The concept of “social physics” was first defined in the 19th century by Auguste Comte as “science which occupies itself with social phenomena, considered in the same light as astronomical, physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena, that is to say as being subject to natural and invariable laws, the discovery of which is the special object of its researches.” Social physics uses mathematical tools drawn from physics to gain insight into the behavior of human crowds.
This definition has remained static over the centuries, though in modern commercial use, it can refer to social analysis using big data. One group of scientists at MIT have played an instrumental role in developing this modern understanding of social physics and are looking to use emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain to further expand their research.
Two MIT researchers, Dr. Yaniv Altshuler and Alex Pentland, are part of a team devoted to developing the Endor Protocol. Theirs is a novel approach to democratizing big data analytics, allowing the average joe to access the same type of predictive analytics only Fortune 500 companies can afford. This is only made possible through the harmonization of social physics, AI, and blockchain technology.
The Problems with Big Predictive Data Today
Everyone wants to be able to predict the future–financiers want to know when the next big market drop will be; retailers want to know what the next “hot product” is; there is an entire industry centered around betting on the outcome of sports games–surely the ability to predict the future would come in handy here. And in today’s big data society, predictive tools are not beyond reach. To be sure, no prediction is one hundred percent accurate one hundred percent of the time, but data analytics has certainly narrowed the margin of error.
The problem is that, as the MIT Technology Review eloquently states:
Aggregate data and decision making are being hoarded by a few technology companies with powerful data infrastructure… [they] own the data and the tools to mine it – the data infrastructure – [and] possess great power to understand and predict the world.
Names like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have the capital to monopolize big data resources. This means that 99% of data-driven predictions are generated by and for stakeholders in large companies like this. It is too expensive and inefficient for the masses to access the predictive analytics powered by social physics.
What Can Blockchain Technology Do to Help?
This is where Endor.coin comes in.
Altshuler, Pentland, and their team are working on a “decentralized, trustless, censorship resistance behavioral prediction platform that provides high-quality results for any predictive question in minutes.” The platform is powered by a blockchain-based protocol that integrates various aspects of artificial intelligence and social physics. It implements two key features that will help monopolize data analytics and predictions.
First, the platform will have a distributed catalog of predictions available to the mass public for purchase. It will debut with a set of predefined token-related predictions. For those predictions not yet stored on the distributed database, users can request predictions using RFP (request for prediction) to expand the catalog. The protocol’s structure results in the double network effect–as the platform gains more users, the cost per prediction will decrease. At the same time, as the data size grows, prediction accuracy also grows. Participants are thus incentivized to use the platform, because the more they use it, the more efficient it will become.
Second, and most significantly, the platform is blockchain-powered and therefore fully decentralized. This provides complete accountability for prediction results and helps guard against a centralized entity manipulating or influencing predictions. What’s more, the open nature of the protocol prevents against a single authority from censoring proposed outcomes. Decentralization fosters democratization, enabling the average user to access the world of data currently hidden from his or her eyes.
Do you think that average folks should have the same access to predictive data that the big corporations have? How will AI, blockchain tech, and social physics help bring it to pass? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Endor Protocol, iStockPhoto