AI Predicts TIME’s Person of the Year


Every year since 1927, TIME Magazine has named a “Person of the Year,” a designation that, somewhat controversially, is awarded to the person ( or people ) who has has had the most influence over the news in the last 12 months. That definition means that the award has been bestowed upon a wide-ranging field, from Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin (twice). This year, the list of potential candidates covers an equally broad set of candidates, from tech moguls like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg to world leaders like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Bashar al-Assad. Colin Kaepernick, the Super Bowl quarterback whose decision to kneel during the national anthem likely cost him his job, is on the list, as is special counsel Robert Mueller, the ACLU and even a hashtag campaign – #MeToo – which has removed famous men from power in many industries.

But how to determine which of these important candidates best matches TIME’s definition of the Person of the Year? How do you compare Donald Trump’s influence against the Pope’s? Kim Jong Un against Elon Musk’s? For insight into this fascinating problem, researchers at Unanimous AI turned to their Swarm AI platform to generate insights. Swarm Intelligence evolved to help simple organisms solve complex, multi-variable problems, and applying its principles to human groups allows them to combine their intuition and experience to amplify their intelligence. This Swarm AI technology made headlines in 2016 when it correctly predicted Donald Trump would be TIME’s Person of the Year, despite Narendra Modi being the heavy odds-on favorite at the time.

This year the editors of TIME Magazine produced a list of 33 candidates and while they will make the actual decision, they’ve run a large-scale poll of the public.  So, who does the public think will be Person of the year?  As of the closing of the massive poll,  Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is the strong favorite, having captured more than four times the votes of the next nearest candidate.  Of course, if we learned anything from the 2016 election, it’s that large-scale polls do not always give accurate forecasts.  Is there a better way?

Researchers at Unanimous used Swarm AI technology to amplify the knowledge, wisdom, insights, and intuition of randomly selected members of the public, asking them not to vote on their favorite but to converge together upon their top five predictions.  These were the top four surfaced by the swarm from the 33 options provided by TIME:

Of course, this does not mean that the Swarm AI system views #MeToo as a sure thing.  Much the opposite, with 33 candidates to choose from, the Swarm AI technology generated a forecast of probabilities, each with varying degrees of uncertainty.  To help qualify these uncertainties, researchers at Unanimous asked the Swarm AI system to evaluate how it might bet upon these five option, using a theoretical gambling wagers.  The swarm considered the uncertainty in each option, along with the current vegas payouts for each, and produced the allocation above.

How did the swarm identify its pick to win TIME’s Person of the Year? Researchers employed the same methodology that was famously used to predict the Kentucky Derby Superfecta and to offer Jeff Bezos guidance for what to do with his fortune for Fast Company. That process winnows the large field down in an iterative process that identifies the least likely person to win in every round. Every magnet you see below represents a randomly selected individual logged in from somewhere around the US, together converging on an answer that best represents the collective intelligence of the group.

Over a series of questions, this methodology allows the swarm to pare the candidates down to three final contenders, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and the #MeToo campaign for awareness of sexual harassment and assault. While there have been no shortage of headlines for these three candidates, it’s worth noting that the current favorite according to the prediction markets is the new French president, Emmanuel Macron who was recently the subject of a TIME cover story: “Macron is France’s New Boy Wonder. and yet Macron is nowhere to be seen on the swarm’s ranked list.

Here is the final question that converged upon a single “most probable” answer:


So, what does this mean for this years TIME Person of the Year?  Simply put, the most likely outcome according to the swarm is the #MeToo campaign, but with 33 possible options the probability is only around 50%.  After that, your best bets are Trump, Kim Jong-un, and Robert Mueller.  Or, you can listen to the large-scale poll conducted by Time Magazine.  If so, you will come up with very different picks, led by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Where am I putting my money?  With the Swarm AI, and #metoo.

Want to learn more about our Swarm AI technology? Check out our TED talk below…


Every week Unanimous A. I. brings together swarms of regular people just like you to help us predict sporting events, investment opportunities, and technology as well as provide insight into everything from pop culture to politics. If you’d like information on joining a swarm – or just want to stay up to date on the latest predictions – click the button below.

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