From one of the world's leading data scientists, a landmark tour of the new science of idea flow, offering revolutionary insights into the mysteries of collective intelligence and social influence
If the Big Data revolution has a presiding genius, it is MIT's Alex 'Sandy' Pentland. Over years of groundbreaking experiments, he 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.
Thanks to the millions of digital bread crumbs people leave behind via smartphones, GPS devices, and the Internet, the amount of new information we have about human activity is truly profound. Until now, sociologists have depended on limited data sets and surveys that tell us how people say they think and behave, rather than what they actually do. As a result, we've been stuck with the same stale social structures-'classes, markets-'and a focus on individual actors, data snapshots, and steady states. Pentland shows that, in fact, humans respond much more powerfully to social incentives that involve rewarding others and strengthening the ties that bind than incentives that involve only their own economic self-interest.
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 leads readers to the edge of the most important revolution in the study of social behavior in a generation, an entirely new way to look at life itself.
After the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011-12, increasing numbers of civilians sought refuge in neighboring countries. By May 2017, Turkey had received over 3 million refugees - the largest refugee population in the world. Some lived in government-run camps near the Syrian border, but many have moved to cities looking for work and better living conditions. They faced problems of integration, income, welfare, employment, health, education, language, social tension, and discrimination. In order to develop sound policies to solve these interlinked problems, a good understanding of refugee dynamics isnecessary.This book summarizes the most important findings of the Data for Refugees (D4R) Challenge, which was a non-profit project initiated to improve the conditions of the Syrian refugees in Turkey by providing a database for the scientific community to enable research on urgent problems concerning refugees. The database, based on anonymized mobile call detail records (CDRs) of phone calls and SMS messages of one million Turk Telekom customers, indicates the broad activity and mobility patterns of refugees and citizens in Turkey for the year 1 January to 31 December 2017. Over 100 teams from around the globe applied to take part in the challenge, and 61 teams were granted access to the data.This book describes the challenge, and presents selected and revised project reports on the five major themes: unemployment, health, education, social integration, and safety, respectively. These are complemented by additional invited chapters describing related projects from international governmental organizations, technological infrastructure, as well as ethical aspects. The last chapter includes policy recommendations, based on the lessons learned.The book will serve as a guideline for creating innovative data-centered collaborations between industry, academia, government, and non-profit humanitarian agencies to deal with complex problems in refugee scenarios. It illustrates the possibilities of big data analytics in coping with refugee crises and humanitarian responses, by showcasing innovative approaches drawing on multiple data sources, information visualization, pattern analysis, and statistical analysis.It will also provide researchers and students working with mobility data with an excellent coverage across data science, economics, sociology, urban computing, education, migration studies, and more.