- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (January 27, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143126334
- ISBN-13: 978-0143126331
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter Reissue Edition
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“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 Pentland calls ‘living laboratories,’ the author has monitored human behavior on an unprecedented scale…Pentland’s research also offers lessons for policymakers and business people. He advances a new way to protect privacy by creating something of a property right for personal information…Social Physics is a fascinating look at a new field by one of its principal geeks.”
“A fascinating view of the future of social networks that offers intriguing possibilities.”
John Abele, Co-Founder, Boston Scientific:
“Understanding, predicting and influencing human behavior has been the goal of social scientists (and leaders anywhere) since the beginning of time. Pentland’s Social Physics is a major contribution to this field. By using communication tracking analysis and occasionally human sensors along with big data, he and his team are evolving a new discipline with a unique taxonomy and ontology that brings a higher level of quantification and rigor to a challenging and inherently complex field. Like Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds it will spawn further work and research in a rapidly expanding new body of knowledge.”
John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corporation and director of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC):
“Read this book and you will look at tomorrow differently. Reality mining is just the first step on an exciting new journey. Social Physics opens up the imagination to what might now be measurable and modifiable. It also hints at what may lie beyond Adam Smith’s invisible hand in helping groups, organizations and societies reach new levels of meaning creation. This is not just social analytics. It also offers pragmatic ways forward.”
Reed E. Hundt, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital:
“From his MIT aerie, eagle-eyed Alex Pentland has seen the future. His wise and stimulating book teaches us how ideas spring up, flow, and spread. Applying his lessons, we can act collectively to solve previously intractable social, economic and political problems. We can make organizations more productive. We can even have government achieve its proper purposes, with greater fairness and less cost. As challenges like widening inequality and runaway climate change seem to exceed our ability to design solutions, Pentland’s data-driven, reality-based, yet sunny optimism about tomorrow should be eagerly welcomed by all readers.”
Stephen M. Kosslyn, Former Dean of Social Science, Harvard University; Former Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University; Founding Dean, Minerva Schools at KGI:
“Sandy Pentland lives in the future—and it shows. This book will not only whisk you up to speed on cutting-edge research at the interface of technology, behavioral science, and the social world, but it will also give you a good sense of what could be next. Professor Pentland brilliantly analyzes how new ideas flow and how, with the emergence of the ‘data-driven society,’ they will increasingly influence every aspect of our lives.”
About the Author
Alex "Sandy" Pentland directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program and co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives. He helped create and direct MIT’s Media Laboratory, the Media Lab Asia laboratories at the Indian Institutes of Technology, and Strong Hospital’s Center for Future Health. His research group and entrepreneurship program have spun off more than thirty companies to date. In 2012 Forbes named Pentland one of the seven most powerful data scientists in the world. His research has been featured in Nature, Science, and Harvard Business Review.
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Top Customer Reviews
So how do we internalize new ideas and turn them into habitual behavior? Through social physics.
Social Physics is the qualitative social science that describes reliable, mathematical connections between information and idea flow on the one hand and people’s behavior on the other. Social physics helps us understand how ideas flow from one person to another through the mechanism of social learning and how this flow of ideas ends up shaping the norms, productibvity, and creative output of companies, cities, and societies.
Mr. Pentland makes a cogent argument that our ability to survive and prosper is due to social learning and social influence at least as much as it is due to individual rationality. His research shows that people’s desires and their decisions about how to act are often, and perhaps typically, dominated by social network effects.
But then the most frustrating part of the book is that there's no need for a new name. The authors address the points raised by other psychologists who study social influence. We are influenced by contact with our peers.
One of the more original concepts is the notion that we're influenced by observing behaviors of others, not just being with them. And being able to observe behavior is more important than the closeness we have to those being observed. That makes sense. As Pentland says, if we see lots of people eating donuts, it's easy to rationalize our own choices of bad food.
For the most part, the book just doesn't offer anything radically new. I chose 4 stars because the authors do introduce some new research techniques. Most likely the regular, non-ARC edition will be more helpful because readers will have access to charts and diagrams.
It would have been good to integrate the math into the main text and perhaps include some explanations for people who don't deal with equations every day. That step would make a contribution to differentiate the book from others on related topics.
The book reads like a plea for a nobel prize, or maybe to drum up some venture capital support. Each chapter focuses on a specific research area of the author. In some cases, the author will also mention related research from other scientists. He then gives an example of how he was able to predict something new using his approach. That is OK, however it would be nice to learn about other research not originating from the author's lab. But in every case, the author then says something along the lines of, "This work was published in the Nature journal, Nature Communications", or something along those lines. This is off-putting and unnecessary - it just sounds like boasting. An example of the predictive power is more interesting to read than where it was published, and highlighting that is is a Nature-branded-journal just sounds shallow. He then follows it up with, my graduate student and I founded a company based on this work called "Millenia Informatics", or something along those lines. Uck. Neither of these last two points would be so off-putting if he ever made similar comments about other peoples successes, but he does not.
I was very annoyed by this format, and it made it difficult for me to engage with the book. However, the examples of how "big data" will change society for the better were mostly interesting, albeit mostly relegated to the author's own research.
I was drawn to this book because I believe that better social theory demands better and more varied data for testing. But this book presents no social theory and tests nothing. It just is creative data mining. Boring to me.
I was continually assaulted by the author's self-promotion. This book is not for social scientists, but rather for businesses that might hire the author and his coworkers. Boring to me.