Data is now central to the economy, government, and health systems—so why are data and the AI systems that interpret the data in the hands of so few people?
Building the New Economy by Alex Pentland, Alexander Lipton, and Thomas Hardjono calls for us to reinvent the ways that data and artificial intelligence are used in civic and government systems. Arguing that we need to think about data as a new type of capital, the authors show that the use of data trusts and distributed ledgers can empower people and communities with user-centric data ownership, transparent and accountable algorithms, machine learning fairness principles and methodologies, and secure digital transaction systems.
“Communities without data about themselves and without the tools to use their data are at the mercy of those with data and AI tools,” Pentland writes in the introduction of Building the New Economy. “It is time to refresh our ideas about the ways that our society is organized in order to encompass these new digital means of production and rebalance the relationships between all the stakeholders in the economy.”
“Each chapter of Building the New Economy tackles an urgent and important societal question, from how to build effective health surveillance without a national healthcare system to how to protect people's right to control their own data while exploiting its economic value, to how to enjoy the economic benefits of asset-backed securitization while reducing fraud,” writes Beth Noveck, who served as the first United States Deputy CTO. “This boundary-pushing preview of the future we could have is a must-read for policymakers, thought leaders, and all of us wishing to reimagine and build a better society on the other side of the pandemic.”
It's well known that social media generate disinformation and that mobile phone tracking apps threaten privacy, as the authors explain. But these same technologies may also enable the creation of more agile systems in which power and decision-making are distributed among stakeholders rather than concentrated in a few hands. “An assembly of some of the brightest minds in engineering and data science, Building the New Economy bravely tackles not only what the economy needs of technology in our crisis-riddled age, but also what technology demands of financial ecosystems in order for it to make our lives more efficient, fairer, and safer,” said Chris Brummer, Georgetown University. “An ingenious collection of essays, the book provides a fresh new perspective on some of the most cutting-edge technologies of our time.”
Offering both big ideas and detailed blueprints, the authors describe such key building blocks as data cooperatives, tokenized funding mechanisms, and tradecoin architecture. They also discuss technical issues, including how to build an ecosystem of trusted data, the implementation of digital currencies, and interoperability, and consider the evolution of computational law systems. Pentland, Lipton, and Hardjono seek to empower individuals and communities through user-centric data ownership, transparent algorithms, and secure digital transaction systems.
“This book is about how to make data serve all communities, both by empowering individual communities and by building a stronger, more resilient, and trustworthy fabric of social systems,” Pentland writes.
About the authors:
Alex “Sandy” Pentland directs the MIT-wide initiative MITConnection Science. Called one of the “seven most powerful data scientists in the world” by Forbes, he has cofounded more than a dozen companies and is the author of Social Physics.
Alexander Lipton is Professor and Dean's Fellow at the Jerusalem Business School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Cofounder and Chief Information Officer at Sila, and Connection Fellow at MIT.
Thomas Hardjono is Technology Director of the MIT Connection Science and the MIT Trust::Data Consortium.
Learn more about the book on the MIT Press website: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/building-new-economy