Social Physics with Kyle Findlay

Kyle FindlayVia Technoccult:

Klint Finley: What, as a “social physicist,” do you actually do?

Kyle Findlay: Well, at the moment I’m on my own in this “field,” if you can call it that. It just seems like the best description of what I do and what interests me so hopefully it sticks.

Basically, my interest is in understanding how people act as groups. As emergent entities that have their own (hopefully) predictable and describable topological forms. That’s the lofty idea anyway. And the tools of chaos theory, systems theory, network theory, physics, mathematics, etc. help describe this.

Do you have a background in physical sciences?

None at all. I studied “business science” at the University of Cape Town. My first job was for a company with a strong academic background, started by a professor of religion and a professor of statistics. They used a 5-dimensional catastrophe cusp model to describe people’s relationships with ideas.

The moment I was exposed to this thinking, something clicked. A lot of contradictions that I saw in the world around me were resolved. Ever since I have had an insatiable desire to understand these areas. Which led me to interact with experts in many disciplines from neuroscience to economics, math, physics, AI, ecology, biology, etc. Every field has a piece of the puzzle. I am lucky to work in an environment that gives me free rein to indulge my passion.

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  • Haystack

    “Kyle Findlay: Well, at the moment I’m on my own in this “field,” if you can call it that. It just seems like the best description of what I do and what interests me so hopefully it sticks.

    Basically, my interest is in understanding how people act as groups. As emergent entities that have their own (hopefully) predictable and describable topological forms. That’s the lofty idea anyway. And the tools of chaos theory, systems theory, network theory, physics, mathematics, etc. help describe this.”

    Um, yeah…that's called Sociology.

    • http://twitter.com/klintron Klint Finley

      Not exactly – sociology programs don't generally try to apply theory from physical sciences to human behavior.

      It's not a part of UC Berkley (the top rated sociology program in the States) at all: http://sociology.berkeley.edu/index.php?page=ug… (undergrad) grad: http://sociology.berkeley.edu/graduate_pdf/g-al

      I've seen systems theory come up more in business programs than in sociology programs.

      • Haystack

        I was a grad student at Cornell and my area of specialization, and that of my professors, was in applying systems theory to sociology. We used agent-based social simulation to explore how simple rules at the micro level could lead to stable, emergent properties at the macro level. It's a specialized area of Sociology that isn't part of the generalized curriculum (yet), and hasn't benefited from much popularization (Axtell and Epstein's “Sugarscape” and Axelrod's game theoretic work on altruism are exceptions), but these areas are definitely being explored by established names within the field.

        It strikes me as extremely arrogant that Findlay would bill himself as the founding an entirely new field without making a serious effort to explore what already exists within the social science literature. Granted, they're really great ideas, and he'll probably have great success with them at his marketing firm, but he's definitely not the first person to think in this direction. The problem is that those who have are too cloistered in their ivory towers to bother sharing their ideas with the public.

  • Haystack

    I was a grad student at Cornell and my area of specialization, and that of my professors, was in applying systems theory to sociology. We used agent-based social simulation to explore how simple rules at the micro level could lead to stable, emergent properties at the macro level. It’s a specialized area of Sociology that isn’t part of the generalized curriculum (yet), and hasn’t benefited from much popularization (Axtell and Epstein’s “Sugarscape” and Axelrod’s game theoretic work on altruism are exceptions), but these areas are definitely being explored by established names within the field.

    It strikes me as extremely arrogant that Findlay would bill himself as the founding an entirely new field without making a serious effort to explore what already exists within the social science literature. Granted, they’re really great ideas, and he’ll probably have great success with them at his marketing firm, but he’s definitely not the first person to think in this direction. The problem is that those who have are too cloistered in their ivory towers to bother sharing their ideas with the public.

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