Alex Pentland

Alex Pentland
Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT

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385
Publications
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37,297
Citations

Publications

Publications (385)
Article
Full-text available
As the living tissue connecting urban places, streets play significant roles in driving city development, providing essential access, and promoting human interactions. Understanding street activities and how these activities vary across different streets is critical for designing both efficient and livable streets. However, current street classific...
Preprint
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Poor diets, including those high in fast food, are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Exposure to low-quality food environments, such as 'food swamps' saturated with fast food outlets (FFO), is hypothesized to negatively impact diet and related disease. However, research linking such exposure to diet and health outcomes has generated mixed...
Article
This article explores how technical central bank digital currency (CBDC) design choices can be used to make a CBDC inherently resistant to money laundering. These design choices not only further anti-money laundering (AML), but they can also help to better balance AML priorities with other goals including financial inclusion, privacy and compliance...
Preprint
Diversity of physical encounters and social interactions in urban environments are known to spur economic productivity and innovation in cities, while also to foster social capital and resilience of communities. However, mobility restrictions during the pandemic have forced people to substantially reduce urban physical encounters, raising questions...
Article
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Detailed characterization of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission across different settings can help design less disruptive interventions. We used real-time, privacy-enhanced mobility data in the New York City, NY and Seattle, WA metropolitan areas to build a detailed agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 infection to...
Preprint
Around the world, citizens are voting away the democracies they claim to cherish. Why are they voting against their own values? In this article, we provide evidence that this behavior is driven in part by fear that their opponents might dismantle democracy first. In an observational study (N=1,973), we find that US partisans who most fear the other...
Conference Paper
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The challenge of refugee relocation is fertile ground to pose a new direction in the quest for extended human intelligence: developing systems that leverage big data, and the power of social learning to provide personalized visual analytics for big life decisions. To probe into this new avenue, this paper presents Voyage Viewer, a novel open-access...
Preprint
The cooperative bandit problem is a multi-agent decision problem involving a group of agents that interact simultaneously with a multi-armed bandit, while communicating over a network with delays. The central idea in this problem is to design algorithms that can efficiently leverage communication to obtain improvements over acting in isolation. In...
Article
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Long ties, the social ties that bridge different communities, are widely believed to play crucial roles in spreading novel information in social networks. However, some existing network theories and prediction models indicate that long ties might dissolve quickly or eventually become redundant, thus putting into question the long-term value of long...
Article
Tie transparency, which may provide more unbiased information to deepen mutual understanding, thus builds trust and prompts cooperation in social networks. Little is known, however, about social connections’ transparency. We introduce knowable degree (KD) to characterize the transparency of a social tie, defined as the number of other entities who...
Article
With the recent rise in the cost of transactions on blockchain platforms, there is a need to explore other service models that may provide a more predictable cost to customers and end-users. We discuss the Contract Service Provider (CSP) model as a counterpart of the successful Internet Service Provider (ISP) model. Similar to the ISP business mode...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper uses daily anonymous aggregated transaction data to analyze the changes in consumer spending caused by receipt of the stimulus payments in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. The stimulus checks were provided as part of the CARES Act aiming to provide emergency assistance for individuals and businesses affected by the pandemi...
Preprint
Domain generalization involves learning a classifier from a heterogeneous collection of training sources such that it generalizes to data drawn from similar unknown target domains, with applications in large-scale learning and personalized inference. In many settings, privacy concerns prohibit obtaining domain labels for the training data samples,...
Preprint
The cooperative bandit problem is increasingly becoming relevant due to its applications in large-scale decision-making. However, most research for this problem focuses exclusively on the setting with perfect communication, whereas in most real-world distributed settings, communication is often over stochastic networks, with arbitrary corruptions a...
Preprint
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Massive vaccination is one of the most effective epidemic control measures. Because one’s vaccination decision is shaped by social processes (e.g., socioeconomic sorting and social contagion), the pattern of vaccine uptake tends to show strong social and spatial heterogeneity, such as urban-rural divide and clustering. Examining through network per...
Article
Full-text available
The rapid dynamics of COVID-19 calls for quick and effective tracking of virus transmission chains and early detection of outbreaks, especially in the “phase 2” of the pandemic, when lockdown and other restriction measures are progressively withdrawn, in order to avoid or minimize contagion resurgence. For this purpose, contact-tracing apps are bei...
Preprint
Full-text available
IMPORTANCE: Excessive consumption of fast food (FF) is associated with chronic disease. Population-level research on FF outlet visits is now possible with mobility data, however its usefulness as an indicator of FF intake and diet-related disease must be established. OBJECTIVE: Investigate whether FF outlet visits from mobility data are indicators...
Preprint
Full-text available
Massive vaccination is one of the most effective epidemic control measures. Because one’s vaccination decision is shaped by social processes (e.g., socioeconomic sorting and social contagion), the pattern of vaccine uptake tends to show strong social and geographical heterogeneity, such as urban-rural divide and clustering. Yet, little is known to...
Article
How does the visual design of digital platforms impact user behavior and the resulting environment? A body of work suggests that introducing social signals to content can increase both the inequality and unpredictability of its success, but has only been shown in the context of music listening. To further examine the effect of social influence on m...
Preprint
Around the world, would-be authoritarian leaders have convinced their supporters to vote away the democracies they claim to cherish. How is this possible? We argue that simply fearing that opposing partisans support democratic backsliding can lead individuals to support it themselves. Would-be authoritarians may then be able to start a self-reinfor...
Article
Full-text available
Beyond the physical structures that contain daily routines, urban city dwellers repeatedly encounter strangers that similarly shape their environments. Familiar strangers are neither formal acquaintances nor completely anonymous faces in daily urban life. Due to data limitations, there is a lack of research focused on uncovering the structure of th...
Article
Tourism has been an increasingly significant contributor to the economy, society, and environment. Policy-making and research on tourism traditionally rely on surveys and economic datasets, which are based on small samples and depict tourism dynamics at a low granularity. Anonymous call detail record (CDR) is a novel source of data with enormous po...
Article
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Traditional understanding of urban income segregation is largely based on static coarse-grained residential patterns. However, these do not capture the income segregation experience implied by the rich social interactions that happen in places that may relate to individual choices, opportunities, and mobility behavior. Using a large-scale high-reso...
Article
The importance of swarm robotics systems in both academic research and real-world applications is steadily increasing. However, to reach widespread adoption, new models that ensure the secure cooperation of large groups of robots need to be developed. This work introduces a method to encapsulate cooperative robotic missions in an authenticated data...
Article
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A critical question relevant to the increasing importance of crowd-sourced-based finance is how to optimize collective information processing and decision-making. Here, we investigate an often under-studied aspect of the performance of online traders: beyond focusing on just accuracy, what gives rise to the trade-off between risk and accuracy at th...
Article
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We extend previous studies on the impact of masks on COVID-19 outcomes by investigating an unprecedented breadth and depth of health outcomes, geographical resolutions, types of mask mandates, early versus later waves and controlling for other government interventions, mobility testing rate and weather. We show that mask mandates are associated wit...
Article
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In the United States (US), low-income workers are being pushed away from city centers where the cost of living is high. The effects of such changes on labor mobility and housing price have been explored in the literature. However, few studies have focused on the occupations and specific skills that identify the most susceptible workers. For example...
Article
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Cities are the innovation centers of the US economy, but technological disruptions can exclude workers and inhibit a middle class. Therefore, urban policy must promote the jobs and skills that increase worker pay, create employment, and foster economic resilience. In this paper, we model labor market resilience with an ecologically-inspired job net...
Preprint
Invariant approaches have been remarkably successful in tackling the problem of domain generalization, where the objective is to perform inference on data distributions different from those used in training. In our work, we investigate whether it is possible to leverage domain information from the unseen test samples themselves. We propose a domain...
Preprint
Reinforcement learning in cooperative multi-agent settings has recently advanced significantly in its scope, with applications in cooperative estimation for advertising, dynamic treatment regimes, distributed control, and federated learning. In this paper, we discuss the problem of cooperative multi-agent RL with function approximation, where a gro...
Preprint
Full-text available
BACKGROUND. Diabetes and hypertension are among top public health priorities, particularly in low and middle-income countries where their health and socioeconomic impact is exacerbated by the quality and accessibility of health care. Moreover, their connection with severe or deadly COVID-19 illness has further increased their societal relevance. To...
Preprint
Using publicly available data, we quantify the impact of mask adherence and mask mandates on COVID-19 outcomes. We show that mask mandates are associated with a statistically significant decrease in daily new cases (-3.24 per 100K), deaths (-0.19 per 100K), and the proportion of hospital admissions (-2.47%) due to COVID-19 between February 1 and Se...
Preprint
Full-text available
Detailed characterizations of SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk across different social settings can inform the design of targeted and less disruptive non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI), yet these data have been lacking. Here we integrate real-time, anonymous and privacy-enhanced geolocalized mobility data with census and demographic data in the New...
Article
Full-text available
Social networks are known to be assortative with respect to many attributes, such as age, weight, wealth, level of education, ethnicity and gender: Similar people according to these attributes tend to be more connected. This can be explained by influences and homophily. Independently of its origin, this assortativity gives us information about each...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Urban income segregation is a widespread phenomenon that challenges societies across the globe. Classical studies on segregation have largely focused on the geographic distribution of residential neighborhoods rather than on patterns of social behaviors and interactions. In this study, we analyze segregation in economic and social interact...
Preprint
BACKGROUND The automated screening of patients at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy (DR) represents an opportunity to improve their mid-term outcome, and lower the public expenditure associated with direct and indirect costs of common sight-threatening complications of diabetes. OBJECTIVE The present study, aims to develop and evaluate the p...
Article
Background: The automated screening of patients at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy represents an opportunity to improve their midterm outcome and lower the public expenditure associated with direct and indirect costs of common sight-threatening complications of diabetes. Objective: This study aimed to develop and evaluate the performance...
Preprint
Full-text available
The rapid proliferation of decentralized learning systems mandates the need for differentially-private cooperative learning. In this paper, we study this in context of the contextual linear bandit: we consider a collection of agents cooperating to solve a common contextual bandit, while ensuring that their communication remains private. For this pr...
Article
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Massive migrations have become increasingly prevalent over the last decades. A recent example is the Venezuelan migration crisis across South America, which particularly affects neighboring countries like Colombia. Creating an effective response to the crisis is a challenge for governments and international agencies, given the lack of information a...
Preprint
Full-text available
We introduce the contract service provider (CSP) model as an analog of the successful Internet ISP model. Our exploration is motivated by the need to seek alternative blockchain service-fee models that departs from the token-for-operations (gas fee) model for smart contracts found on many popular blockchain platforms today. A given CSP community co...
Article
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Data sharing, research ethics, and incentives must improve
Preprint
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Cooperative multi-agent decision making involves a group of agents cooperatively solving learning problems while communicating over a network with delays. In this paper, we consider the kernelised contextual bandit problem, where the reward obtained by an agent is an arbitrary linear function of the contexts' images in the related reproducing kerne...
Preprint
Full-text available
We study the heavy-tailed stochastic bandit problem in the cooperative multi-agent setting, where a group of agents interact with a common bandit problem, while communicating on a network with delays. Existing algorithms for the stochastic bandit in this setting utilize confidence intervals arising from an averaging-based communication protocol kno...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: The automated screening of patients at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy (DR), represents an opportunity to improve their mid-term outcome and lower the public expenditure associated with direct and indirect costs of a common sight-threatening complication of diabetes. Objective: In the present study, we aim at developing and eval...
Preprint
Full-text available
How do we design and deploy crowdsourced prediction platforms for real-world applications where risk is an important dimension of prediction performance? To answer this question, we conducted a large online Wisdom of the Crowd study where participants predicted the prices of real financial assets (e.g. S&P 500). We observe a Pareto frontier between...
Article
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Much recent work has illuminated the growth, innovation, and prosperity of entire cities, but there is relatively less evidence concerning the growth and prosperity of individual neighborhoods. In this paper we show that diversity of amenities within a city neighborhood, computed from openly available points of interest on digital maps, accurately...
Article
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Centrality is a fundamental network property that ranks nodes by their structural importance. However, the network structure alone may not predict successful diffusion in many applications, such as viral marketing and political campaigns. We propose contextual centrality, which integrates structural positions, the diffusion process, and, most impor...
Preprint
Decision-making on networks can be explained by both homophily and social influence. While homophily drives the formation of communities with similar characteristics, social influence occurs both within and between communities. Social influence can be reasoned through role theory, which indicates that the influences among individuals depend on thei...
Preprint
Full-text available
The emerging virtual asset service providers (VASP) industry currently faces a number of challenges related to the Travel Rule, notably pertaining to customer personal information, account number and cryptographic key information. VASPs will be handling virtual assets of different forms, where each may be bound to different private-public key pairs...
Preprint
COVID-19 resulted in an infodemic, which could erode public trust, impede virus containment, and outlive the pandemic itself. The evolving and fragmented media landscape is a key driver of the spread of misinformation. Using misinformation identified by the fact-checking platform by Tencent and posts on Weibo, our results showed that the evolution...
Article
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Social networks continuously change as new ties are created and existing ones fade. It is widely acknowledged that our social embedding has a substantial impact on what information we receive and how we form beliefs and make decisions. However, most empirical studies on the role of social networks in collective intelligence have overlooked the dyna...
Article
The recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations define virtual assets and virtual asset service providers (VASPs), and require under the Travel Rule that originating VASPs obtain and hold the required and accurate originator information and the required beneficiary information on virtual asset transfers. In this paper, we discuss the...
Article
Full-text available
This paper describes how mobile phone data can support government and public health policymaking throughout the COVID-19 pandemic lifecycle, providing increased situational awareness, more accurate predictions, impact assessment of the policies and cause-and-effect inferences. It identifies key gaps and reasons why this kind of data is only scarcel...
Preprint
Full-text available
Following the birth of Bitcoin and the introduction of the Ethereum ERC20 protocol a decade ago, recent years have witnessed a growing number of cryptographic tokens that are being introduced by researchers, private sector companies and NGOs. The ubiquitous of such Blockchain based cryptocurrencies give birth to a new kind of rising economy, which...
Preprint
Full-text available
The rapid dynamics of COVID-19 calls for quick and effective tracking of virus transmission chains and early detection of outbreaks, especially in the phase 2 of the pandemic, when lockdown and other restriction measures are progressively withdrawn, in order to avoid or minimize contagion resurgence. For this purpose, contact-tracing apps are being...
Article
The rapid dynamics of COVID-19 calls for quick and effective tracking of virus transmission chains and early detection of outbreaks, especially in the “phase 2” of the pandemic, when lockdown and other restriction measures are progressively withdrawn, in order to avoid or minimize contagion resurgence. For this purpose, contact-tracing apps are bei...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper describes how mobile phone data can guide government and public health authorities in determining the best course of action to control the COVID-19 pandemic and in assessing the effectiveness of control measures such as physical distancing. It identifies key gaps and reasons why this kind of data is only scarcely used, although their val...
Article
Modern availability of rich geospatial datasets and analysis tools can provide insight germane to the design of field experiments. Design of field experiments, and in particular the choice of sampling strategy, requires careful consideration of its consequences on the external representativity and interference (SUTVA violations) of the experimental...
Preprint
Full-text available
In order for VASPs to fulfill the regulatory requirements from the FATF and the Travel Rule, VASPs need access to truthful information regarding originators, beneficiaries and other VASPs involved in a virtual asset transfer instance. Additionally, in seeking data regarding subjects (individuals or organizations) VASPs are faced with privacy regula...
Preprint
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Over the last decade there has been a continuing decline in social trust on the part of individuals with regards to the handling and fair use of personal data, digital assets and other related rights in general. At the same time, there has been a change in the employment patterns for many people through the emergence of the gig economy. These gig w...
Preprint
Full-text available
Urban income segregation is a widespread phenomenon that challenges societies across the globe. Classical studies on segregation have largely focused on the geographic distribution of residential neighborhoods rather than on patterns of social behaviors and interactions. In this study, we analyze segregation in economic and social interactions by o...
Preprint
We introduce a framework for dynamic adversarial discovery of information (DADI), motivated by a scenario where information (a feature set) is used by third parties with unknown objectives. We train a reinforcement learning agent to sequentially acquire a subset of the information while balancing accuracy and fairness of predictors downstream. Base...