Alex Pentland

Alex “Sandy” Pentland directs the MIT-wide initiative MITConnection Science. Called one of the “seven most powerful data scientists in the world” by Forbes, he has cofounded more than a dozen companies and is the author of Honest Signals (MIT Press) and Social Physics.

  • Building the New Economy

    Building the New Economy

    Data as Capital

    Alex Pentland, Alexander Lipton, and Thomas Hardjono

    How to empower people and communities with user-centric data ownership, transparent and accountable algorithms, and secure digital transaction systems.

    Data is now central to the economy, government, and health systems—so why are data and the AI systems that interpret the data in the hands of so few people? Building the New Economy calls for us to reinvent the ways that data and artificial intelligence are used in civic and government systems. Arguing that we need to think about data as a new type of capital, the authors show use data trusts and distributed ledgers to empower people and communities with user-centric data ownership, transparent and accountable algorithms, machine learning fairness principles and methodologies, and secure digital transaction systems.

    It's well known that social media generate disinformation and that mobile phone tracking apps threaten privacy. But these same technologies may also enable the creation of more agile systems in which power and decision-making are distributed among stakeholders rather than concentrated in a few hands. Offering both big ideas and detailed blueprints, the authors describe such key building blocks as data cooperatives, tokenized funding mechanisms, and tradecoin architecture. They also discuss technical issues, including how to build an ecosystem of trusted data, the implementation of digital currencies, and interoperability, and consider the evolution of computational law systems.

    • Paperback $35.00
  • Trusted Data, Revised And Expanded Edition

    Trusted Data, Revised And Expanded Edition

    A New Framework for Identity and Data Sharing

    Thomas Hardjono, David L. Shrier, and Alex Pentland

    How to create an Internet of Trusted Data in which insights from data can be extracted without collecting, holding, or revealing the underlying data.

    Trusted Data describes a data architecture that places humans and their societal values at the center of the discussion. By involving people from all parts of the ecosystem of information, this new approach allows us to realize the benefits of data-driven algorithmic decision making while minimizing the risks and unintended consequences. It proposes a software architecture and legal framework for an Internet of Trusted Data that provides safe, secure access for everyone and protects against bias, unfairness, and other unintended effects. This approach addresses issues of data privacy, security, ownership, and trust by allowing insights to be extracted from data held by different people, companies, or governments without collecting, holding, or revealing the underlying data. The software architecture, called Open Algorithms, or OPAL, sends algorithms to databases rather than copying or sharing data. The data is protected by existing firewalls; only encrypted results are shared. Data never leaves its repository. A higher security architecture, ENIGMA, built on OPAL, is fully encrypted.

    Contributors Michiel Bakker, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, Daniel Greenwood, Thomas Hardjoni, Jake Kendall, Cameron Kerry, Bruno Lepri, Alexander Lipton, Takeo Nishikata, Alejandro Noriega-Campero, Nuria Oliver, Alex Pentland, David L. Shrier, Jacopo Staiano, Guy Zyskind

    An MIT Connection Science and Engineering Book

    • Paperback $30.00
  • New Solutions for Cybersecurity

    New Solutions for Cybersecurity

    Howard Shrobe, David L. Shrier, and Alex Pentland

    Experts from MIT explore recent advances in cybersecurity, bringing together management, technical, and sociological perspectives.

    Ongoing cyberattacks, hacks, data breaches, and privacy concerns demonstrate vividly the inadequacy of existing methods of cybersecurity and the need to develop new and better ones. This book brings together experts from across MIT to explore recent advances in cybersecurity from management, technical, and sociological perspectives. Leading researchers from MIT's Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab, the MIT Media Lab, MIT Sloan School of Management, and MIT Lincoln Lab, along with their counterparts at Draper Lab, the University of Cambridge, and SRI, discuss such varied topics as a systems perspective on managing risk, the development of inherently secure hardware, and the Dark Web. The contributors suggest approaches that range from the market-driven to the theoretical, describe problems that arise in a decentralized, IoT world, and reimagine what optimal systems architecture and effective management might look like.

    Contributors YNadav Aharon, Yaniv Altshuler, Manuel Cebrian, Nazli Choucri, André DeHon, Ryan Ellis, Yuval Elovici, Harry Halpin, Thomas Hardjono, James Houghton, Keman Huang, Mohammad S. Jalali, Priscilla Koepke, Yang Lee, Stuart Madnick, Simon W. Moore, Katie Moussouris, Peter G. Neumann, Hamed Okhravi, Jothy Rosenberg, Hamid Salim,Michael Siegel, Diane Strong, Gregory T. Sullivan, Richard Wang, Robert N. M. Watson, Guy Zyskind

    An MIT Connection Science and Engineering Book

    • Paperback $25.00
  • Honest Signals

    Honest Signals

    How They Shape Our World

    Alex Pentland

    How understanding the signaling within social networks can change the way we make decisions, work with others, and manage organizations.

    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.

    • Hardcover $24.95
    • Paperback $17.95