Alexander Pentland from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been examining a rather pressing problem.
How can we, as a species, talk together to come up with solutions and carry them out?
5 billion people are running around with smart phones. Social networks allow for easy discussion but right now they make us stupider rather than smarter. So how could social networks make us smarter?
The culture that makes our society work comes from us talking to each other.
And how can we build social networks that make us better? Big data. While it causes some problems, it's also a super scientific tool. We now have a lot of useful information. That's what Social Physics is.
The intelligence of individuals didn't matter, content of problems didn't matter, random people put together who were able to communicate well. The flow of ideas actually gave rise to a form of collective intelligence.
Within workgroups there is the same group that gives raise to collective intelligence. Groups with good idea flow or engagement are 40% more productive than groups that don't exchange thoughts.
Face to face idea flow determines productivity and innovation. This also works at a large scale. Using foursquare he looked at patterns of face to face communication. That ended up being able to predict the GDP of a city.
Why don't digital networks make us smarter?
When there are no echoes social interaction gives of better results.
Currently social networks provide too many echo chambers.
If you want us to be smarter you have to get rid of the echoes.