NYU-Poly’s Oded Nov Maps the Silicon Brain

NEW YORK, May 10, 2013 – The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative announced it will fund research by a team led by Oded Nov, an assistant professor of technology management and innovation at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), into what Nov calls “silicon brains” – large-scale knowledge repositories created online.

The prestigious Keck Futures Initiative is a program of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine with support from the W.M. Keck Foundation. The seed grants support bold and risky interdisciplinary research projects related to the informed brain in a digital world. This year, the 12 grants were selected from 43 proposals submitted by invited participants to the Futures Initiative.

Nov explains that human society is undergoing a major transformation, enabled by digital technology.  He cites Wikipedia and open-source software  as examples of large scale knowledge repositories generated collaboratively by people who contribute their expertise and energy to a common pool accessible to everybody – in other words, society-scale silicon-based “brains.”
Inspired by similar efforts in the life sciences such as the Human Genome Project, Nov and his team are seeking to explore the patterns or building blocks through which individual human brains co-create these society-scale brains. Their project is titled “From Informed Human Brains to Society-Scale Silicon Brains: Uncovering the DNA of Social Knowledge.” When their ambitious project is complete, for the first time in history, researchers studying on-line behavior will have the equivalent of a human-genome map: a detailed rendering of the sequences of human activities that underpin the creation of large bodies of knowledge. Nov predicts that his map will enable researchers to observe, understand and improve the process in novel ways.

"NYU-Poly is pleased that the National Academies Keck Initiative has recognized Professor Oded Nov’s important explorations into the social dynamics that shape technology-enabled collaborations,” said NYU-Poly President Katepalli R. Sreenivasan. “By selecting his research for one of its highly selective grants, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative has recognized the novelty and importance of understanding these powerful new relationships between technology, people and ideas, which are the key drivers of innovation in the 21st century. We are proud to have him leading this vital research in one of our key academic focus areas."

Nov, whose work has long focused on social computing, holds degrees from Tel Aviv University, the London School of Economics and Cambridge University.  His many honors include a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Google Focused Research Award and a Marie Curie Fellowship.

Collaborators on the project are Ofer Arazy, associate professor at the University of Alberta (Canada) Alberta School of Business Department of Accounting, Operations and Information Systems, and Narayan B. Mandayam, a Rutgers University professor of electrical engineering and the Peter D. Cherasia faculty scholar.