We often relate to innovation as if it could be an answer to our questions and needs. But what if innovations are actually the questions? Each advance raises an increasing number of open questions. On one side they unlock a wider range of opportunities, possibly leading to new discoveries (both at a collective and individual level). On the other side, each creative exploit can have a potentially huge impact on humans, at the cultural, societal, and psychological level. The focus of my research is twofold: the study of the exploration of the space of the unknown (in particular the so-called Adjacent Possible) and the assessment of the impact of this exploration on humans. I try to understand exploration behaviours in cultural systems, how creativity can emerge in such processes and the impact of innovations. The aim is to learn how we can use technology to "augment" our exploration and to improve our creativity.
Misinformation threatens our societies, but little is known about how the production of news by unreliable sources relates to supply and demand dynamics. We exploit the burst of news production triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak through an Italian database partially annotated for questionable sources. We compare news supply with news demand, as captured by Google Trends data. We identify the Granger causal relationships between supply and demand for the most searched keywords, quantifying the inertial behaviour of the news supply. Focusing on COVID-19 news, we find that questionable sources are more sensitive than general news production to people’s interests, especially when news supply and demand mismatched. We introduce an index assessing the level of questionable news production solely based on the available volumes of news and searches. We contend that these results can be a powerful asset in informing campaigns against disinformation and providing news outlets and institutions with potentially relevant strategies.
The adverse effects of unsustainable behaviors on human society are leading to an increasingly urgent and critical need to change policies and practices worldwide. This requires that citizens become informed and engaged in participatory governance and measures leading to sustainable futures. Citizens’ understanding of the inherent complexity of sustainable systems is a necessary (though generally not sufficient) ingredient for them to understand controversial public policies and maintain the core principles of democratic societies. In this work, we present a novel, open-ended experiment where individuals had the opportunity to solve model urban sustainability problems in a purposeful game. Participants were challenged to interact with familiar LEGO blocks representing elements in a complex generative urban economic indicators model. Players seeks to find a specific urban configuration satisfying particular sustainability requirements. We show that, despite the intrinsic complexity and non-linearity of the problems, participants’ ability to make counter-intuitive actions helps them find suitable solutions. Moreover, we show that through successive iterations of the experiment, participants can overcome the difficulties linked to non-linearity and increase the probability of finding the correct solution to the problem. We contend that this kind of what-if platforms could have a crucial role in future approaches to sustainable developments goals.
COVID-19, Electricity consumption, Electricity generation, Governmental restrictions, Renewable share, Electricity grid”,
abstract = “When COVID-19 pandemic spread in Europe, governments imposed unprecedented confinement measures with mostly unknown repercussions on contemporary societies. In some cases, a considerable drop in energy consumption was observed, anticipating a scenario of sizable low-cost energy generation, from renewable sources, expected only for years later. In this paper, the impact of governmental restrictions on electrical load, generation and transmission was investigated in 16 European countries. Using the indices provided by the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, precise restriction types were found to correlate with the load drop. Then the European grid was analysed to assess how the load drop was balanced by the change in generation and transmission patterns. The same restriction period from 2020 was compared to previous years, accounting for yearly variability with ad hoc statistical technique. As a result, generation was found to be heavily impacted in most countries with significant load drop. Overall, generation from nuclear, and fossil coal and gas sources was reduced, in favour of renewables and, in some countries, fossil gas. Moreover, intermittent renewables generation increased in most countries without indicating an exceptional amount of curtailments. Finally, the European grid helped balance those changes with an increase in both energy exports and imports, with some net exporting countries becoming net importers, notably Germany, and vice versa. Together, these findings show the far reaching implications of the COVID-19 crisis, and contribute to the understanding and planning of higher renewables share scenarios, which will become more prevalent in the battle against climate change.