Should Apple be forced to unlock the iPhone?

The FBI’s demand that Apple unlock the iPhone belonging to the San Bernandino shooters has split the nation. On one hand, the families of the victims have joined the FBI in requesting that the technology giant provide access, for it could reveal potentially valuable information. On the other hand, “backdoor” code could be exploited by the very same groups the FBI is trying to find, not to mention the government itself.

In an open letter explaining Apple’s refusal to comply with the FBI, Apple CEO Cook wrote “While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

But how does the public feel about this complex issue? A poll conducted by Pew Research and reported by TechCrunch revealed that 51% of people believe Apple should unlock the phone, 38% believe they shouldn’t, and 11% don’t know. Donald Trump says Apple should be forced to comply, so does Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban disagree.

For a different perspective, researchers at Unanimous AI used Swarm Intelligence to unravel public sentiment. This video shows 58 Americans thinking together in real-time to answer the question, “Should Apple be forced to unlock the iPhone for the Feds?”

Apple Forced Fed

Each magnet you see is a single person, logged in remotely, pushing and pulling toward their desired answer.  Together, this group forms a real-time “swarm” that can respond with one voice.  Because this is a complicated issue, the researchers from Unanimous posed a scenario to the Swarm, to see if it would affect the group’s belief that Apple should not be forced to unlock the phone.  Here’s how the swarm responded:


Both videos reflect the group’s ability to quickly find consensus in supporting Apple’s refusal to comply with the FBI’s demands, regardless of the value of the information that might be contained on the phone. And because the shifting perspectives of every user is tracked in real-time, the data provides unprecedented insight into how groups arrive at decisions. Thus, although Pew Research and others pollsters show the country split over the FBI / APPLE divide, the results of swarm testing suggest sentiment favors Apple.

Research into Swarm Artificial Intelligence is just starting to take hold in the mainstream press. In the past month, media outlets like Newsweek and Tech Republic have used Swarm AI to model group sentiment on topics like the Oscars and the Super Bowl.  In both instances, swarms were more accurate at predicting the outcomes than individual experts or standard polls.

Want to try swarming?  Researchers at Unanimous A.I. are looking for beta users who want to help make predictions on topics of every kind, from Politics to March Madness to Movie Boxoffice. If you want to join the Beta, please fill out the form below.