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

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Humans are, of course, smarter, independent free-thinking individuals. Read this book and think again. With eyesight sharpened by math, modeling, and the familiarity with a new landscape he has in part created, Sandy Pentland and his team are mapping out a new world, crawling with information, that offers some real understanding of who we are and who we could be. Welcome to the age of social physics.

Foraging and innovation

His research group and entrepreneurship program have spun off more than 30 companies to date. In Forbes named Pentland one of the seven most powerful data scientists in the world. Convert currency.

Social Physics

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

Language: English. Brand new Book. Seller Inventory AA Not Signed; Where do ideas come from? Yet according to his resear. Num Pages: pages. Dimension: x x Weight in Grams: Seller Inventory V Book Description Scribe Publications. Books ship from the US and Ireland. Items related to Social Physics: how good ideas spread - the lessons Social Physics: how good ideas spread - the lessons from a new science. Alex Pentland.

Publisher: Scribe Publications , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title Where do ideas come from?

Review : 'Understanding, predicting and influencing human behavior has been the goal of social scientists and leaders anywhere since the beginning of time. Buy New Learn more about this copy. About AbeBooks. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. The term physics in the context of social sciences sounds strange, but the concept of social physics is not a new one. Auguste Comte already used it in the nineteenth century. What is new is that big data about human behavior provides so much data that some aspects of behavior could be treated as physics treats movement of bodies.

The key concept is the flow of ideas between people transacting with each other. What is Social Physics? There is nothing especially revolutionary in these characterizations. What is new is an extensive use of big data. The method to analyze this kind of data is called reality mining. Big data could be collected in real situations, where people communicate with each other, travel, use money etc.

This means that transactions in real life form a living laboratory. No more simulation, or interviews or anthropological observations or normal statistics.

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Behavior of people is dependent on microtransactions with other people, not what they think or feel. Here we see close connections to traditional statistical social analysis. The behavioral model of Social Physics I think that the most critical aspect of Social Physics is the behavioral model behind it.

That model is not a result of Social Physics, it's a presupposition of the whole enterprise of social physics. For example, the mathematical model used by Pentland and his research group supposes an influence model of idea flow see the Appendix 4 Math. Idea flow is a basic concept of the model: Idea flow is the propagation of behaviors and beliefs through social networks by means of social learning and social pressure.

For Social Physics this concept of idea is crucial: if idea were something mental, one could not study them in Social Physics. In simple terms, ideas move from people to people when they are in transaction. People adopt ideas when they are compatible with their previous beliefs or when there is pressure to adopt it. Pressure is coming from communities to which people belong.

In idea flow there are two related processes: a learning new ideas and b adopting ideas.


To get new ideas one has to explore them. Exploration is the use of social networks in harvesting ideas and information. To get new ideas, you have to go outside your near community strong links and meet different people in new situations weak links, or ties. Adoption of new ideas is called engagement. A social norm is a set of compatible strategies that all parties agree to produces the best exchange value. This shaping is mainly based on imitation of habits of other people.

The role of delibration is not so important. Fast thinking is automatic, associative and parallel, whereas slow thinking controlled, rule-based and serial. In contrast, the slow mode uses reasoning, combining our beliefs in order to reach new conclusions. I think that the formulas developed by Pentland and his team is the most valuable results of Social Physics.

The math is based on Markov model of state change. Let us suppose that the behavior of a person a is a function of his inner state ha at the moment t. To calculate the influence we need two more components. One is matrix telling the tie strength between persons.

Another is the conditional probability describing the transition from a state h of each other person in time moment t-1 to the state ha of a in time moment t.

Patterns of Data - Alex "Sandy" Pentland

For details and other formulas, see the Appendix 4 Math. Reflections about Social Physics Alex Pentland advocates Social Physics by referring to case studies showing how we can explain innovation, creativity, productivity and social change by big data analysis. The cases are interesting but not so surprising to anybody familiar with cognitive science, innovation studies or sociology. We can indeed develop better cities and societies if we know better how people in fact behave; how they communicate, where they shop, how they move, where they meet each other etc.

Social Physics: Selected Quotes – Service Science

But still, is Social Physics a new social science beating existing economics, cognitive science or sociology? I think not! Big data approach shows how ideas are flowing and how people are changing their behavior.