Alex “Sandy” Pentland is a pioneer in organisational engineering, mobile information systems and computational social science. He has helped create and direct MIT’s Media Lab, the Media Lab Asia and the Center for Future Health.
He chairs the World Economic Forum’s Data Driven Development council, is Academic Director of the Data-Pop Alliance, and is a member of the advisory board for Telefónica (including the Data Transparency Lab, which Telefónica helped to create and continues to develop).
Alex will be speaking on the Main Stage at our flagship event, WIRED2015 on October 15-16. He will take part in the session, “Turning data into understanding” alongside data-visualisation historian Max Roser, planetary scientist and astronomer Meg Schwamb and sensory mapmaker Daniele Quercia.
Bringing the WIRED world to life, WIRED2015 showcases the innovators changing the world and promoting disruptive thinking and radical ideas. There will be more than 50 speakers over the two-day event, presenting stories about their work in science, design, business and many other fields.
Can you tell us what you’re planning to speak about at WIRED2015?
I will be speaking on day one about how citizens, companies and countries can take effective action in a world increasingly driven by Big Data algorithms. Within that I will address cybersecurity attacks and the misuse of personal data.
I will be joined by a highly qualified line-up of speakers, including a data-visualisation historian and a planetary scientist and astronomer, to debate the value of data to the world. The key to unlocking the power of data is in how we can interpret and understand it, in all industries and across all nations.
Is there anything you’d like to achieve by speaking at WIRED2015?
I would like to encourage people to tackle the challenges presented by the data-driven economy. There is much we can benefit from this trend, but also a lot that can stand in our way if we don’t address it correctly.
I am also there as an advisor of global digital telco Telefónica, which believes that the opportunities of technology should be open to everyone. As an organisation, it is passionate about understanding the global barriers to technological progress and is an active campaigner on behalf of global citizens. It is about to release the world’s biggest global Index on Digital Life, which has revealed that digital infrastructure alone does not guarantee digital prosperity. Culture, spirit and ambition are just as impactful. There is a lot the US can learn from Chile, for example, and that is often overlooked.
Who are you looking forward to hearing and/or meeting at WIRED2015?
The line-up is an impressive one, so I’m looking forward to meeting everyone. What inspires me about WIRED is the sheer diversity of talent and innovation in the room. From human biologists to food flavour scientists, urban farmers to peace negotiators, this is one event that is impossible to ignore.
What do you think the area of personal data transparency will look like in five years’ time?
We will see a world where flows of personal data will be governed by citizens themselves.The need for greater transparency and accountability will have led to universal citizen involvement, where people are in much greater control of their own data. This will mean that citizens are able to self-monitor and self-censor, which will require new operating models from companies in all sectors.
What do you think could be the most significant challenges and developments in the field of online personal data transparency?
Establishing a simple and trusted framework for controlling the flow of personal data will be key. Clearly, regulation can only go so far and organisations will need to innovate and adapt to make the most of the opportunity. I suspect we will see some fallout along the way, but such is the case for all revolutions.
What’s next for Alex Pentland?
I will be deploying and evaluating personal data frameworks in a handful of small regions around the world. Hopefully I will have more to share on the progress of that this time next year!
With Telefónica as a headline partner WIRED2015 will stimulate as much debate off-stage as on. It will, once again, set the agenda and provide a unique platform from which to engage with the future.
To support the upcoming publication of the Telefónica Index on Digital Life, Telefónica has produced an ambitious new 15-part series called “The Trailblazers” — 15 millennials (aged 18 to 35) whose ventures use #techforgood.
WIRED2015 takes place on October 15-16 at Tobacco Dock in London, E1W. Last year’s event sold out, so secure your place now. WIRED subscribers save 10 per cent on tickets. We also have a limited number of half-price tickets available for startups and registered charities. For more information or to register, please visit http://www.wiredevent.co.uk/wired-2015.