Sunday, November 30, 2014

Social Physics and the New Deal onData

Sandy Pentland (from Wikipedia)
I realise I haven't blogged about Sandy Pentland's brilliant book Social Physics which I finished some time ago. I really regret not having read it earlier and find it hard to recommend too strongly.

The basic point (as I see it) is that we can now understand in much more detail how people behave and how ideas spread, through large-scale instrumentation of people via sociometric badges or mobile phones. This has tremendous possibilities in terms of health, wealth and environmental impact. But - and this is very important - it also requires a New Deal on Data so that people know what data is being collected about them, are legally owners of their data, and can give explicit permission on how it is used.  There is an excellent interview with Sandy about this in the HBR and a prescient article Sandy wrote for the World Economic Forum on this in 2008.  An update from Davos in 2013 is here and there is also something called The Windhover Principles for Digital Identity, Trust and Data which are backed by Sandy's co-founded organisation ID3 (the Institute for Data Driven Design).  These are named after a place called Windhover Farm in New Hampshire.

I don't have time alas to quote all or even most of the 'gems' from the book but if you are interested in what will drive advanced economic development you should read this book. It's not minerals, oil, land or capital, but the shared development of ideas.


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