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Extended Audio Sample Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread-The Lessons from a New Science, by Alex Pentland Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Alex Pentland Narrator: Robert Petkoff Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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.”

    Economist

  • “A book on the Big Data Revolution could hardly be timelier. Whether you are a NSA researcher, a student googling for homework answers, or a warehouse manager trying to make sense of traffic patterns, searching for connections in an ocean of data is what we do. Data scientist Alex Pentland notes that we humans now display ourselves more revealingly by our online behavior than by the squibs we leave on Facebook. His Social Physics shows how we can use this information in ways that benefit us all in dealing with situations ranging from creating social incentives to coping with the problems associated with climate change. Bright ideas from MIT’s ‘Big Data guy.’”

    Barnes&Noble.com, editorial review

  • “Auguste Comte’s dream of creating a ‘social physics’ is given a twenty-first-century revival in Pentland’s latest…There is an enchantingly wonky appeal to Pentland’s ideas…His overarching goal—to get us all to think beyond ‘markets’ and ‘classes’ and adopt a community-centric view of society—deserves attention, along with his privacy and data-ownership plan.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A fascinating view of the future of social networks that offers intriguing possibilities but also the potential of a dystopia greater than that portrayed by George Orwell in 1984.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “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 Abele, co-founder, Boston Scientific

  • “Narrator Robert Petkoff’s flawless performance captures the essence of every phrase and idea of the author’s ‘new science’—made possible by the easy tracking of phone and social media communication. Pentland upends the cherished belief that we individually control what we believe and do. According to his meticulous research, groupthink and social pressure, especially when we’re interacting positively with familiar people, are much more powerful. With relaxed and confident vocal clarity, Petkoff is exceptional at dialing up the intensity of important ideas or conclusions. Listeners get game-changing insights on the power of collective intelligence to address societal challenges like improving health habits, reducing violence, changing consumer habits, and influencing political direction. Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
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