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Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland has helped create and direct MIT’s Media Lab, the Media Lab Asia, and the Center for Future Health. He chairs the World Economic Forum’s Data Driven Development council, is Academic Director of the MIT-Harvard-ODI Big Data and People Project, and is a member of the Advisory Boards for Google, Nissan, Telefonica, Monument Capital, and the Minerva Schools.

In 2012 Forbes named Sandy one of the ‘seven most powerful data scientists in the world’, along with Google founders and the CTO of the United States, and in 2013 he won the McKinsey Award from Harvard Business Review. He is among the most-cited computational scientists in the world, and a pioneer in computational social science, organizational engineering, wearable computing (Google Glass), image understanding, and modern biometrics. His research has been featured in Nature, Science, and Harvard Business Review, as well as being the focus of TV features on BBC World, Discover and Science channels. His most recent book is Social Physics, published by Penguin Press.

Over the years Sandy has advised more than 50 PhD students. Almost half are now tenured faculty at leading institutions, with another one-quarter leading industry research groups and a final quarter founders of their own companies. Sandy’s research group and entrepreneurship program have spun off more than 30 companies to date, three of which are publicly listed and several that serve millions of poor in Africa and South Asia. Recent spin-offs have been featured in publications such as The Economist and The New York Times, as well as winning a variety of prizes from international development organizations.

Interesting experiences include winning the DARPA 40th Anniversary of the Internet Grand Challenge, dining with British Royalty and the President of India, staging fashion shows in Paris, Tokyo, and New York, and developing a method for counting beavers from space.


Alex Pentland Speaker Videos Back to top

Sandy Pentland: TEDxBeaconStreet - Social physics - how social networks make us smarter


Sandy Pentland: IdeasLabs - Sustainable Digital Ecology


Sandy Pentland : Keynote Speech - Big Data



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—The Lessons from a New Science
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.

To understand our new world, we must extend familiar economic and political ideas to include the effects of these millions of people learning from one another and influencing one another’s opinions. We can no longer think of ourselves as individuals reaching carefully considered decisions; we must include the dynamic social effects that drive economic bubbles, political revolutions and the Internet economy. In this speech, 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.

Based on his book Social Physics, he 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 audiences 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.

Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World
How can you know when someone is bluffing? Paying attention? Genuinely interested? The answer, writes Alex Pentland in Honest Signals, is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These unconscious social signals are not just a back channel or a complement to our conscious language; they form a separate communication network.

Pentland, an MIT professor, shares in this speech how he has used a specially designed digital sensor worn like an ID badge—a "sociometer"—to monitor and analyze the back-and-forth patterns of signaling among groups of people. He and his researchers found that this second channel of communication, revolving not around words but around social relations, profoundly influences major decisions in our lives—even though we are largely unaware of it. Pentland presents the scientific background necessary for understanding this form of communication, applies it to examples of group behavior in real organizations, and shows how by "reading" our social networks, we can become more successful at pitching an idea, getting a job, or closing a deal.





* Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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social_physics

Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—The Lessons from a New Science
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.


Honest Signals

Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World
How can you know when someone is bluffing? Paying attention? Genuinely interested? The answer, writes Alex Pentland in Honest Signals, is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These unconscious social signals are not just a back channel or a complement to our conscious language; they form a separate communication network. Biologically based "honest signaling," evolved from ancient primate signaling mechanisms, offers an unmatched window into our intentions, goals, and values.

If we understand this ancient channel of communication, Pentland claims, we can accurately predict the outcomes of situations ranging from job interviews to first dates. Pentland, an MIT professor, has used a specially designed digital sensor worn like an ID badge—a "sociometer"—to monitor and analyze the back-and-forth patterns of signaling among groups of people. He and his researchers found that this second channel of communication, revolving not around words but around social relations, profoundly influences major decisions in our lives—even though we are largely unaware of it.

Pentland presents the scientific background necessary for understanding this form of communication, applies it to examples of group behavior in real organizations, and shows how by "reading" our social networks we can become more successful at pitching an idea, getting a job, or closing a deal. Using this "network intelligence" theory of social signaling, Pentland describes how we can harness the intelligence of our social network to become better managers, workers, and communicators.


Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—The Lessons from a New Science
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.

To understand our new world, we must extend familiar economic and political ideas to include the effects of these millions of people learning from one another and influencing one another’s opinions. We can no longer think of ourselves as individuals reaching carefully considered decisions; we must include the dynamic social effects that drive economic bubbles, political revolutions and the Internet economy. In this speech, 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.

Based on his book Social Physics, he 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 audiences 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.

Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World
How can you know when someone is bluffing? Paying attention? Genuinely interested? The answer, writes Alex Pentland in Honest Signals, is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These unconscious social signals are not just a back channel or a complement to our conscious language; they form a separate communication network.

Pentland, an MIT professor, shares in this speech how he has used a specially designed digital sensor worn like an ID badge—a "sociometer"—to monitor and analyze the back-and-forth patterns of signaling among groups of people. He and his researchers found that this second channel of communication, revolving not around words but around social relations, profoundly influences major decisions in our lives—even though we are largely unaware of it. Pentland presents the scientific background necessary for understanding this form of communication, applies it to examples of group behavior in real organizations, and shows how by "reading" our social networks, we can become more successful at pitching an idea, getting a job, or closing a deal.



Sandy Pentland: TEDxBeaconStreet - Social physics - how social networks make us smarter


Sandy Pentland: IdeasLabs - Sustainable Digital Ecology


Sandy Pentland : Keynote Speech - Big Data