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Artificial Intelligence Takes on the Experts At March Madness

Researchers use Swarm A.I. technology to predict the first repeat champion in a decade

March Madness has arrived and you know what to expect: streaming video ratings will soar, office productivity will plummet, and you’ll be drowning in expert predictions for the next month. But here at Unanimous A.I., we love nothing more than to beat the experts by empowering groups of fans to amplify their intelligence using our Swarm A.I.™ technology, and the results speak for themselves. From the last year’s Kentucky Derby Superfecta to last month’s Oscars, we can turn groups of regular people into super-experts. Just last week, a group of basketball fans turned in a perfect set of 16 picks before Selection Sunday, and now it’s time for the swarm to fill out its March Madness bracket.

So, who would the swarm predict to win it all? To find out, researchers at Unanimous populated a Swarm A.I. system with approximately one hundred NCAA basketball fans from across the internet, all of whom logged into the UNU platform for swarm intelligence and participated in the prediction process. These fans were separated into three distinct swarms, each of which worked as a real-time system, combining their knowledge, wisdom, and intuitions into a unified emergent intelligence. The output from these three intelligent swarms were then aggregated by researchers into a single bracket, as shown in the figure below:

While two Swarm A.I.’s tabbed Villanova to win it all, no one is saying it’s going to be easy. In fact, if the Wildcats are successful, they will become the first repeat champions since Florida in 2005-6 and the predicted rematch would be the first since Cincinnati beat Ohio State in 1961 and 1962. So there’s a reason repeat champions are rare: any March Madness draw is a minefield of potential upsets and spoilers, and the Wildcats are no exception.

Here the Swarm A.I. gives Villanova a roughly 1 in 4 chance to cut down the nets again. At the moment, the Wildcats pay 8 to 1 to win it all, despite being the #1 seed overall and carrying a record of 31-3 into the tournament, so there could be some value in Villanova there. In comparison, a more cautious FiveThirtyEight gives Villanova a 15% chance to win it all. But, the Wildcats have a long journey ahead of them. In fact, the most hard-fought battle our researchers saw for any game during the three sessions was Villanova beating Duke just to get out of the East Regional:

Every magnet you see in the replay above represents a single user in a virtual negotiation. This process, which combines real-time input with A.I. algorithms, mimics the remarkable ability that flocks, colonies, and swarms display in nature. Swarm Intelligence evolved to help groups of animals solve complicated problems that no organism could handle individually, so what better challenge could we ask for than March Madness? After all, the odds of getting of a perfect bracket are roughly 1 9.2 quintillion. That’s a lot of zeroes.

While the perfect bracket is out of reach, Unanimous wanted to make sure we could as confident as possible in the swarm’s predictions, so we varied the question methodology slightly for each swarm and then analyzed the results. Let’s look at the matchup between Dayton (7) and Wichita State (10) in the South Regional. All three swarms liked Wichita, but they registered their prediction in slightly different ways. Sometimes the Swarm A.I. was asked simply to name the winner, as in the Duke / Villanova matchup above. But other swarms were asked to label their picks High or Low Confidence, or by likelihood of winning, as you can see below.

Then, our researchers compiled the swarm’s picks into the consolidated bracket above. While no one here expects to score a perfect bracket, the years we’ve spent bringing Swarm A.I. technology to humans ( to say nothing of millennia’s worth of swarm evolution ) give us every reason to be confident.

If swarms of regular people can turn themselves into experts at the Oscars, the Derby, and the Super Bowl, whose to say Swarm A.I. can’t cut down the nets at March Madness?