SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - May 9, 2016) - If you've been following the predictions made by UNU, a new "Swarm Intelligence" platform from Unanimous A.I., you might bet on the Kentucky Derby this weekend and won big, really BIG. That's because a day before the race, UNU's picks were published for the first four horses, in order. It's a bet called the Superfecta that paid 540 to 1 odds. And that's exactly how the horses came in. And this is not the first stunning pick UNU has made.
How is this possible? It goes back to the birds and bees. Ants too. And fish. From swarms and flocks, to schools and colonies -- countless species have evolved techniques to amplify their intelligence in closed-loop systems that pool their insights and converge on optimal decisions. Biologists call this "Swarm Intelligence" and it allows groups to amplify their collective IQ beyond the capacity of individuals, proving the old adage -- many minds are better than one.
Until recently, the human species has been unable to take advantage of this fundamental biological technique, for we didn't evolve the ability to swarm. Enter Unanimous A.I., a Silicon Valley startup founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur and researcher Dr. Louis Rosenberg. The core question Rosenberg set out to answer was: Can humans swarm, and if so can we amplify our intelligence beyond the ability of individuals? The answer appears to be a resounding yes.
Unanimous spent the last two years building a swarm intelligence platform called UNU that enables groups to get together as online swarms -- combining their thoughts, opinions, and intuitions in real-time to answer questions, make predictions, reach decisions, and even play games as a unified collective intelligence. To quantify how smart these UNU swarms really are, researchers at Unanimous regularly convene swarms and ask them to make predictions on high profile events, testing whether or not many minds are truly better than one.
UNU has made headlines in recent months by predicting the Oscars better than the experts, even besting the renowned forecasters at FiveThirtyEight. UNU also surprised the sports world by predicting the NCAA college bowl games with 70% accuracy against the spread, earning +34% return on Vegas odds. But still, the fact that average people could use UNU to amplify their collective intelligence so dramatically was met with cautious resistance.
Enter Hope Reese, a reporter from TechRepublic. Two weeks ago, she challenged Unanimous A.I. to use UNU to predict the winners of the Kentucky Derby.
"We were reluctant to take this challenge," says David Baltaxe, Chief Information Officer at Unanimous. "Nobody here knows anything about horseracing, and it's notorious for being unpredictable. Still, UNU surprises us again and again, so we recruited a swarm of volunteers through an online ad. The whole thing took 20 minutes."
Here's how it worked. During a first 10-minute session, the group used UNU to answer questions as a unified Swarm Intelligence, narrowing the field of 20 horses down to four winners. The swarm was then asked to order the four winners into Win, Place, Show, and Fourth. Then, a week later the Kentucky Derby announced the post positions of the horses, which impacts the potential outcome. So, the Swarm Intelligence was convened again, and asked if any changes should be made. One of the four picks was replaced by an alternate. This process took another 10 minutes.
The picks were then reported to the reporter at TechRepublic, who published her story the day before the race was run. The article conveyed skepticism, quoting an expert who said if this really worked, it would disrupt gambling markets.
The expert was right -- gambling may never be the same. That's because 24 hours later, the 142nd Kentucky Derby was run and the four winning horses were in the exact order that UNU predicted. The odds of making such a pick, known as a "superfecta," were 540 to 1. This means that anyone who bet $100 on the published picks in TechRepublic would have made $54,000.
In fact, the TechRepublic reporter, Hope Reese, put down a bet herself on UNU's superfecta and won big. As did many readers, who have been emailing their appreciation to Unanimous A.I.
"Personally, I was speechless," said Louis Rosenberg, CEO of Unanimous. "We've been blown away by how smart UNU has been in prior predictions, but when the horses crossed the line I almost didn't believe it, especially since we put ourselves out there by publishing the picks. And here's the amazing thing -- while the Swarm A.I. got the picks perfect, not a single individual who participated in the swarm got the picks right on their own -- not one."
Rosenberg knows this because the participants also filled out surveys, indicating their individual picks. This allows researchers to compute the amplification of intelligence that the swarm showed vs individuals. Rosenberg calls this the Amplification Intelligence Quotient (AIQ). It's computed as the percent correct made by Swarm Intelligence divided by the percent correct of individuals. In this case, they looked at how well the individuals picked any single horse to finish in the correct order. The Swarm was 100% correct in picking horses to finish in the correct order, while the individuals who comprised the swarm were only 23% correct. This means the AIQ of the swarm showed a 435% amplification of intelligence.
"If we assume the average IQ of an individual participant was 104, which is the global average, we could say that when it came to horse racing UNU demonstrated a 435% amplification over that," Rosenberg explains. "That puts this UNU swarm at an IQ of 452 in this context. We think that's a pretty fun way to look at it."
Researchers at Unanimous also like to compare the power of swarms to the standard polls. Using the survey data from the individuals who participated in the swarm, researchers asked -- what if this group had taken a vote and bet on the horses that were the most popular picks? It turns out that if you take the most frequent picks made by the participants on their own, the group would have collectively gotten only one correct prediction -- the favorite to win, Nyquist.
"Why do swarms outperform polls, surveys, and markets? Millions of years of evolution should give us a clue," says Rosenberg. "The birds and the bees don't vote, or take surveys, or use sequential prediction markets. They form real-time dynamic systems that explore a decision space together, in synchrony, and converge on optimal solutions in unison. Now, with UNU, any human group can login and do that too, and the results are pretty amazing."
For those interested in tapping into a swarm, visit: http://unu.ai.
About Unanimous A.I.
Unanimous A.I. develops technologies for Swarm Intelligence, unlocking the hidden brainpower inherent in groups. Unlike traditional A.I., which aims to replicate human intelligence with technology, Unanimous keeps people in the loop, amplifying human intelligence rather than replacing it. For more information, visit http://unanimous.ai/about-us/.