I400/590 : Large-Scale Social Phenomena

Spring 2016
Informatics West, Room 107
Mondays and Wednesdays, 1-2:15pm
Professor Simon DeDeo
Associate Instructor (AI) Ian Wood


The official course syllabus is at http://santafe.edu/~simon/syllabus_2016.pdf [current version: 10 January 2016]. Ian Wood’s office hours are Tuesday, 1—3 pm, Informatics East Fourth Floor (the grad student “roof”).

Course description

What has become of human society since its emergence ten thousand years ago? What will come next? This course will develop the concepts and tools necessary to understand the emergence and dynamics of large-scale social phenomena including cultural practices and social norms, revolutions and market crashes, and conflict in both war and peace. We will take as case-studies both modern (21st Century), historical (17th-20th Century), ancient (3rd-7th Century BCE), and evolutionary-time sociotechnical systems.

Particular focus on topics newly accessible to "big data" approaches; emphasis on developing research projects and building collaboration skills, including mid-semester hackathon.

Prerequisites: programming skills and initiative sufficient to work with real-world data (sample question: what is the variance in the end-of-day S&P 500 for 2012). Basic understanding of probabilities (conditional, joint). Strong interest in the topic.

Resources for Personal Development

Intellectual health warning: work on personal development, leadership, and life-skills currently falls well short of the rigor and proof expected in the natural sciences (you are welcome to change this). These links are provided without warranty and solely in the hopes that you will find them useful sources of views you many not have considered in the past. None of these texts are required; no endorsement is implied; placebo effects abound.

Getting Things Done. A classic text on improving personal productivity. Popular among geeks.
Articles on exercise from the New York Times: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]. This does not contain information about exercise for those with disabilities. I would be grateful to learn more if you can help.
Emotionally Intelligent Leadership. A selection of articles from the Harvard Business Review.
Lois Frankel’s career guide for women (with plenty of advice useful to men; I [Simon] read it early in my career).
The War of Art. Occasionally baffling book on procrastination and achievement.
Your Brain at Work. Strategies for concentration, focus, and thinking.
Difficult Conversations. Classic text on conflict resolution.
How to Pick a Graduate Advisor. Good advice for both student and mentor once you enter a Ph.D. program.

Focus at Will. Web-based program for concentration.
RescueTime. Self-monitoring software for your computer. Feedback on actual usage (LaTeX vs. reddit, e.g.)

Resources from Previous Years

Artemy Kolchinsky’s home page with many data-mining tools and iPython notebook examples is Large-Scale Social Phenomena: Data Mining Demo. Information Theory for Intelligent People and Bayesian Reasoning for Intelligent People are not required reading, but may be of use for those getting up to speed with some of the basics. The Jury Paradox Worksheets: “Basic” (covering the Networks, Crowds & Markets argument). “Advanced” (covering the Nash Equilibrium solution of Feddersen and Pesendorfer). Hackathon Handouts: What Makes a Group Succeed? / Grading policy and expectations for the final presentation Final Paper Handouts: Grading policy and expectations for the final paper