Data, systems, and society

We have a new revolution now
where societies in general are generating real-time data
that is driving the systems that we operate in. And understanding that designing
the right systems for that is going to be a critical
piece in the next 20, 50, 100 years going forward. What IDSS– the Institute for
Data, Systems, and Society– is trying to accomplish
is the connection all the way between engineering and
science to the social sciences. It’s a unique aspect to
the MIT value proposition. Whether they are an
energy, or transportation, or in finance, or
health, or communication, or in many different
parts of the world, societal challenges are in terms
of freedom, and dictatorships, and elections, and so forth. When you look at our operation
of the transportation system, or the power grid,
or any infrastructure– the financial
system– we’re trying to understand that connection
between the technical aspect of things and the
social aspect of things. A financial engineer–
they typically try to understand
the system by itself. And a social scientist
or an economist try to think of the people in
interaction with these systems. And now we’re
saying, well, we have to do both at the same time. And today, I think we have
access to a lot of data, but we also can ask
for much more data to try to give us a methodology
for addressing the challenging questions. The most important
thing that’s going to happen within the
Institute is the education of a new breed of
students who are extremely skilled in analytical methods
but do understand people and understand institutions. There’s a research value,
but there’s a human value, and I think the human
value is going to be great.

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