Social Physics


Merriam-Webster: “Social Physics: The quantitative study of human societysocial statistics”

When the US government announced in 2012 that it would invest $200 million in research grants and infrastructure building for big data in 2012, Farnam Jahanian, chief of the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, stated that “Big data” has the power to change scientific research from a hypothesis-driven field to one that’s data-driven”.  Using big data to provide more evidence based ways ways of understanding human behavior is the mission of Alex (Sandy)Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory. Pentland’s latest book illustrates the potential of what he describes as “Social Physics”.

The term was initially developed by Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, the Belgian socioligist and mathematician who introduced statistical methods to the social sciences. Quetelet expanded his views to develop a social physics in his book “Sur l’homme sur le developpement de ses facultes, ou Essai de physique sociale”. Auguste Comte, who coined “sociology” adopted the term (in his Positive Philosophy Volume Social Physics) when he defined sociology as a study that was just as important as biology and chemistry.

According to Sandy Pentland Social Physics is about idea flow, the way human social networks spread ideas and transform those ideas into behaviors. His book consequently aims to “extends economic and political thinking by including not only competitive forces but also exchanges of ideas, information, social pressure, and social status in order to more fully explain human behavior… Only once we understand how social interactions work together with competitive forces can we hope to ensure stability and fairness in our hyperconnected, networked society.”

The launch of the book is accompanied with a website that connects several scholars and explains the term further: “How can we create organizations and governments that are cooperative, productive, and creative? These are the questions of social physics, and they are especially important right now, because of global competition, environmental challenges, and government failure. The engine that drives social physics is big data: the newly ubiquitous digital data that is becoming available about all aspects of human life. By using these data with to build a predictive, computational theory of human behavior we can hope to engineer better social systems.”

Also check out the video below:

https://web.archive.org/web/2000/https://youtu.be/yv5bxqQG5xI

Index: The Data Universe


The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on the data universe and was originally published in 2013.

  • How much data exists in the digital universe as of 2012: 2.7 zetabytes*
  • Increase in the quantity of Internet data from 2005 to 2012: +1,696%
  • Percent of the world’s data created in the last two years: 90
  • Number of exabytes (=1 billion gigabytes) created every day in 2012: 2.5; that number doubles every month
  • Percent of the digital universe in 2005 created by the U.S. and western Europe vs. emerging markets: 48 vs. 20
  • Percent of the digital universe in 2012 created by emerging markets: 36
  • Percent of the digital universe in 2020 predicted to be created by China alone: 21
  • How much information in the digital universe is created and consumed by consumers (video, social media, photos, etc.) in 2012: 68%
  • Percent of which enterprises have liability or responsibility for (copyright, privacy, compliance with regulations, etc.): 80
  • Amount included in the Obama Administration’s 2-12 Big Data initiative: over $200 million
  • Amount the Department of Defense is investing annually on Big Data projects as of 2012: over $250 million
  • Data created per day in 2012: 2.5 quintillion bytes
  • How many terabytes* of data collected by the U.S. Library of Congress as of April 2011: 235
  • How many terabytes of data collected by Walmart per hour as of 2012: 2,560, or 2.5 petabytes*
  • Projected growth in global data generated per year, as of 2011: 40%
  • Number of IT jobs created globally by 2015 to support big data: 4.4 million (1.9 million in the U.S.)
  • Potential shortage of data scientists in the U.S. alone predicted for 2018: 140,000-190,000, in addition to 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions
  • Time needed to sequence the complete human genome (analyzing 3 billion base pairs) in 2003: ten years
  • Time needed in 2013: one week
  • The world’s annual effective capacity to exchange information through telecommunication networks in 1986, 2007, and (predicted) 2013: 281 petabytes, 65 exabytes, 667 exabytes
  • Projected amount of digital information created annually that will either live in or pass through the cloud: 1/3
  • Increase in data collection volume year-over-year in 2012: 400%
  • Increase in number of individual data collectors from 2011 to 2012: nearly double (over 300 data collection parties in 2012)

*1 zetabyte = 1 billion terabytes | 1 petabyte = 1,000 terabytes | 1 terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes | 1 gigabyte = 1 billion bytes

Sources

Index: Participation and Civic Engagement


The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on participation and civic engagement and was originally published in 2013.

  • Percent turnout of voting age population in 2012 U.S. Presidential election: 57.5
  • Percent turnout in 2008, 2004, 2000 elections: 62.3, 60.4, 54.2
  • Change in voting rate in U.S. from 1980 to most recent election: –29
  • Change in voting rate in Slovak Republic from 1980 to most recent election: –42, the lowest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Change in voting rate in Russian Federation from 1980 to most recent election: +14, the highest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Percent turnout in Australia as of 2011: 95, the highest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Percentage point difference in voting rates between high and low educated people in Australia as of 2011: 1
  • Percentage point difference in voting rates between high and low educated people in the U.S. as of 2011:  33
  • Number of Black and Hispanic U.S. voters in comparison to 2008 election: 1.7 million and 1.4 million increase
  • Number of non-Hispanic White U.S. voters in comparison to 2008 election: 2 million decrease, the only example of a race group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next
  • Percent of Americans that contact their elected officials between elections: 10
  • Margin of victory in May 2013 Los Angeles mayoral election: 54-46
  • Percent turnout among Los Angeles citizens in May 2013 Los Angeles mayoral election: 19
  • Percent of U.S. adults that used social networking sites in 2012: 60
  • How many of which participated in a political or civic activity online: 2/3
  • Percent of U.S. social media users in 2012 that used social tools to encourage other people to take action on an issue that is important to them: 31
  • Percent of U.S. adults that belonged to a group on a social networking site involved in advancing a political or social issue in 2012: 12
  • Increase in the number of adults who took part in these behaviors in 2008: four-fold
  • Number of U.S. adults that signed up to receive alerts about local issues via email or text messaging in 2010: 1 in 5
  • Percent of U.S. adults that used digital tools digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues in 2010: 20
  • Number of Americans that talked face-to-face with neighbors about community issues in 2010: almost half
  • How many online adults that have used social tools as blogs, social networking sites, and online video as well as email and text alerts to keep informed about government activities: 1/3
  • Percent of U.S. adult internet users that have gone online for raw data about government spending and activities in 2010: 40
  • Of which how many look online to see how federal stimulus money is being spent: 1 in 5
  • Read or download the text of legislation: 22%
  • How many Americans volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012: 64.5 million
  • Median hours spent on volunteer activities during this time: 50
  • Change in volunteer rate compared to the year before: 0.3 decline

Sources