Social physics

Social Physics gold sociophysics is a field of science qui uses mathematical tools inspired by physics To Understand the behavior of human crowds. In a modern commercial use, it can also refer to the analysis of social phenomena with big data .


The first elements of social physics were outlined in French social thinker Henri de Saint-Simon’s first book, the 1803 Letters of a Habitant of Geneva , which described the idea of ​​describing society using laws of the physical and biological sciences . [1] His student and collaborator was Auguste Comte , a French philosopher widely regarded as the founder of sociology , who first defined the term in an essay appearing in The Producer , a journal project by Saint-Simon. [1] Comte defined social physics as

Social physics is that science which occupies itself with social phenomena, considered in the same light as astronomical, physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena, which is to be subject to natural and invariable laws, its researches.

After Saint-Simon and Comte, the Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet , proposes that society be modeled using mathematical probability and social statistics . Quetelet’s 1835 book, Essay on Social Physics: Man and the Development of his Faculties , outlines the project of a social physics characterized by measured variables that follow a normal distribution , and collected data about many such variables. [2] A frequently repeated anecdote is that when Comte discovered that Quetelet had appropriated the term ‘social physics’, he found it necessary to invent a new ‘sociology’ (sociology) because he disagreed with Quetelet’s collection of statistics.

There have been several “generations” of social physicists. [3] The first generation began with Saint-Simon, Earl, and Quetelet, and ended with the late 1800s with historian Henry Adams . In the middle of the 20th century, Researchers Such As the American astrophysicist John Q. Stewart and Swedish geographer Reino Ajo , [4] Who Showed que la spatial distribution of social interactions Could Be Described using gravity models. Physicists such as Arthur Iberall uses a homeokinetics approach to study social systems as a complex self-organizing systems. [5] [6]For example, a homeokinetics analysis of society shows that one of the following accounts for such variables as the flow of energy, of materials, of action, reproduction rate, and value-in-exchange. [7] More recently there has been a large number of social science papers that use mathematics broadly similar to that of physics , and described as “computational social science”. [8]

In the late 1800s, the sociology of psychoanalyzations in the subsets of social physics or the physics of social physics ( 9) and social thermodynamics or sociophysics thermodynamics ). [10] This dichotomy is roughly analogous to the difference between microeconomics and macroeconomics .

Recent work

Modern popular books about social physics include MIT Professor Alex Pentland ‘s book Social Physics [11] gold Nature editor Mark Buchanan ‘s book The Social Atom . [12] Popular reading about sociophysics include English physicist Philip Ball ‘s Why Society is a Complex Matter [13] or American physicist Lazlo Barabasi ‘ s book Linked . [14]

Commercial use

In modern commercial use “social physics” refers to using ” big data ” analysis and the mathematical laws to understand the behavior of human crowds. [15] The core idea is that about human activity (eg, phone call records, credit card purchases, taxi rides, web activity). These mathematical invariances can be used as a filter for behavioral changes and for detecting emerging behavioral patterns. [16]

Most recently, research by Prof. Alex “Sandy” Pentland and Dr. Yaniv Altshuler at MIT HAS social physics combined with Machine Learning to Improve the performance of machine learning applications. [17] Endor , a company co-founded by Dr. Altshuler , used social physics to introduce a predictive intelligence platform that automates the process of answering predictive business issues.

In the field of cyber-security , a team headed by Dr. Altshuler at MIT has shown how the concept of social physics, manifested as mathematical invariances that are embedded in large datasets, can be used in order to generate the most efficient types of attacks on behavioral information. [18]


  1. ^ Jump up to:b Iggers, Georg G. (1959). “Further Remarks on Early Uses of the Term” Social Science ” “. Journal of the History of Ideas . University of Pennsylvania Press. 20 (3): 433-436. doi : 10.2307 / 2708121 . JSTOR  2708121 .
  2. Jump up^ Quetelet, Adolphe (1835). On man and the development of its faculties, Social or Physical Testing [ Essay on Social Physics: Man and the Development de son Faculties ] (in French). 1-2 . Paris: Printer-Librarian.
  3. Jump up^ Iberall, Arthur (1984) [Presented at Annual Conference of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC), Syracuse, May 1980]. “Contributions to a Physical Science for the Study of Civilizations”. Journal of Social and Biological Structures . 7 (3): 259-283.
  4. Jump up^ Ajo, Reino (1953). Contributions to “Social Physics”: a Sketch Program with Special Regard to National Planning . Royal University of Lund.
  5. Jump up^ Iberall, A (1985). “Outlining social physics for modern societies – locating culture, economics, and politics: The Enlightenment reconsidered”. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA . 82 : 5582-84. doi : 10.1073 / pnas.82.17.5582 .
  6. Jump up^ Iberall, A; Hassler, F; Soodak, H; Wilkinson, D (2000). “Invitation to an Enterprise: From Physics to World History to Civilizations’ Study”. Comparative Civilization Review . 42 : 4-22.
  7. Jump up^ Iberall, Arthur S. (2016), Homeokinetics: The Basics , Medfield, MA: Strong Voices Publishing, ISBN  978-0-990-53614-7
  8. Jump up^ Lazer, D., Pentland, A., et alScience2010
  9. Jump up^ Ball, Phillip (2002) [A talk presented at ‘Horizons in Complex Systems’ Messina, Sicily, Italy, 2001]. “The physical modeling of society: a historical perspective” (PDF) . Physica A . 314 (1-4): 1-14. doi : 10.1016 / s0378-4371 (02) 01042-7 .
  10. Jump up^ Wilson, Alan. “Notes on Some Concepts in Social Physics” . Regional Science . Regional Science Association International. 22 (1): 159-193. doi :10.1111 / j.1435-5597.1969.tb01460.x .
  11. Jump up^ Pentland, Alex (2014). Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread Lessons from a New Science . Penguin.
  12. Jump up^ Buchanan, Mark (2007). The Social Atom – why the Rich get Richer, Cheaters get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You . Bloomsbury USA. pp. x – xi.
  13. Jump up^ Ball, Philip (2012). Why Society is a Complex Matter: Meeting Twenty-First Century Challenges with a New Kind of Science . Springer.
  14. Jump up^ Barabási, Albert-László (2002). Linked: The New Science of Networks . Perseus Books Group.
  15. Jump up^ GEORGE, Gerard; HAAS, Martine R .; PENTLAND, Alex (2014). “Big Data and Management: From the Editors” . Academy of Management Journal . 57 (2): 321-326. doi : 10.5465 / amj.2014.4002 .
  16. Jump up^ “Predictive Analytics” .
  17. Jump up^ “Tuning Social Networks to Gain the Wisdom of the Crowd | MIT Media Lab” . . Retrieved 2016-10-21 .
  18. Jump up^ Altshuler, Yaniv; Aharony, Nadav; Pentland, Alex; Elovici, Yuval; Cebrian, Manuel (2011). “Stealing Reality: When Criminals Become Data Scientists (or Vice Versa)” (PDF) . IEEE Intelligent Systems . 26 (6).