Alex Pentland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Alex "Sandy" Pentland
Born1951 (age 72–73)
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Known forSocial physics, wearable computing, computational social science, computer vision
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University, MIT
ThesisVisual Inference of Shape: Computation from Local Features (1982)
Doctoral advisorWhitman Richards
Doctoral studentsDeb Roy
Irfan Essa
Rosalind Picard
Trevor Darrell
Tanzeem Choudhury
Nathan Eagle

Alex Paul "Sandy" Pentland (born 1951) is an American computer scientist, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, and serial entrepreneur.


Pentland received his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and obtained his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.


Pentland started as lecturer at Stanford University in both computer science and psychology, and joined the MIT faculty in 1986, where he became Academic Head of the Media Laboratory and received the Toshiba Chair in Media Arts and Sciences, and later joined the faculty of the MIT School of Engineering and the MIT Sloan School. He serves on the Board of the UN Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, advisory boards of Consumers Union, OECD and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Lab, and formerly of the American Bar Association, AT&T, and several of the startup companies he has co-founded. He previously co-founded and co-directed the Media Lab Asia laboratories at the Indian Institutes of Technology and Strong Hospital's Center for Future Health. Pentland is one of the most cited authors in computer science[1] with an h-index of 150, [2] co-led the World Economic Forum discussion in Davos[3] that led to the EU privacy regulation GDPR, and was one of the UN Secretary General's "Data Revolutionaries" that helped forge the transparency and accountability mechanisms in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.[4]

Pentland founded and currently directs MIT Connection Science[5] an MIT-wide program which pioneered computational social science, using big data and AI to better understand human society, and the Trust::Data Alliance[6] which is an alliance of companies and nations building open-source software that makes AI and data safe, trusted and secure. He also founded the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program[7] which creates ventures to take cutting-edge technologies into the real world, was Academic Director of the Data-Pop Alliance,[8] and co-founder of Imagination In Action[9] which brings world-changing inventors together with leaders of governments and companies.

In 2011 Tim O’Reilly named him one of the world's seven most powerful data scientists[10] along with Larry Page, then CEO of Google and the CTO of the Department of Health and Human Services. Recent invited keynotes include annual meetings of U.S. National Academy of Engineering, OECD, G20, World Bank, and JP Morgan.

Pentland's research focuses on next-gen Web infrastructure, AI, Computational Social Science, and Privacy. His research helps people better understand the "physics" of their social environment, and helps individuals, companies and communities to reinvent themselves to be safer, more productive, and more creative. He has previously been a pioneer in wearable computing,[11] ventures technology for developing nations,[12] and image understanding.[13] His research has been featured in Nature, Science, and Harvard Business Review, as well as being the focus of TV features on BBC World, Discover and Science channels.[citation needed]

Companies co-founded or incubated by Pentland's lab include the largest rural health care service delivery system in the world,[14] the advertising arm of Alibaba,[15] the identity authentication technology that powers India's digital identity system Aadhaar,[16] and rural service outlets for India's largest payment solutions provider.[17]

More recent companies include (mental health services), (AI coaching for interaction management), (Web3 confidential smart contracts), Wise Systems (delivery planning and optimization), Sila Money (stable bank and stablecoin), Akoya (secure, privacy-preserving financial interactions), FortifID (digital identity), (microbiome interventions for GHG reduction and health), and Array Insights (federated medical data analytics).[citation needed]

Pentland, along with colleagues William J. Mitchell and Kent Larson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are credited with first exploring the concept of a living laboratory. They argued that a living lab represents a user-centric research methodology for sensing, prototyping, validating and refining complex solutions in multiple and evolving real life contexts. Nowadays, several living lab descriptions and definitions are available from different sources.[18][19][20][21][22][23]


  • Honest Signals (2010)[24] describes research chosen as Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Idea of the Year.[25]
  • Social Physics (2015)[26] describes research that won both the McKinsey Award from Harvard Business Review[27] and the 40th Anniversary of the Internet Grand Challenge.[28]


  1. ^ "Alex 'Sandy' Pentland".
  2. ^ "Alex 'Sandy' Pentland". Google Scholar. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  3. ^ "New Deal on Data, World Economic Forum" (PDF). Media Lab. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  4. ^ "A World That Counts, UN Data Revolution" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  5. ^ "MIT Connection Science". MIT Connection Science. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  6. ^ "MIT Trust::Data Alliance".
  7. ^ MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program
  8. ^ "Home". Data-Pop Alliance. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  9. ^ "Home". Imagination In Action. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  10. ^ Perlroth, Nicole. "#6 Alex". Forbes.
  11. ^ Feinleib, Dave. "3 Big Data Insights from the Grandfather of Google Glass". Forbes.
  12. ^ "D-Lab - Development through Dialogue, Design and Dissemination".
  13. ^ "Scientific American Frontiers - PBS Programs - PBS". PBS.
  14. ^ "spinoff". Dimagi. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  15. ^ "spinoff". Reuters. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  16. ^ "spinoff". ASMag. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  17. ^ "spinoff". Medianama. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  18. ^ Core Labs (2006),
  19. ^ Niitamo, V.-P.; Kulkki, S.; Eriksson, M.; Hribernik, K. A.: State-of-the-art and good practice in the field of living labs, Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Concurrent Enterprising: Innovative Products and Services through Collaborative Networks, Milan, Italy, 2006, 349-357.
  20. ^ Pallot, M; Trousse, B.; Prinz, W.;Richir, S.; de Ruyter, B.;Rerolle, O.: Katzy, B.;Senach, B.: Living Labs Research. ECOSPACE Special Issue Newsletter 5 dedicated to Living Labs, pages 15–22. Archived 2012-09-02 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Schumacher, J.; Feurstein, K.: Living labs – a new multi-stakeholder approach to user integration, Presented at the 3rd International Conference on Interoperability of Enterprise Systems and Applications (I-ESA'07), Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, 2007.
  22. ^ Kusiak, A., The University of Iowa, "Innovation: The Living Laboratory Perspective", Computer-Aided Design & Applications, Vol. 4, No. 6, 2007, pp 863–876
  23. ^ European Commission Information Society and Media, Unit F4 New Infrastructure Paradigms and Experimental Facilities. Living Labs for user-driven open innovation. An overview of the Living Labs methodology, activities and achievements. January 2009.
  24. ^ Pentland, Alex (24 September 2010). Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262515122.
  25. ^ "Harvard Business Review - Ideas and Advice for Leaders".
  26. ^ Social Physics: How social networks can make us smarter. Penguin Press. 27 January 2015. ISBN 9780143126331. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  27. ^ "The 2012 McKinsey Award Winners". Harvard Business Review. April 2013.
  28. ^ "MIT News Press Center - MIT News".

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