Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

MIT’s Alex Pentland on Big Data in The New York Times

April 16th, 2014 / in Uncategorized / by Ann Drobnis

the-new-york-timesIn an article published on The New York Times’ website yesterday, the newspaper’s technology writer Steve Lohr discusses Alex Pentland’s new book, “Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – The Lesson From a New Science.” Pentland is the Director of the MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory which pioneered the idea of a society enabled by Big Data.

One of the key lessons in his book is that there is a lot of data out there, but not all data is equal. Pentland looks at this as a computational social scientist that researches people through sensors.  He began this type of research long before people carried their own sensors as they do today, in their cellphones.

“We understood what cellphones meant,” Mr. Pentland said. “Everyone was going to run around with sensors on them.”

That has led to a flood of information, a kind of big data. And in recent years, Mr. Pentland has been identified with concepts — and terms he has coined — related to the collection and interpretation of all that data, like “honest signals” and “reality mining.” His descriptive phrases are intended to make his point that not all data in the big data world is equal.

Reality mining, for example, examines the data about what people are actually doing rather than what they are looking for or saying. Tracking a person’s movements during the day via smartphone GPS signals and credit-card transactions, he argues, are far more significant than a person’s web-browsing habits or social media comments.

As computing becomes more ubiquitous, we are becoming a Smarter World.  The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are sponsoring a series of workshops titled Computing Visions 2025, intending to inspire the community to envision future trends and opportunities in computing research.  One of the workshops being planned is titled Computing and the Smart World.  Pentland’s work will inform this workshop and future visions in this area.

MIT’s Alex Pentland on Big Data in The New York Times