of the only two FET-Open projects coordinated in Spain in the FET-Open 2014 call, whose acceptance rate did not surpass 3% of the proposals submitted.

Further information: www.ibsen-h2020.eu

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The specific objectives for the IBSEN project, as described in section 1.1 of the DoA, are as follows:

1. To develop a novel setup for large groups of people that will provide an experimental protocol, the necessary software and analytical tools to allow us to deal with thousands of people at the same time.

2. To apply our setup to specific research questions, focusing on novel phenomenology that may arise in large systems as compared to typical smaller ones, to find the rules that govern human behavior in those cases, including the influence of social context and individual identity on them.

3. To assess our approach by building a model of human interaction in groups based on the behavioral rules we have found.

During the first year of the project, we have defined the elements and capabilities that should be implemented in the experimental software in a series of meetings in which the teams have discussed the details of their research. We have then analyzed the different software platforms already available to check whether any of them would be a good starting point and finally decided to work together with oTree (www.otree.org). Building on that open source platform, we have designed, implemented and started testing a version of oTree that allows to address all the identified needs (cf. Objective 1 above). At the same time, the experiments to be carried out to address the research questions of the teams have been designed and all relevant ethics committee approvals obtained (cf. Objective 2). We have also carried out a large recruitment campaign and have already a quite large volunteer pool ready to start the experiments. Finally, we have just started the preparation for the definition of the model templates (cf. Objective 3) and the data analysis toolbox. As will be described below in detail, all the scheduled deliverables have been produced in time and all milestones that expected by Month 12 have been satisfactorily reached as defined in qualitative and quantitative terms.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

"We expect that IBSEN allows researchers to create a simulator of human behavior, a technology that will provide a basis for socioeconomic simulations that will radically change many fields, from robotics to economics, with technological and social impacts like the formulation of policies and decisions about pressing social issues.

The challenge posed by this project, once the experiments are done, is to obtain a repertoire of human conduct that makes it possible to simulate the behavior of a person and apply it to a robot or recreate what large groups of people will do in certain circumstances.

When we prepared and sumbitted the proposal, we expected a large impact in research, and to enhance that impact we have already presented our work to other researchers. The feedback we received largely confirmed this impression. Our first results point also to the anticipated need for new theoretical insights, an example being the fact that the experiments on financial bubbles showed that those appear even in large markets, which IBSEN has allowed to explore for the first time. Importantly, this connects with impacts we expected beyond the more academic ones, such allowing to study the stability of financial markets as a case study of the application of the IBSEN paradigm to analyze the behavior of societal organizations. The experience of presenting IBSEN to an audience of firms and entrepreneurs also suggests that we are pursuing impact along the right directions here. In addition, we are working closely with citizen science leaders and research groups to increase our impact from the view point of the "Science and the Society" H2020 programme. Therefore, we can conclude that, at the current status of the project, it is contributing to the expected impacts as planned."

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