Prof. Narayan Mandayam receives NAKFI Grant Award


"From Informed Human Brains to Society-Scale Silicon Brains: Uncovering the DNA of Social Knowledge"

Dr. Narayan B. Mandayam, who is currently the Peter D. Cherasia Faculty Scholar and Professor of ECE at Rutgers, is the recipient of a prestigious NAKFI Grant Award announced by the National Academies on May 9, 2013. The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) is a program of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) with support from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Launched in 2003, NAKFI has been catalyzing interdisciplinary research at the intersection of science, engineering and medicine, and enhancing education among researchers, funding organizations, and universities. NAKFI’s objectives include enhancing the climate for conducting interdisciplinary research, and breaking down related institutional and systemic barriers.

Below is the press release on the NAKFI grant awards from the National Academies:

Dr. Mandayam is part of a collaborative team led by Professor Oded Nov, a faculty member in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation at NYU-Poly along with Professor Ofer Arazy, a faculty member in the Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta. In the project titled "From Informed Human Brains to Society-Scale Silicon Brains: Uncovering the DNA of Social Knowledge," Dr. Mandayam and his collaborators focus on the digital technology-enabled transformation human society is undergoing in the past decade: not only informed human brains, but also society-scale informed silicon-based “brains” - large scale knowledge repositories created collaboratively online by people who contribute their knowledge, expertise and energy to a common pool accessible to everybody. While knowledge repositories are not “brains” in the same sense a human brain is, they do represent a novel form of a dynamically-created and easily accessible knowledge pool.

Inspired by similar efforts in the life sciences, such as the Human Genome Project, this project will explore the basic patterns, or “building blocks” of the process through which individual human brains co-create society-scale silicon brains, such as Wikipedia, open source software and scientific datasets. Furthermore, the project seeks to identify the relationship between sequential patterns of these building blocks and attributes of the resulting silicon brains. To illustrate this approach, take the example of the creation process of Wikipedia, “the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history” whose goal is to store and share human knowledge: Each Wikipedia article consists of a large number of edits made by numerous people with a range of interests and motivations. Further, each edit can be categorized as one of a relatively small number of possible wiki building blocks, such as: add new content, delete hyperlink, restructure content. Thus, each Wikipedia article can be represented as a string of collaboration building blocks resembling a “DNA” of the knowledge creation process.

Just as the goals of the Human Genome Project are to identify and sequence the genes in the human DNA, the goal of this project is to analyze a large number of collaborative sequences, and identify patterns of collaboration – thereby charting the “DNA” of collaboratively created society-scale silicon “brains”. Dr. Mandayam seeks to use approaches from game theory, prospect theory, behavioral theory and stochastic modeling to describe the evolution and dynamics of the knowledge creation process. He will accomplish this in collaboration with Dr. Nov and Dr. Arazy who have developed a prototype platform for visualization of large-scale collaborative knowledge sharing and accumulation in Wikipedia, which will be used as a stepping stone for this ambitious project.