Mission Areas

We explore the future of human potential to guide private and public policy toward a more effective, human-centered world. Using diverse practices -- machine learning, naturalistic data, augmented intelligence, behavioral economics, neuroscience and the learning sciences -- we research how innovation can produce sustained good when informed by a deep understanding of people, rather than technology alone.

Our research and prototypes push well beyond the frontiers of education, work, inclusion, innovation, and neuroscience. Rather than refining "best practices" we explore the space of "what's possible". As a collection of professional mad scientists, we're quite proud of the power of being different.

Technology is changing faster than culture, and many of the jobs available today will soon be radically deprofessionalized by automation and AI. While there is reason to believe these changes will produce an even richer set of jobs, our schools and other social institutions are simply not designed to produce a future workforce where the only job description will be “creative, adaptive problem-solver”. We explore how changes in public and private policy concerning both AI and people can produce a society of explorers.

Our research, which spans early-education learning science through professional development, clearly shows that the skills we traditionally value are not only doomed to be outdated by technological advances, but historically have played only a secondary role in individual success. We know how kids develop strong perspective-taking, deep endogenous motivation, and a belief that their hard work will pay off. Instead of focusing education almost solely on traditional skills and knowledges, it must instead focus on meta-learning, the collection of attributes most strongly related to positive life outcomes: health, happiness, and meaning. We explore both the human and technological side of this transformation via research in the learning sciences, behavioral economics, and machine learning-based augmented intelligence.

Innovation is hard. Unfortunately, innovating in a way that actually solves meaningful problems in the world is dramatically harder. An increasing number of well-intentioned, sophisticated innovations actually worsen the problems they were meant to solve. We have found that this is almost always due to an over-focus on the capabilities of new technologies and lack of understanding of people. In the space of Socos' research, all problems are human problems and all solutions are human solutions. The amazing power of deep neural networks is not in solving our problems for us, but in scaling those solutions to reach everyone.

President Obama learns about Dr. Ming’s Google Glass projects for diabetes and autism.

What is the cost of being yourself? The world is filled with myths about how marginalized groups “deserve” to be underpaid and under-promoted. Our research on over 100 million working professionals tells a dramatically different story; using a wide-range of data and machine learning, we calculated the "tax" on being different and its impact on our economies. Massive value creation has been hidden by systematic undervaluing of their contributions. Yet standard practices for combating these biases have wildly differing, even negative, effectiveness. Radically different approaches of company culture and talent can dramatically reduce “The Tax”.

Socos Labs applies insights and algorithms from theoretical neuroscience, economics, and psychology to massive data sets to challenge ideas about human potential. We explore solutions to map our aspirations as communities to everyday actions. The starting point for much of our work is the brain and body. We have developed algorithms to predict and treat diabetes, expression recognition AI to assist individuals with autism, smartphone monitoring to predict bipolar manic episodes, closed-loop systems to support working memory expansion, and synchronous applied neuroscience for team optimization.

Technology is only a tool. It is an amazing tool, and one that has had, on balance, a profoundly positive impact on the world. But it is still only a tool. It can only ever reflect our values back at us. Seemingly innocent technologies can have surprisingly negative effects - inequality, political capture, and instability in social networks - along with the emergence of profound disruptions like social dishession and de-professionalization. Technology should never simply make us feel good or ease us through our day; it must always challenge us. When we turn technology off we should be better people than when we turned it on.