MIT’s BigData with Alex Sandy Pentland and Erik Brynjolfsson

BigData4Dx from MIT Sloan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was different experience of learning, my first outstanding experience with virtual learning environments. MIT did a setup of both physical and virtual places where more than 60 people was learning together in real time. Was amazing be part of this experience, the first of this kind according to MIT.

The content is bright and experience from the faculty was astonishing. The multicultural  virtual environment was definitely a key differentiator, the concepts and practices of bigdata emerges with twists from each member and build a unique learn experience.

Have a chance to learn from the best researchers in the world like Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland and Erik Brynjolfsson from MIT Media Lab is priceless and thankful.

Virtual Environment from MIT BigData4DX
Virtual Environment from MIT BigData4DX

I will start this review with a lyric from TRON movie that bring a different approach of how we see data, and I use to abstract Big Data as a mentality to see world from a different prism of thoughts.

“I tried to picture clusters of information
As they moved through the computer
What do they look like?
Ships, motorcycles

With the circuits like freeways
I kept dreaming of a world
I thought I’d never see

And then, one day
I got in”

TRON Movie SoundTrack

Preparation for the BigData
Professor Alex Pentland recommended some materials to read prior to the course which includes some very interesting and open minded articles from HBR and other sources. If you would like to see the references, drop me a message and I will send you the links.

After I read the articles I decide to search more about the work from the faculties. Then I figured out that Prof. Sandy has more than 60 thousand citations from google scholar, the top 10 papers with more than 100 reference for each one, do you know what it means? It means that Prof. Pentland is one of the top researchers in the world.

In my opinion one of the most interesting research is related to social physics where MIT Media Lab study the honest signals from people within organizations and groups, one of the conclusions of this study is that:

35% of the variation in the team’s performance can be accounted for a face-to-face exchanges among team members.

Is it interesting? I think so! So data science proving some thoughts that previously was exprimentations only. As I mention Prof. Pertland has several research lines and produces a lot of science material. Go find yourself more about it, talk to me(@GorskiRafael) if you like.

The two days course, Immersion on BigData real world

Video Stream from MIT Class
Video Stream from MIT Class

Most of people think about bigdata as a tech stuff and its main contributors are Google and Twitter for instance. In this MIT’s course I learned a complete new world which is in front our eyes and we didn’t realize the potential of it. Bigdata for me is about new possibilities to help people.


Every human-been leaves honest signals( or footprints) as Prof. Sandy mention, all this signals are stored in different places like phones, ATMs, cars, credit cards, computers, yours and friends social accounts.

When scientists, more specifically data scientists, starts to combine these signals and figure out patterns some conclusions like this one arrises:

Social Couples tend to spend more money.

Then you think, ok, its quite obvious. but stop and think it is not a though only it is data proven it a very intimacy social behavior!

Security and Privacy was a highest demanding points from all people, well Prof. Pertland is one of the representant of this subject on World Economic Forum, so his speech about it deliverer proper value to this multicultural audience. We saw the different points of view from US and UE and how it has been conducted and future actions.

Person’s data would be equivalent to their money

Opt-in and Opt-Out is convention when we talk about use of people data inside your applications, and this information belongs to this agreement and cannot be transferred to other third-party company. Conversations regarding anonymize the information dominated a interesting part of the discussions.

When you aggregate any information and remove the identifies, is it enough to anonymize it? What you think?

In resume it is not enough you need extra things and a good framework to guaranty people’s rights.

So many other things and deep discussions was conducted, so what I think about?

Conclusion and Evaluation

The course was a breakthrough experience and I high recommend it! The content is based on state-of-art of bigdata and social sciences, it is not a technical course about math or statistics but it is related to objectives of bigdata and data management in a broad vision.

Course in general was well structured and supported by MIT staff. I completed the course with minimal point of improvement for MIT staff, which not compromise the progress of the course.

Some points of attention, if you like to participate:

Read the pre-readings material from MIT to be aware of the transitions inside the speeches, as you see here the faculty has plenty of information to share, sometimes make a caos in your mind. :)

Set your expectations, and tracked to increase your ROI.

Ask Questions, be prepared to think new and out-of-box.

References Used:

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