Sandy Pentland event

20 Jan. 2015

On Tuesday the 20th of January, Prof. Sandy Pentland, one of the world’s most powerful data scientists, passed through Zurich on his way to the World Economic Forum. In what has become a traditional intermediary stop before Davos, the MIT Club of Switzerland was treated to the same presentation that was made to the movers and shakers at WEF. Fifty members and guests from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Germany gathered at the Storchen Hotel to hear him discuss his work on Social Physics, also the title of his book, which was distributed to the audience. Provocatively addressing us with the claim that “you don’t own your digital identity. You don’t even know what it is”, Sandy explained a new form of social behavior which is determined (and made predictable) by idea flow and connection, a vision made real today by ubiquitous mobile technology. The immense policy implications of the new society have yet to be worked out. Sandy wryly observed that “We haven’t been used to making longer- term decisions with consequences for the next 1000 years. Now we do. We really have a great government for the social structures of 1785, but we need a new model of government for this kind of world and I wish governments were more experimental and informed by science.” Now that the CTO of the US is an MIT grad and struggling to wean the state department off floppy disks, it may not happen soon, but with thought leaders like Sandy spreading the ideas to influential audiences at ETH, MIT and WEF in early January, but it cannot be turned back. The MIT Club of Switzerland extends its special thanks to the MIT Alumni Office for co-sponsoring the event, and supporting the organization.

Bublu Thakur-Weigold