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Dirk Helbing

Dirk Helbing
ETH Zurich | ETH Zürich · Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences

PhD, Physics

About

718
Publications
353,827
Reads
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56,046
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 2015 - present
ETH Zurich
Position
  • Professor (Full)
January 2009 - December 2012
Santa Fe Institute
Position
  • External Faculty Member
January 2007 - December 2014
ETH Zurich
Position
  • Full (Ordinary) Professor
Education
January 1990 - January 1992
Universität Stuttgart
Field of study
  • Physics (Interactive Social Behaviour)
October 1986 - October 1990

Publications

Publications (718)
Preprint
Full-text available
After Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the subject of Digital Twins has emerged as another promising technology, advocated, built, and sold by various IT companies. The approach aims to produce highly realistic models of real systems. In the case of dynamically changing systems, such digital twins would have a life, i.e. they would change...
Preprint
Full-text available
This preprint summarises some of the threats of dual and primary uses of digital technology and calls for a new paradigm for the digital society of the future.
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the human factors governing effective information exchange is increasingly indispensable for the design of day to day human-computer systems. Moreover, effective information exchange becomes a matter of life or death during emergency egress. The complexity of an unknown environment and the unpredictable locations of hazards often prev...
Preprint
Full-text available
Algorithms can endanger freedom and manipulate people. The discussion about this must not be suppressed. The original German version of this article was published by the journal "schweizer monat" in May 2022: https://schweizermonat.ch/der-mensch-wird-zum-datenpunkt/
Presentation
Full-text available
This TEDx talk addresses the future of surveillance. The combined use of nano, digital, AI, and quantum technologies might lead society to a whole new level of surveillance. This would not only leave our privacy behind…
Article
Full-text available
In the context of urbanization and a growing population, cities and citizens are becoming more exposed and vulnerable to social and environmental changes, ranging from natural disasters like earthquakes and floods to uncertainties caused by issues related to climate change and complex social dynamics or even pandemics. There have been many debates...
Book
Full-text available
A science f@ction novel about what technology could do to us in the not so far future - or is it already happening?
Article
Full-text available
The practice of participatory sensing for environment monitoring has rapidly evolved over the years. There has been a steady growth of citizen-based air quality monitoring projects that aim to build partnerships, knowledge-sharing platforms, awareness, and ultimately resilience to issues related to air quality. Whilst citizen science has reshaped a...
Preprint
This is a science fiction that was inspired by scientific facts. It was written to make you think about the possible digital society of the future, if we don't make a better one...
Preprint
Full-text available
After Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the subject of Digital Twins has emerged as another promising technology, advocated, built, and sold by various IT companies. The approach aims to produce highly realistic models of real systems. In the case of dynamically changing systems, such digital twins would have a life, i.e. they would change...
Preprint
Full-text available
In a non-sustainable, "over-populated" world, what might the use of nanotechnology-based targeted, autonomous weapons mean for the future of humanity? In order to gain some insights, we make a simplified game-theoretical thought experiment. We consider a population where agents play the public goods game, and where in parallel an epidemic unfolds....
Article
Epidemic models often reflect characteristic features of infectious spreading processes by coupled nonlinear differential equations considering different states of health (such as susceptible, infectious or recovered). This compartmental modelling approach, however, delivers an incomplete picture of the dynamics of epidemics, as it neglects stochas...
Article
Full-text available
In the event of fires and other hazards, visual guidance systems that support evacuation are critical for the safety of individuals. Current visual guidances for evacuations are typically non-adaptive signs in that they always indicate the same exit route independently of the hazard’s location. Adaptive signage systems can facilitate wayfinding dur...
Article
Full-text available
Health data bear great promises for a healthier and happier life, but they also make us vulnerable. Making use of millions or billions of data points, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are now creating new benefits. For sure, harvesting Big Data can have great potentials for the health system, too. It can support accurate diagn...
Article
Full-text available
The rapid dynamics of COVID-19 calls for quick and effective tracking of virus transmission chains and early detection of outbreaks, especially in the “phase 2” of the pandemic, when lockdown and other restriction measures are progressively withdrawn, in order to avoid or minimize contagion resurgence. For this purpose, contact-tracing apps are bei...
Article
Full-text available
The digital revolution has brought about many societal changes such as the creation of “smart cities”. The smart city concept has changed the urban ecosystem by embedding digital technologies in the city fabric to enhance the quality of life of its inhabitants. However, it has also led to some pressing issues and challenges related to data, privacy...
Article
Full-text available
Visibility is the degree to which different parts of the environment can be observed from a given vantage point. In the absence of previous familiarity or signage, the visibility of key elements in a multilevel environment (e.g., the entrance, exit, or the destination itself) becomes a primary input to make wayfinding decisions and avoid getting lo...
Preprint
Full-text available
City planners and urban policy makers require simulation models to understand, predict, design and manage urban areas so that cities can become more sustainable, equitable and efficient. Recently, the idea that one might build 'digital twins' of cities has captured the imagination of many scientists, engineers and policy makers. To unleash the full...
Preprint
Full-text available
City planners and urban policy makers require simulation models to understand, predict, design and manage urban areas so that cities can become more sustainable, equitable and efficient. Recently, the idea that one might build 'digital twins' of cities has captured the imagination of many scientists, engineers and policy makers. To unleash the full...
Preprint
Full-text available
Health data bear great promises for a healthier and happier life, but they also make us vulnerable. Making use of millions or billions of data points, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are now creating new benefits. For sure, harvesting Big Data can have great potentials for the health system, too. It can support accurate diagn...
Article
Full-text available
The current global systemic crisis reveals how globalised societies are unprepared to face a pandemic. Beyond the dramatic loss of human life, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered widespread disturbances in health, social, economic, environmental and governance systems in many countries across the world. Resilience describes the capacities of natura...
Preprint
Full-text available
Big Data and AI are being used to improve security and the state of health, nature, and the world. But they can also be used for bad, as shown by this preprint (actually it's just a note).
Conference Paper
This paper discusses digital and/or participatory elements that could be used in decision-making processes, such as a participatory budgeting process. It contributes to the discussion about innovations in democracy. Placing humans at the center of governance, we argue that innovative elements should be evaluated by addressing the topic from the per...
Preprint
Cryptoeconomic systems derive their power but can not be controlled by the underlying software systems and the rules they enshrine. This adds a level of complexity to the software design process. At the same time, such systems, when designed with human values in mind, offer new approaches to tackle sustainability challenges, that are plagued by com...
Article
BACKGROUND . The increasing availability of digital data on scholarly inputs and outputs – from research funding, productivity, and collaboration to paper citations and scientist mobility – offers unprecedented opportunities to explore the structure and evolution of science. The science of science (SciSci) offers a quantitative understanding of the...
Preprint
Full-text available
Epidemic models often reflect characteristic features of infectious spreading processes by coupled non-linear differential equations considering different states of health (such as Susceptible, Infected, or Recovered). This compartmental modeling approach, however, delivers an incomplete picture of the dynamics of epidemics, as it neglects stochast...
Chapter
Full-text available
Individual choices, if not sufficiently well coordinated, can lead to bad outcomes, such as systemic instabilities or failures, or “tragedies of the commons.” It is, therefore, proposed to use digital assistants to support favorable interactions and avoid undesirable ones. The invention discussed here describes ways to perform these tasks in a dece...
Chapter
Full-text available
A multidimensional financial system could provide benefits for individuals, companies, and states. Instead of top-down control, which is destined to eventually fail in a hyperconnected world, a bottom-up creation of value can unleash creative potential and drive innovations. Multiple currency dimensions can represent different externalities and thu...
Chapter
Full-text available
Over millennia, people have seen the financial system collapse again and again. It is, therefore, time to re-invent money and the financial system altogether in order to make them fit for the complex world of today. Here, it is described how the idea for a new socio-ecological finance system came about. Three main innovations are proposed: (1) a pa...
Chapter
Full-text available
This contribution develops the framework of a novel, socio-ecological finance system that enables the incentivization of environmentally friendly behavior, socially responsible production, resource recycling, sharing and more. We call this system Finance 4.0—where Finance 1.0 refers to a physical coin-based system, Finance 2.0 to a fiat currency sy...
Article
Full-text available
Participatory resilience of disaster-struck communities requires reliable communication for self-organized rescue, as conventional communication infrastructure is damaged. Disasters often lead to blackouts preventing citizens from charging their phones, leading to disparity in battery charges and a digital divide in communication opportunities. We...
Research
Full-text available
This policy brief aims to promote a holistic mindset about the COVID-19 pandemic by 1) applying a complexity lens to understand its drivers, nature, and impact, 2) proposing actions to build resilient societies to pandemics, and 3) deriving principles to govern complex systemic crises. Building resilience to prevent, react to, and recover from syst...
Chapter
Full-text available
We have had so much hopes in the positive potentials of the digital revolution, and the biggest threat most people can imagine is an Internet outage or a hacking attack. However, it appears that Social Media, once seen as an opportunity for fairer, participatory society, have (been) turned into promoters of fake news and hate speech. It also turns...
Preprint
Full-text available
This study investigates various methods for autonomous traffic signal control. We look into different types of control methods, including fixed time, adaptive, analytic, and reinforcement learning approaches. Machine learning approaches are compared with an "analytic" approach, which serves as "gold standard" for performance assessment. We find tha...
Chapter
The end is near… We have arrived at the end of the book, and it is time to summarize our findings and to wrap up. The great potentials of the digital revolution cannot be denied. However, we need to think twice how to use this technology, so it will be at our service and not endanger what humanity has built over centuries. The lessons of wars and r...
Chapter
The invention of the steam engine turned the agricultural society—the “Economy 1.0”—into an industrial society—the “Economy 2.0”. Later, the spread of education enabled the service society—the “Economy 3.0”. Nowadays, the pervasiveness of digital technologies is driving another technological revolution, which is creating the “Economy 4.0”, which I...
Chapter
Smartphones, tablets and app stores with almost unlimited possibilities have become symbols of the digital revolution. However, while these innovations make our lives more comfortable and interesting, they herald a much more fundamental transformation. Advances in digital technology now affect the way we learn, decide, and interact. By harnessing “...
Chapter
The digital revolution produces more data, more speed, more connectivity, and more complexity. Besides creating new opportunities, how will this change our economy and our societies? Will it make our increasingly interdependent systems easier to control? Or are we heading towards a systemic collapse? In order to figure out what needs to be done to...
Chapter
We are faced with the growing complexity and diversity of an increasingly interdependent world. But Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, while potentially powerful and useful, are not a panacea for our problems. The idea of super-governments or multi-national companies running the world like a perfect clockwork is doomed to fail. Therefore, we mus...
Chapter
The technological forces unleashed by the “digital revolution” will fundamentally transform our economy and society within a very short time. We need to prepare ourselves for this transformation and the new era to come. In fact, we may just have 20 or 30 years to adapt. Even though we may dislike such socio-economic change, we will probably not be...
Chapter
Complex systems can behave in unpredictable ways and cause a lot of trouble. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Their behavior depends on the interactions between the system components, the strength of these interactions, and the institutional settings. Consequently, for a complex system to work well, it is important to understand the factors tha...
Chapter
Is democracy outdated, is it broken? Many people feel the current political system will not work much longer. Suddenly, we are faced with unsustainability, mass migration, terror, climate emergency, a financial system at the verge of collapse, and “Corona emergency”. Some have suggested it is time for a data-driven digital state, and China would le...
Chapter
We often celebrate the introduction of laws and regulations as historic milestones of our society. But over-regulation has become unaffordable, and better approaches are needed. Self-organization is the solution. As I will demonstrate, it is the basis of social order, even though it builds upon simple social mechanisms. These mechanisms have evolve...
Chapter
Almost every activity in the world now leaves numerous digital traces. What if a “wise king” or “benevolent dictator” had real-time access to all the data in the world? Could he take perfect decisions to benefit society? Could he predict the future? Could he control the world’s path? What would be the limits and side effects of such an approach? Or...
Chapter
Having studied the technological and social forces shaping our societies, we now turn to the evolutionary forces. Among the millions of species on earth, humans are truly unique. What is the recipe for our success? What makes us special? How do we make decisions? How will we evolve? I argue that the particular combination of social abilities, diver...
Chapter
Full-text available
Democracy and capitalism have been struggling with each other for some time. Wouldn’t it be possible to invent a new, digitally upgraded kind of capitalism that is aligned with the values and foundations of democracies? How would such a capitalism look like? What would be its elements? In this connection, I will discuss the monetary, financial, and...
Chapter
Full-text available
Is democracy outdated, is it broken? Many people feel the current political system will not work much longer. Suddenly, we are faced with unsustainability, mass migration, terror, climate emergency, a financial system at the verge of collapse, and “Corona emergency”. Some have suggested it is time for a data-driven digital state, and China would le...
Chapter
Full-text available
The great potentials of the digital revolution cannot be denied. However, we need to think twice how to use this technology, so it will be at our service and not endanger what humanity has built over centuries. The lessons of wars and revolutions should not be forgotten. We need technology that empowers people, while helping us to coordinate our ac...
Preprint
Full-text available
The digital revolution is reinventing business models, reshaping economic sectors, and changing entire societal institutions. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, profiling and targeting, and several other technological developments are now fundamentally changing the ways economies work. This contribution discusses opportunities and threats of the...
Article
Full-text available
In a so-called overpopulated world, sustainable consumption is of existential importance. However, the expanding spectrum of product choices and their production complexity challenge consumers to make informed and value-sensitive decisions. Recent approaches based on (personalized) psychological manipulation are often intransparent, potentially pri...
Preprint
Full-text available
The current COVID-19 pandemic potentially threatens the foundation of societies worldwide. Con-temporary globalisation has brought many benefits but has also increased the risk that hazards arising in one part of the global system will more readily spread to other parts. Societal resilience to COVID-19 refers to the effectiveness of the public heal...
Book
"Digital transformation" sounds harmless, given that the explosion in data volumes, processing power and Artificial Intelligence has driven humanity and the entire world to a point of no return. We will surely see a new civilization, but we are at a crossroads. The future needs to be re-invented, decisions must be taken. After the automation of fa...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract In this paper, we take a novel approach to study the empirical relationship between public debate in the media and asylum acceptance rates in Europe from 2002–2016. In theory, an asylum seeker should experience the same likelihood of being granted refugee status from each of the 20 European countries we study. Yet, in practice, acceptance...
Article
Proponents of digital identification see the COVID-19 pandemic as a once-in-a-century opportunity, with a potential “jackpot market” of nearly eight billion people. In these dangerous times, using digital IDs to help control the spread of the virus and eventually to manage the distribution of a vaccine is often deemed appropriate and necessary. Thi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Communication is crucial when disasters isolate communities of people and rescue is delayed. Such delays force citizens to be first responders and form small rescue teams. Rescue teams require reliable communication, particularly in the first 72 hours, which is challenging due to damaged infrastructure and electrical blackouts. We design a peer-to-...
Article
Full-text available
Dense crowds in public spaces have often caused serious security issues at large events. In this paper, we study the 2010 Love Parade disaster, for which a large amount of data (e.g. research papers, professional reports and video footage) exist. We reproduce the Love Parade disaster in a three-dimensional computer simulation calibrated with data f...
Article
Full-text available
Communication is crucial when disasters isolate communities of people and traditional rescue is delayed. Such delays force citizens to be first responders and form small rescue teams. Rescue teams require reliable communication, particularly in the first 72 hours, which is challenging due to damaged infrastructure and electrical blackouts. We desig...
Preprint
In a so-called overpopulated world, sustainable consumption is of existential importance. The expanding spectrum of product choices and their production complexity challenge consumers to make informed and value-sensitive decisions. Recent approaches based on (personalized) psychological manipulation are often intransparent, potentially privacy-inva...
Preprint
Full-text available
The rapid dynamics of COVID-19 calls for quick and effective tracking of virus transmission chains and early detection of outbreaks, especially in the phase 2 of the pandemic, when lockdown and other restriction measures are progressively withdrawn, in order to avoid or minimize contagion resurgence. For this purpose, contact-tracing apps are being...
Article
The rapid dynamics of COVID-19 calls for quick and effective tracking of virus transmission chains and early detection of outbreaks, especially in the “phase 2” of the pandemic, when lockdown and other restriction measures are progressively withdrawn, in order to avoid or minimize contagion resurgence. For this purpose, contact-tracing apps are bei...
Article
Dieser Gastbeitrag setzt sich mit ethischen Herausforderungen der Digitalisierung auseinander. Er wurde bereits vor der Corona-Krise verfasst, spricht aber Fragen an, die angesichts der dramatischen Ereignisse dieser Tage zu grossen Diskussionen Anlass geben.
Article
Full-text available
The interaction between phenotypic plasticity, e.g. learning, and evolution is an important topic both in Evolutionary Biology and Machine Learning. The evolution of learning is commonly studied in Evolutionary Biology, while the use of an evolutionary process to improve learning is of interest to the field of Machine Learning. This paper takes a d...
Conference Paper
The ability to track and monitor relevant and important news in real-time is of crucial interest in multiple industrial sectors. In this work, we focus on cryptocurrency news, which recently became of emerging interest to the general and financial audience. In order to track popular news in real-time, we (i) match news from the web with tweets from...
Preprint
The ability to track and monitor relevant and important news in real-time is of crucial interest in multiple industrial sectors. In this work, we focus on the set of cryptocurrency news, which recently became of emerging interest to the general and financial audience. In order to track relevant news in real-time, we (i) match news from the web with...
Article
Full-text available
China's New Silk Road (aka Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)) will invest a 1 trillion USD budget across Asia, Africa and Europe. As BRI wants to contribute also to sustainable development, the authors argue that only open digital participation of all citizens, corporations and governments and the collective intelligence, collaborative innovation and...
Chapter
The political utopias facilitated by the Internet and social media have faded. However, the true digital revolution is yet to come—one that combines prosperity, sustainability and peace.
Chapter
The world is running into great trouble. The Anthropocene challenges (including climate change, impending resource shortages, demographic change, conflict, financial and economic crises) call for entirely new answers. As a result, we are now seeing the emergence of data-driven societies around the globe. Feudalism 2.0, fascism 2.0, communism 2.0, s...
Chapter
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help us in many ways. Particularly when combined with robotics, AI can make our everyday life more comfortable (e.g. clean our home). It can perform hard, dangerous and boring work for us. It can help us to save lives and cope with disasters more successfully. It can support patients and elderly people. It can suppo...
Chapter
Can we still stop a world of technological totalitarianism?
Chapter
With big data, we can multiply our options and filter out things we don’t want to see. But there is much to be said for making discoveries through pure serendipity: contingency and randomness often furnish the transformational or counterintuitive ideas that propel humanity forward.
Chapter
Digital technology has reached a supremacy and momentum hardly comparable with previous inventions. Even earlier game changers in the history of man such as the industrialization appear less impactful compared to the digital revolution. Both, utopian and dystopian futures appear possible. Therefore, rather than using big data and artificial intelli...
Chapter
Our innovation system has terribly failed. It is well designed to support gradual improvements of our knowledge and technologies. But it does not support disruptive innovations well, which would create new qualities and functionalities, or question the basis of our established knowledge and routines. Moreover, our knowledge does not keep up anymore...
Chapter
In a world, where Artificial Intelligence systems will decide about increasingly many issues, including life and death, how should autonomous systems faced with ethical dilemmas decide, and what is required from humans?
Chapter
Is it mere alarmism to talk about global emergency? Or do we really have reasons to be alarmed?
Chapter
Full-text available
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another.
Chapter
In the wake of the on-going digital revolution, we will see a dramatic transformation of our economy and most of our societal institutions. While the benefits of this transformation can be massive, there are also tremendous risks to our society. After the automation of many production processes and the creation of self-driving vehicles, the automat...
Chapter
Recently, we have heard many complaints about how democracy works these days—or maybe rather why it doesn’t work. In a recent Huffington post article, Dhruva Jaishankar, a Fellow at the Brookings Institution in India, claimed that digital democracy is the evil that makes our world ungovernable. We argue that Iaishankar defines digital democracy in...
Chapter
How can we protect companies and people from violence and exploitation? How can we open up information systems for everyone without promoting an explosion of malicious activities such as cyber-crime? And how can we support the compliance with rule sets on which self-regulating systems are built?
Chapter
In our daily lives, we may face three kinds of situations: win–win, win–lose, or lose–lose. Social Information Technologies can help us make the best out of these. They can filter and integrate information for us in real-time, and make it understandable for us, thereby turning raw data into useful information and actionable knowledge. A Social Mirr...