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"Person" prediction
Unanimous AI’s online jury uses graphical magnets to pull the focus of their prediction toward the favored choice — in this case, the #MeToo movement. (Unanimous AI Graphic)

Update: It took more than one try, but Unanimous AI’s crowdsourced hive mind was correct when it picked #MeToo as the likeliest prospect for Time’s “Person of the Year.”

Previously: Time magazine is due to announce its “Person of the Year” for 2017 on Wednesday morning, and the latest prediction from a crowdsourced, AI-enhanced hive mind gives the best odds to the #MeToo campaign, which has been calling out sexual harassment among the powerful.

Unanimous AI, based in San Francisco, published its prediction on the same day that Time announced its top-10 shortlist for the annual selection, which is supposed to recognize the person or group with the most influence on the year’s news, for good or ill.

One name that’s not on the shortlist is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who led last month’s Unanimous AI list of prospects. The selection round that resulted in the updated #MeToo prediction was conducted on Dec. 1, when Time still listed 33 candidates (including Putin) as being in the running. That means #MeToo was selected from a much bigger menu than the 10 finalists that Time released on Monday.

Unanimous’ “Swarm AI” system enlisted human subjects and asked them to make repeated rounds of selections from a list of possibilities, using a push-pull graphical interface that works something like a video game. After each round, the software weighed the ranking as well as the strength of opinions, and dropped low scorers from the list.

The technique worked last year to point to Donald Trump as 2016’s Person of the Year (an easy choice, in retrospect). Unanimous AI also aced last year’s Kentucky Derby Superfecta, which turned a $20 bet into a $10,842 payout.

"Person" prospects rated
Unanimous AI’s method produces betting odds for the four most highly rated prospects for Time’s “Person of the Year.” (Unanimous AI Graphic)

Will it work this time? Unanimous AI gives 2-to-1 odds for #MeToo, which means a $51 bet would produce a $102 payout (theoretically speaking, of course). Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and special counsel Robert Mueller round out the top four with significantly slimmer odds.

For what it’s worth, professional oddsmakers such as Ladbrokes and Betfair are going with #MeToo as the favorite as well.

The dark horse in this competition may well be controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He’s the people’s choice in Time’s online reader poll, but appears to be a 20-to-1 shot on betting websites.

Update for 9:30 a.m. PT Dec. 6: In its cover story on the “Person(s) of the Year,” Time said the #MeToo movement is only part of a bigger picture: “These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results.”

“They’re part of a movement that has no formal name,” Time said. “But now they have a voice.”

Time highlighted six runners-up from its shortlist, including the other three folks on Unanimous AI’s top four (Trump, Mueller and Kim Jong Un) as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping, football star and activist Colin Kaepernick and “Wonder Woman” film director Patty Jenkins.

Clarification for 7 p.m. PT Dec. 8: I’ve revised this item to reflect the fact that Unanimous AI came up with its updated #MeToo prediction during an exercise conducted on Dec. 1 with a list of 33 prospects, and published the results on its website on Dec. 4. That’s the same day that Time issued a shortlist of 10 prospects.

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