Innovation

Clinton will beat Trump in innovation and technology at first debate, says TechRepublic's swarm AI

TechRepublic and Unanimous A.I. conducted a real-time 'swarm' to prognosticate what will happen at the first US presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. See the results.

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Image: iStockphoto/creisinger, Getty Images


In what is expected to be the most widely-viewed political event in recent history, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will meet on stage on Monday night for the first presidential debate.

The debate, moderated by NBC News' Lester Holt, is the first of three, organized by the bipartisan Commision on Presidential Debates, and will be held at Hofstra University in New York. While the exact questions Holt will ask are not public, he has announced his intention to touch on the topics of "America's direction," "achieving prosperity," and "securing America."

SEE: Clinton v. Trump: Where they stand on 7 top tech issues

So how will the candidates fare during the face-off? Well, you can look to the media, polls, or your co-workers for some opinions.

Or, you can turn to artificial intelligence.

TechRepublic is using a tool called swarm AI—which gathers groups of people online to make real-time predictions—to gauge which candidate will be stronger on issues like the economy and technology. The software platform that harnesses swarm AI, called UNU, is developed by Unanimous A.I.

How does it work? The group of participants gather at their individual computers and are faced with a question—for example, who will win the male lead at the Oscars?—and, in real-time, they "pull" a magnetic puck toward an answer, arriving at a group decision. It's kind of like a digital Ouiji board. And the method has proven incredibly successful, often outperforming polls and experts. When TechRepublic asked Unanimous A.I. to predict the 2016 Kentucky Derby superfecta (top four horses, in order), the swarm nailed it—beating the odds, 540-1.

Using the UNU platform, we conducted a swarm before the US political conventions in July to assess attitudes about the two candidates (full results here). We asked questions like "How will unemployment change in a Clinton presidency?" and the swarm could choose between "increase a lot," "increase a little," "decrease a lot," "decrease a little," and "no change."

SEE: TechRepublic will use 'swarm AI' to make predictions about the 2016 US presidential election (TechRepublic)

A couple of major takeaways? Unemployment will increase in a Trump presidency but will not change in a Clinton presidency. Innovation will not substantially change in either a Clinton or Trump presidency.

On Friday, TechRepublic and Unanimous A.I. teamed up to hold the second swarm, days before the first presidential debate. The swarm was faced with a series of questions and could answer in the following ways: "Clinton, a lot," "Clinton, a little," "Trump, a lot," "Trump, a little," or "Even." The format allows them to not only address a preference, but also the strength of the preference, which has proven valuable in previous swarms.

Here are our questions, and answers from the swarm:

  • Which candidate will have a stronger answer on economic issues like creating jobs? Clinton, a lot
  • Which candidate will have a better answer about reducing unemployment? Clinton, a lot
  • Which candidate will be stronger on helping small businesses? Even
  • Which candidate will be more innovative, when it comes to using technology in government? Clinton, a lot
  • Which candidate will work better with Silicon Valley and tech companies? Clinton, a lot
  • Which candidate will get more positive attention on social media during the debate? Clinton, a lot
  • Which candidate will get more negative attention on social media during the debate? Trump, a lot
  • Who will win the debate? Clinton, a lot
  • If the election were held today, who be most likely to win? Clinton, a little

Want to see how the swarms worked? Check out a couple of the real-time swarms, below:

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Image: Unanimous A.I.
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Image: Unanimous A.I.

Our major takeaways? Clinton will be stronger on questions about the economy, better on innovation, and will get more positive social media attention. Compared with our earlier swarm, which said Clinton would not have an impact on unemployment, this swarm thinks that she will have a better answer for reducing unemployment by "a lot." And although she is expected to win the debate by "a lot," she is only predicted to win a general election by "a little."

The swarm consisted of 55 people of voting age. Fifty-one percent were male and 49% were female. The group skewed young: 18-25 year-olds composed 6%; 26-35 were 58%; 26-45 were 20%; 46-55 were 9%; 56-65 were 7%. In terms of political affiliation, the swarm was 18% Republican; 44% Democrat; 35% Independent; 4% Other.

SEE: Clinton and Trump VP picks predicted by TechRepublic's first 'swarm AI' on 2016 election (TechRepublic)

Although a larger portion of the group was young and left-leaning, it's not too far off from the general voting population: According to Pew Research, the voting public is 48% Democrat, 39% Republican, and 13% Independent.

It was also a similar demographic mix to the previous swarm, with a larger portion of Independents participating. This is an important point, since Independents may play a critical role in the election. According to David Baltaxe, chief information officer at Unanimous A.I., the swarm was interesting in that "it appears the Independents may be swinging back to Clinton."

This was the second of three swarms. TechRepublic will also conduct a final swarm after the debates.

Have your own questions you'd like the swarm to answer after the debates? Let us know in the comments below. And use #ElectionSwarm to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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