Advisory Board

Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland

What if you could see yourself as others see you? What if we could have a “gods eye” view of how the people in our workgroup interact? Or “see” everyone in our town? Or even our entire country? Now you can, by using the reality mining technology Sandy and his colleagues have developed over the last decade.
Every time you use your cell phone, you leave behind a few bits of information. The phone pings the nearest cell-phone towers, revealing its location. Your service provider records the duration of your call and the number dialed. And the newest smart phones can collect even more information about their users, recording everything from their physical activity to their conversational cadences.
People are — rightfully — nervous about trailing these sorts of digital bread crumbs behind them. But the same information could help solve identity theft and fraud by automatically determining security settings. More significantly, cell-phone data can shed light on workplace dynamics and on the well-being of communities. It could even help project the course of disease outbreaks and provide clues about individuals’ health. The key to harnessing the power of reality mining technology is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These biologically based “honest signaling” mechanisms, including a person’s activity level, how the timing of their actions is influenced by others, and the amount of mimicry they display, offer an unmatched window into our intentions, goals, and values.
By understanding these subtle patterns we can accurately predict the outcomes of situations ranging from job interviews to first dates. We can also “read” our social networks to become better friends, family members, workers, and communicators, as explained in his forthcoming book Honest Signals, published by MIT Press.
Alex “Sandy” Pentland is a pioneer in organizational engineering, mobile information systems, and computational social science. Sandy’s focus is the development of human-centered technology, and the creation of ventures that take this technology into the real world. His work provides people with a clearer picture of their social environment, and helps companies and communities to reinvent themselves to be both more human and productive.
He directs the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Life Consortium, a group of more than twenty multinational corporations exploring new ways to innovate, and is Founder of MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, established to support aspiring entrepreneurs in emerging markets. In 1997, Newsweek magazine named him one of the 100 Americans likely to shape the century.
Sandy authored Automatic Mapping and Modeling of Human Networks, Socially Aware Computation and Communication, and the innovative Amazon download Wearable Intelligence: A Scientific American article, coauthored Thin Slices of Negotiation: Predicting Outcomes From Conversational Dynamics Within the First 5 Minutes and Social Network Computing, edited From Pixels to Predicates: Recent Advances in Computational and Robotic Vision, and coedited Computer Vision for Human-Machine Interaction and Artificial Intelligence for Human Computing: ICMI 2006 and IJCAI 2007 International Workshops: Banff, Canada, November 3, 2006 and Hyderabad, India, January 6, 2007.
Watch Gadgetoff 2007 – Sandy Pentland. MIT Insider: Sociometrics, Training Leaders, LifeWear: Can Mobile Systems Enrich Your Social and Healthcare Interactions?, Collective Intelligence, and Innovation Everywhere — Why the World Isn’t Flat Enough. Read Reality Mining, The Science of Subtle Signals, and MIT to Tutor Emerging Leaders.