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Tackling Society's Big Problems With Systems Theory


Ali Jadbabaie, associate director of MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society.

Ali Jadbabaie, associate director of MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, explains, Our focus is on addressing large societal problems, whether they be power systems and energy systems, or social networks, or financial systems, or urban systems,

Credit: MIT News

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) doctoral program is well underway.

Two years ago, MIT leaders decided to establish IDSS as a way to support and coordinate research using analytical tools to tackle major societal issues.

IDSS associate director Ali Jadbabaie says some of the biggest challenges--from climate change and water infrastructure to monetary systems and social networks--involve massive amounts of data that are daunting to analysts and policymakers. As a result, MIT leaders believe a new approach is needed to address these issues in a systemic way.

Jadbabaie says the approach builds on the efforts of MIT's Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, which combines data science with systems theory and social sciences to solve large global problems.

Interactive networks, whether teams of robots, transportation systems, or power infrastructure, also interact with human users, and face the institutional effects of markets and regulators. Jadbabaie says IDSS will train a new generation of students in this approach to understanding distributed systems and optimizing interactions.

"All these social and political aspects, this interaction of the technology with the social systems--that's why we felt that something like IDSS was needed," he says.

From MIT News
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