Sign In

Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Mit's Alex Pentland: Measuring Idea Flows to Accelerate Innovation

View as: Print Mobile App Share:
M.I.T. computational social scientist Alex Pentland.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology computational social scientist Alex Pentland has focused his research recently on social physics.

Credit: Sam Ogden

Massachusetts Institute of Technology computational social scientist Alex Pentland's research has lately focused on social physics, which is the ability to employ new technologies to collect data and quantify communication and transactions on an unprecedented scale to acquire knowledge about the flow of ideas, which can be applied to expedite innovation.

Pentland says the optimal decision-making environment is characterized by high levels of engagement and exploration. The former measure describes how frequently group members communicate with each other and share social knowledge, while the latter is a measure of looking for new ideas and new people. Pentland stresses there needs to be an ideal or golden mean between the two measures. He points to evidence from various experiments as proof his social physics theory is supportable, arguing that new data and measurement tools facilitate a "God's eye view" of human activity that can be used to potentially engineer better decisions in a "data-driven society." Pentland also acknowledges the risks this entails, which can include creating a surveillance society. He says big data could potentially yield considerable benefits in numerous fields, provided privacy is safeguarded, trust is established, and data is allowed to flow.

From The New York Times
View Full Article


Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


No entries found