Stanford University


Sandy Pentland | Economic Tails

Sandy Pentland | Economic Tails
March 27, 2023
Hybrid event
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Stanford Visiting Scholar Sandy Pentland (MIT Media Lab) joined us on March 27, 2023, for his talk, “Economic Tails.”

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Markets with preferential attachment are characterized by long tail distributions and unobservable decision structures. As a consequence, sometimes the familiar foundations of economics — e.g., the fundamental welfare theorem, the central limit theorem — do not hold. In these cases large, anti-intuitive phenomena can occur. I will discuss how these insights potentially change our understanding of how markets, organizations, social media, democratic processes, and even international competition function, and suggest revised methods of measurement and management.

Background reading

Prediction and prevention of disproportionally dominant agents in complex networks

Beyond preferential attachment: falling of stars and survival of superstars

Bayesian collective learning emerges from heuristic social learning

About Sandy Pentland

Sandy Pentland

Alex `Sandy’ Pentland directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives, and is a founding member of the Advisory Boards for Nissan, Motorola Mobility, Telefonica, and a variety of start-up firms. He has previously helped create and direct MIT’s Media Laboratory, the Media Lab Asia laboratories at the Indian Institutes of Technology, and Strong Hospital’s Center for Future Health. 

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 `Honest Signals,’ published by MIT 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. 

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