Matjaz Perc Wins the USERN Prize in 2017 in Social Sciences

11/19/2017 9:45:01 PM

Professor Matjaz Perc Won the USERN Junior Prize in 2017 for Significant Contribution to Social Sciences. The following article is an overview of his past and present scientific achievements earning him the USERN Prize of 2017 

The USERN Prize is an international and independent prize aimed to identify young scientists on the verge of their carrier, those who have contributed to their field with significant scientific projects, human endeavours and exceptional talent, under age of forty. Professor Matjaž Perc who is currently Professor of Physics at the University of Maribor, Slovenia, and director of the Complex Systems Center Maribor took the title for USERN prize 2017 social laureate with "Transitions towards cooperation in human societies". According to Wikipedia Perc has established the Complex Systems Center Maribor we he conducts his research on complex systems which covers evolutionary game theory, agent-based modelling, data analysis, and network science. Abstract of his scientific project that came into view by the USERN board of social science referees reads:

"Cooperation in nature is a challenge to Darwin's theory of evolution, and it is fundamental for the understanding of the main evolutionary transitions that led from single-cell organisms to complex animal and human societies. If only the fittest survive, why should one perform an altruistic act that is costly to perform but benefits another? Why should we care for and contribute to the public good if freeriders can enjoy the same benefits for free? Recent research indicates that a comprehensive answer to these questions requires that we look beyond the individual and focus on the collective behavior that emerges as a result of the interactions among individuals, groups, and societies. Although undoubtedly driven also by culture and cognition, cooperation in human societies is just as well an emergent, collective phenomenon in a complex system. Nonequilibrium statistical physics, in particular the collective behavior of interacting particles near phase transitions, has already been recognized as very valuable for understanding counterintuitive evolutionary outcomes in structured populations. However, unlike pairwise interactions among particles that typically govern solid-state physics systems, interactions among humans often involve group interactions, and they also involve a larger number of possible states even for the most simplified description of reality. An organism is of course never as simple as a particle, and it is therefore not surprising that interactions among the former can give rise to collective behavior that in complexity surpasses everything known in traditional statistical physics. This complexity is amplified by the inevitable interactions among groups and societies, which can give rise to interdependencies that often induce cascading failures and accelerate transitions towards defection. Research on interdependent networks has shown that seemingly irrelevant changes in one network can have catastrophic and very much unexpected consequence in another network. When studying cooperation in human societies, it is therefore important to consider not only the fact that the range of interactions among people is limited and thus best described by networks, but also that these networks change over time and are often interdependent. Further adding to the complexity is the fact that human behavior is coupled to cognition, which is not an issue with particles and can also be neglected for simpler forms of life. Intuition and deliberation, for example, therefore have to be taken into account when attempting to explain human cooperation. Our aim is to merge the most recent advances in the social sciences and methods of nonequilibrium statistical physics and network science for modeling and describing the rise and fall of cooperation in human societies. We wish to develop a predictive, computational theory that will allow us to better understand a rich variety of phenomena that rely on large-scale cooperative efforts. From the mitigation of social crisis and inequality to the preservation of natural resources for next generations, by having a firm theoretical grip on human cooperation we can hope to engineer better social systems and develop more efficient policies for a sustainable, better future."

"I would like to thank the president al students, organizers and the rectors who made the wonderful event. I really enjoyed myself here and very happy and thankful to receive this prize. In my research I try to understand human cooperation. We work together to achieve what we cannot achieve alone and that’s why we are so successful as species, so we are companionate and careful for one another. At the same time many of human society are seriously failing to meet the most basic needs of people who leave in those societies. And we need to learn how to cooperate better with another. I strongly believe it doesn’t need to be this way. So if we can promote cooperation and understand together the future consequences of our decisions if we make strong decisions today we can make this world a better place. I hope my research contribute in a small way and I hope this prize will also a lot to this achievement."

Professor Matjaž Perc in Receiving the 2017 USERN Prize in Social Sciences, November 10th,  Karazin University, Kharkiv, Ukraine 

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