Every four years, Americans turn to the Hawkeye state for the first official insight into who will be the next President. Iowa’s caucus system is based as a “gathering of neighbors” who must find common ground, as opposed to an actual election. This means that building support and consensus around a candidate is crucial to the process.
In this way, the caucus system has many parallels to the new technology called “Swarm Intelligence” where groups of online users answer questions together, converging on answers in synchrony. Of course, online swarming connects users around the globe and is able to achieve answers in seconds, while the Iowa caucuses are local – and sometimes long heated – affairs.
Because of these parallels, researchers used Swarm Intelligence to predict the outcome of the Iowa Caucus. So, late last week, a team at Unanimous A.I. used the UNU platform with a random pool of voters, asking them to predict the winners of the Iowa caucuses as a unified swarm. This is what it looks like when 42 voters answer the questions together:
Every magnet you see is a single person, pulling towards her preferred candidate. And, as you can see, this particular “swarm” was able to build consensus around Donald Trump in seconds. That outcome that would not surprise the outspoken billionaire, but it seemed unlikely even a few weeks ago. Does the Swarm have its finger on the pulse of the Iowa voter? We’ll find out in just a few hours.
The Swarm took slightly longer to make its prediction in the hotly contested Democratic caucus. But considering that the caucuses could go on for hours, twenty seconds to find consensus doesn’t seem so bad.
As you can see, Sanders’ groundswell of support seems to be reflected in the Swarm’s prediction that he will defeat Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Of course, the Iowa caucuses are just average predictors of the eventual winner of the Presidential election. What they do often reveal is which candidates lack the support necessary to continue their campaigns. Traditionally, any candidate who finishes worse than third in Iowa will soon bow out.
To that end, we asked the Swarm to predict which Republican candidate would come in third. With Donald Trump and Ted Cruz widely believed to be the top two candidates on the Republican side, that third ( and perhaps final ) spot in the race takes on added importance.
With the Iowa caucuses just hours away, we’ll soon find out if the Swarm’s predictions come true. In the meantime, if you’d like to take part in future swarms, helping to predict politics, sports, movies, and lots of other topics, just fill out the form below. We will send you an invite to future swarming sessions. It’s fun, free, and totally anonymous…