MIT Summit panelists remind us that “truth is not the enemy.”

By Paula Klein

Increasingly, social media is being used to obfuscate the truth by amplifying false ideas faster and farther than traditional media, according to research by Sinan Aral, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. The truth is under attack.

Moderating a panel discussion on Rescuing Truth, at the MIT Social Media Summit on April 22, Aral said that targeting and personalizing news feeds make it difficult to uncover the source of false news online and for consumers to discern fact from fiction. Platforms and their advertisers reap the financial rewards of this online activity. …

Will non-fungible tokens change the value of digital assets?

By Irving Wladawsky-Berger

The blockchain first came to light in 2008 as the digital ledger for bitcoin transactions. The creator’s original vision was limited to enabling peer-to-peer bitcoin transactions with no need for a bank or government agency to certify the validity of the transactions. But, like the Internet, electricity and other transformative technologies, blockchain soon transcended its original objectives.

Over the years, blockchain technologies have evolved along two major lines. One continues to focus on blockchain as the underlying platform for bitcoin, as well as a wide variety of cryptoassets, such as digital tokens and cryptocurrencies. The other focuses…

Concerns grow about the platforms that dominate online speech

Social media has struck many nerves. Once an online extension of dating sites, friendly chats, database searches, and public relations campaigns, it has matured into a creature with far-reaching tentacles.

Our homes, our workplaces, and our society are now connected online in unprecedented–and some say, dangerous — ways. MIT IDE Director, Sinan Aral, has written extensively about the huge impact of social media in his book, The Hype Machine. In a recent interview he noted that “we’re witnessing, in real time, society grappling with the emergence of social media as a very powerful force.”

As the past few years have…

Cities with strong job market connectivity are more economically resilient, study finds

By Jesse DeLaughter, Sociotechnical Systems Research Center, for MIT News

What makes urban labor markets more resilient? This is the question at the heart of a new study, published in Nature Communications by members of MIT’s Connection Science Group.

Economists, policymakers, city planners, and companies have a strong interest in determining what factors contribute to healthy job markets, including what factors can help promote faster recovery after a shock, such as a major recession or the current Covid-19 pandemic. Traditional modeling approaches in this realm have treated workers as narrowly linked to specific jobs. In the real world, however, jobs…

On-demand jobs will continue to grow in the post-pandemic economy — will wages and benefits rise, too?

By Paula Klein

The inequities faced by on-demand workers compared to full-time employees are familiar although recent legal challenges have met with mixed results. Uber drivers in the U.K. successfully petitioned the courts to count 70,000 of them as full-time employees so they can gain important health benefits and wages. In California, on the other hand, ride-sharing companies — Uber and Lyft — prevailed over workers in similar disputes. Around the globe, fair compensation for online contract workers is in the spotlight.

Behind the scenes is a less-known digital economy worker. In 2019 Siddharth Suri, Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft…

What does it mean in 2021 to rescue the truth or to humanize digital design? Why are free speech and antitrust heated issues once again?

In fact, new conversations, debates, and developments in all of these critical areas are not only timely, but essential in today’s digital world. On April 22 the MIT IDE Social Media Summit aims to spark dialogs that will lead to more promising outcomes.

“Social media has become a potent global force and it’s the job of business, public-sector and academic leaders to understand and interpret its complexity,” said MIT IDE Director, Sinan Aral, who will…

Researchers say baking in privacy, transparency, and fairness will improve machine decision-making

By Paula Klein

Algorithmic decision-making has been criticized for its potential to lead to privacy invasion, information inequities, opacity, and discrimination. However, IDE co-lead and MIT Professor Alex Pentland, and his collaborators, say more human-centric Artificial Intelligence (AI) approaches can be incorporated swiftly in the areas of privacy and data ownership, accountability and transparency, and fairness — if there is a collaborative and concerted effort. In a recent research paper, Ethical Machines: The Human-centric Use of Artificial Intelligence, the authors urge multi-disciplinary teams of researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and citizens to prioritize, co-develop, and evaluate these processes to benefit all.

Sharing fake news online isn’t as intentional as you may think

By Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office

Stopping the spread of political misinformation on social media may seem like an impossible task. But a new study co-authored by MIT scholars finds that most people who share false news stories online do so unintentionally, and that their sharing habits can be modified through reminders about accuracy.

When such reminders are displayed, it can increase the gap between the percentage of true news stories and false news stories that people share online, as shown in online experiments that the researchers developed.

“Getting people to think about accuracy makes them more discerning in their…

Algorithms are designed into the clothing company’s business model and culture

By Thomas Davenport

Stitch Fix is one of the more interesting and faster-growing retailers of the last decade. Founded in 2011, its 2020 revenue — though hurt by the sluggish COVID-19 economy— was $1.7 billion, and it had 3.5 million active clients. Retail personalization services are becoming standard practices in the industry, but at Stich Fix, the online personal styling service relies on AI algorithms alongside human stylists to make client recommendations of clothing, shoes, and accessories.

The goal of the combined human-machine sources of intelligence is to provide clients with a “Fix” — a mailed box of five personalized…

Researchers see a sweet spot where humanities and STEM skills complement one another and add value

By Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Over the past few decades, business, engineering, and other professions not previously associated with the liberal arts have reluctantly embraced a number of its attributes. A few years ago, for example, I came across an about the efforts of Roger Martin to transform business education. At the time, was the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He had long been advocating “that students needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting.

More specifically, they needed to learn how…


Addressing one of the most critical issues of our time: the impact of digital technology on businesses, the economy, and society.

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