Monday, May 26, 2014

"A bunch of geniuses can act stupid when put into a group"

Alex `Sandy’ Pentland (Pic : MIT’s Media Lab)

Said : Alex Pentland - one of the world's leading data scientists - in an interview with Spiegel

Aged 62, Pentland heads the Human Dynamics Lab at the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his interview, he explains how data streams can be used to determine the laws of human interaction. According to him, the information can be used to help forge better societies.

When asked : "Professor Pentland, you do research on the intelligence of groups. Can a bunch of geniuses act stupid when put into a group? He replied : "Oh, absolutely. That's how I got started on this. We were setting up a laboratory in India. We had a board of directors, some of them were among the most brilliant people in the world, but as a board, they were completely useless. There was just too much ego in the room. When one person started talking, he wouldn't stop for half an hour, so very few ideas were actually put on the table."

"In his book "Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread - The Lessons from a New Science," he argues that human communication behaviors follow the rules of mathematics. He says that with the aid of a computer, it is possible to monitor people in ways sufficient to detect these rules. The use of Big Data is proving to be just as important to social scientists as the telescope once was for astronomers," Spiegel reported.

Pentland's book is published by the Penguin Press, which in it's introduction observes : "Pentland and his teams have found that they can study patterns of information exchange in a social network without any knowledge of the actual content of the information and predict with stunning accuracy how productive and effective that network is, whether it’s a business or an entire city. We can maximize a group’s collective intelligence to improve performance and use social incentives to create new organizations and guide them through disruptive change in a way that maximizes the good. At every level of interaction, from small groups to large cities, social networks can be tuned to increase exploration and engagement, thus vastly improving idea flow."

"Social Physics will change the way we think about how we learn and how our social groups work—and can be made to work better, at every level of society. Pentland has distilled remarkable discoveries significant enough to become the bedrock of a whole new scientific field: social physics. Humans have more in common with bees than we like to admit: We're social creatures first and foremost. Our most important habits of action—and most basic notions of common sense—are wired into us through our coordination in social groups. Social physics is about idea flow, the way human social networks spread ideas and transform those ideas into behaviors," said the publisher's note. 

"Where do ideas come from? How do they get put into action? How can we create social structures that are productive and creative? If the Big Data revolution has a presiding genius, it is MIT's Alex Pentland, whose research has led to the creation of more than 30 companies. Yet according to his research, innovation doesn't come from a few super-bright people; it comes from idea flow, the way ideas are spread. Thanks to the rise of smartphones, GPS devices, and the internet, the flow of ideas can now be tracked. Sociologists no longer need to rely on surveys or abstract models. With stunning accuracy, social physics allows us to predict - and improve - how effective a network is, whether it's a search-and-rescue operation, a business, or a city," says the book's Australian publisher

In it's book review, The Economist wrote : “Social Physics” is filled with rich findings about what makes people tick. Using millions of data points measured over a long period of time in real settings, which Mr Pentland calls “living laboratories”, the author has monitored human behaviour on an unprecedented scale. Through it, for example, he has discovered that people change how they behave in measurable ways when they fall ill. By tracking mobility and call patterns, researchers were able to tell that someone was coming down with flu before they knew it themselves."…Social Physics is a fascinating look at a new field by one of its principal geeks.”

Pentland's page on MIT's website says : "Alex `Sandy’ Pentland has helped create and direct MIT’s Media Lab, the Media Lab Asia, and the Center for Future Health.  He chairs the World Economic Forum's Data Driven Development council, is Academic Director of the MIT-Harvard-ODI Big Data and People Project, and is a member of the Advisory Boards for Google, Nissan, Telefonica, Monument Capital, and the Minerva Schools. In 2012 Forbes named Sandy one of the 'seven most powerful data scientists in the world’, along with Google founders and the CTO of the United States, and in 2013 he won the McKinsey Award from Harvard Business Review."

The Human Dynamics Lab at the MIT Media Laboratories pioneered the idea of a society enabled by Big Data.   The Lab has developed technologies such as reality mining, which uses mobile phone data to extract patterns that predict future human behavior, a `nervous system’ framework for dramatically more efficient transportation, health, energy, and financial systems, the New Deal on Data policies which are now enshrined in the US Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, and a Trust Network communication architecture that ensures that this new data driven society is secure and fair.  

Watch Alex Pentland speak on "Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread" (Talks at Google) 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments. The publication of the comments are subject to the admin approval.