Even a few bots can shift public opinion in big ways – Tauhid Zaman

MIT Sloan Associate Professor Tauhid Zaman

From The Conversation

Nearly two-thirds of the social media bots with political activity on Twitter before the 2016 U.S. presidential election supported Donald Trump. But all those Trump bots were far less effective at shifting people’s opinions than the smaller proportion of bots backing Hillary Clinton. As my recent research shows, a small number of highly active bots can significantly change people’s political opinions. The main factor was not how many bots there were – but rather, how many tweets each set of bots issued.

My work focuses on military and national security aspects of social networks, so naturally I was intrigued by concerns that bots might affect the outcome of the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. I began investigating what exactly bots did in 2016. There was plenty of rhetoric– but only one basic factual principle: If information warfare efforts using bots had succeeded, then voters’ opinions would have shifted.

I wanted to measure how much bots were – or weren’t – responsible for changes in humans’ political views. I had to find a way to identify social media bots and evaluate their activity. Then I needed to measure the opinions of social media users. Lastly, I had to find a way to estimate what those people’s opinions would have been if the bots had never existed.

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Micro-entrepreneurs making an impact in less developed communities – John Roberts

John Roberts, MIT Sloan Visiting Professor

From Entrepreneur Magazine

One might well ask, “What do micro-entrepreneurs in urban and slum neighborhoods across Cape Town, South Africa have to learn from the elite business schools of the world?  It turns out that the answer to this question is: “Plenty.”

I recently had the honour of being Chairman of Judges of the prestigious Gary Lilien Practice Prize given by the INFORMS Society for Marketing Science, in conjunction with the Marketing Science Institute and the European Marketing Academy. The award winning study proves that the tools of marketing science can make a major positive impact in helping to grow disadvantaged economies like the ones in Cape Town.

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This is what the Green New Deal needs to actually work – John Reilly

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer John Reilly

From Fortune Magazine

Is the Green New Deal (GND) a liberal pipe dream, or is it an opening for an economically viable, bipartisan climate change solution?

The program put forward by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her team reimagines the U.S. as a nation with no carbon emissions, full employment, a fair and equal economy, and justice for all. This GND proposal pairs massive government spending with quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve to achieve these aims. Since we can just print money, the argument goes, it would cost nothing.

Not so fast. Whereas deficit spending and a Fed stimulus package are good policies in a deep recession, we are now near full employment. For a Green New Deal to work now, we will need to pay for any federal investment with higher taxes. Moreover, that investment should be rolled out gradually.

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When the tide goes out: big questions for crypto in 2019 – Gary Gensler

MIT Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer, Senior Advisor MIT Media Lab, Gary Gensler

From CoinDesk

After this year’s wild market ride and so many failed projects, what might Satoshi Nakamoto’s innovative “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” mean for money and finance in 2019 and beyond?

Satoshi’s innovation – the use of append-only timestamped logs, secured by cryptography, amongst multiple parties, forming consensus on a shared ledger – needs to be taken seriously. The resulting blockchains of data can form widely verifiable peer-to-peer databases.

For any chance of a lasting role in the long evolution of money, though, blockchain applications and crypto assets have to deliver real economic results for users. And while bringing the crypto finance markets within public policy norms is critical, the greatest challenge remains the seriousness of commercial use cases.

A bunch of hype masquerading as fact won’t do it.

What We’ve Learned

Blockchain technology and crypto tokens provide an alternative means to move value on the Internet without relying upon a central intermediary. They promise the potential to lower verification and networking costs, ranging from censorship, privacy, reconciliation and settlement costs to the costs of jump starting and maintaining a network.

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Viewpoint: holiday shopping was biggest in years, but not every retailer should celebrate – Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From Boston Business Journal 

The numbers are in and it’s official: The 2018 holiday shopping season was one of the strongest in years.

Total US retail sales jumped 5.1 percent this November and December from the previous year, according to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks both online and in-store spending. American shoppers spent over $850 billion this season.

Not all retailers are rejoicing, however. While total sales were higher than years past, much of that growth is attributable to the rise of ecommerce. According to Mastercard, online sales rose 19 percent from 2017. Department stores, on the other hand, saw a 1 percent decline in sales from a year ago. This follows two years with growth below 2 percent.

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