DIGITAL LIVING 2030: The TAU-Stanford Partnership

New environmental, social and personal forces are constantly reshaping our lives.

More than 55% of the world’s population lives in cities plagued by aging infrastructure, heightened security concerns, inadequate service delivery and rising operating and energy costs. Yet in the past 10 years, those same cities have acquired massive amounts of real-time data from mobile phones, vehicles, sensors, scanners, GPS and other devices, and this data has the potential to contribute towards addressing these critical challenges. Similarly, various social systems collect and analyze massive amounts of data – continuously measuring and boosting information flow among people. New personalized digital applications monitor our health and wellbeing, in hopes of delivering a better living experience.

Data science, social computation, analytics and optimization are instrumental both towards understanding how best to collect, model and analyze incoming data from diverse systems, and towards designing new systems to deliver smarter, safer, more efficient and more fairly-distributed services, while ensuring a good quality of life for an engaged citizenry.

 

DIGITAL LIVING 2030: The TAU-Stanford Partnership focuses on research initiatives that improve our digital lives. The program will bring together a uniquely talented consortium of Tel Aviv University and Stanford University faculty and students to spearhead the development of infrastructures, processes, methods and algorithms that will be implemented by hardware and software components to create and support our new data-rich world. The research carried out by the consortium will take advantage of both universities’ highly cooperative and multidisciplinary ecosystems to address the big questions essential to achieving a major impact on our environmental, social and personal well-being.


There was a time when connecting to the internet meant being tethered to a desk and chained down by data and energy cables. That was less than 20 years ago. Today, there’s no such thing as down time. We sleep less. We socialize less often in person, yet we’re far more socially connected than ever before. Political campaigns, elections and revolutions are won and lost online. We’re our own doctors, our own teachers and sometimes our own friends and entertainers. Ever-increasing quantities of content are available at our fingertips for immediate consumption:  from conventional TV shows and movies to blogs, tweets, emoji language and social feeds. We don’t wait in lines. We shop and work from home. Bottom line: we spend a growing portion of our lives in cyber space!

The question is: What’s next?

Digital changes will accelerate exponentially, similarly to what we’ve seen in previous technological revolutions. Scientific, engineering and technological innovations will provide policymakers, entrepreneurs, business-people and private citizens with smart, efficient, and cost-effective opportunities in all aspects of life. “Smart” technologies will give rise to the development of new artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions that learn what’s driving each system and then optimize these systems accordingly. These solutions will generate new value propositions and improve our environment, society and lives.

Yet, with all the extraordinary opportunities they provide, these new developments carry certain risks. They create insecurity, generate new threats and impose new limitations and constraints on our society.

The proposed consortium—DIGITAL LIVING 2030: The TAU-Stanford Partnership—will help us better address these opportunities and challenges via three inter- and intra-connected silos of innovation.Digital Living

▪ Environmental and infrastructure systems
▪ Social and organizational systems
▪ Individual and personalized systems

 

Three to five working groups will focus on specific research problems that affect and/or are affected by one or more of these closely associated aspects.

ENVIRONMENTAL AND INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS

According to the 2012 UN urbanization report, cities occupy 2% of the Earth’s total area and are responsible for 70% of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the world’s energy needs will increase by 60% by 2030, to accommodate an additional 2.9 billion people. New cities will require new networks of roads, railways and utilities fueled by renewable energy sources and solar power, and these infrastructures will necessitate digital networks of massive scale. Urban performance, consumption and conservation will be critical.

At the center of the new environmental infrastructures is the Internet of Things (IoT), enabling every device to be connected to the network – from energy grids, security sensors, traffic signals and transportation engines to cellphones, appliances and wearable devices.

The IoT will connect all these devices and locations. It will be applied all over the infrastructure space, providing dynamic on-demand management services, with minimal operating costs and waste.

The new infrastructures will require Big Data analytics on a scale that has never been seen before. Exciting new technologies will store, track, analyze and make sense of the massive amounts of data at previously unimagined rates. Humankind has already created 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – 90% of it in the last two years! Walmart alone collects more than 2.5 petabytes of unstructured data from one million customers every hour. One petabyte – 1015 bytes – is the equivalent of about 20 million file cabinets of text. These amounts will continue to grow exponentially in the next few years.

Once the data is collected and structured, heavy AI systems will be needed to support instant data-driven analyses and “smart” automated actions. AI will be used to learn patterns of energy/water/waste consumption, and then optimize the smart grids accordingly; learn mobility patterns of people and materials in the city; and then incorporate this information into smart transportation applications, including shared autonomous cars.

These wonderful new opportunities bring new challenges and associated risks. Security- and privacy-related concerns—for people, companies, government entities and critical systems—will continue to be highly significant. New questions will be raised. How do we keep personal information secure when billions of devices are connected? How do we prevent someone from hacking into a TV to gain access to an entire network? How do we manage the tradeoff between personalized services and user privacy?

 

SOCIAL AND ORGANIZATION SYSTEMS

Technology has always shaped the ways in which we communicate. Six hundred years ago, the printing press provided people with access to information. Today, we rely on the internet and social media, and in the future, artificial intelligence will make robot journalism, “social battlers” and simultaneous translation between languages and cultures.

Experts agree that by 2030 use of social media will be ubiquitous. Social media applications will be integrated into our wearables and maybe directly wired to our brains, where they will be able to track our habits, beliefs and emotions. Virtual experiences, virtual avatars and autonomous agents that carry out some of our social and professional interactions will be ubiquitous and life-changing.

In fact, the effects of technology on cultural communication are evident today.

We have already seen the development of ‘Global English’ as a world language, and primitive and easily interpretable icons are making a surprise comeback in the form of the emoji, as younger generations learn to cope with information overload.

The second wave of wireless communications reduced the need for developing countries to invest in expensive infrastructures. And the technologies themselves will further reduce the urban-rural split that characterized first-wave technologies, especially in developing countries.

These forces are already reshaping cultural behavior and accelerating individual empowerment. For example, Muslim women have historically had limited opportunities to access educational resources and to integrate into the market economy. More recently, they’ve become prolific users and consumers of social media, reaching beyond their everyday social networks into “safe spaces” to discuss women’s rights, gender equality, and the role of women within Islamic law. Participation in online and social media platforms hinges on income, literacy and access.

The Internet has revolutionized many aspects of human life, including commerce, advertising, social interactions and education. But it has not yet proved to be the force for large-scale social progress we are all waiting for. Open chat-groups and message boards too often and too quickly turn from substantive discussions to name calling. Tapping into the potential we all see is difficult. It requires significant advances in social choice theory, game theory, analytics and algorithms on the one hand, and innovative deliberation interfaces for careful deployments and experiments on the other.

The TAU-Stanford Partnership

The TAU-Stanford Partnership will pursue fundamental research in the above-mentioned directions. It could, for example, address the need for large-scale deliberation, including participatory budgeting, building digital voting platforms and developing theories of voting on budgeting problems; use AI tools to design the next generation of social networking features; learn how information is spread in different communities and redesign effective campaigns and discussions; and even construct AI agents that can improve collaboration among people, learn individual preferences and enable a more democratic system to execute municipal actions.

 

INDIVIDUAL AND PERSONALIZED SYSTEMS

Beyond merely promoting exciting new technologies, a primary focus of Digital Living 2030 is supporting personal wellbeing.

Personalized health is a natural starting point for addressing these issues. This area is expected to be developed massively in the next decade. New health information technologies will revolutionize the quality and convenience of healthcare services, while also lowering their costs. A great deal of critical health data is already digitized, and with the development of wearable technology the quantity of digitally-available information is expected to grow exponentially.

More and more information will be stored in the cloud in personal health records that are accessible 24/7. Computerized algorithms will empower individuals to make rapid, sound decisions about their own health and healthcare services. Tele-medicine will facilitate round-the-clock consultations with health professionals or with AI agents standing by to take calls.

The availability of health data will provide new opportunities to analyze and develop medical treatments and procedures, including smart vaccination policies that analyze human mobility patterns, health status and risk trajectories.

Artificial Intelligence will play a key role here as well. For example, it could learn personal habits and lifestyle and propose an individual healthcare plan that takes into consideration both physical and mental conditions.

New AI agents – far more sophisticated than Alexa, Google and Siri – will guide a person through and represent that person in various professional and personal networks and interactions on email and social media, in text messages and on the phone. These agents will be given sophisticated decision-making algorithms and, naturally, will come with new risks.

As mentioned above, a major challenge when talking about personalized systems is ensuring the privacy and security of the massive quantities of valuable, but sensitive, personalized data that will be collected, stored and processed.

 

WHY A TAU-STANFORD PARTNERSHIP?

The proposed TAU-Stanford Partnership will utilize lessons learned in Tel Aviv – voted one of the World’s Smartest Cities at the 2014 Smart City Expo – and Silicon Valley, the mecca of the tech industry worldwide.

Tel Aviv University is celebrated internationally for creating an innovative, entrepreneurial culture that generates inventions, startups and economic development in Israel. For three years in a row, TAU has ranked 9th in the world, and first in Israel, for alumni going on to become successful VC-backed entrepreneurs.

TAU commercializes its laboratory discoveries through its technology transfer company, Ramot. To date, 2400 patents have been filed, making TAU 29th in the world for patents among academic institutions. New technologies coming out of the university have generated 65 startup companies and 198 licenses. And in 2017, TAU ranked 8th in the world for graduates who established unicorn companies, that is, companies valued at $1 billion or more. TAU is the only non-US university to make the top 10.

Stanford University is in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, one of the most intellectually dynamic and culturally diverse areas in the world. It is a leader among academic institutions, known for educating the brightest students, for shaping the world through ground-breaking research, and for building a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Stanford is also home to some of the world’s finest minds. The university’s faculty currently includes 22 Nobel laureates, 51 members of the American Philosophical Society, three recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 158 National Academy of Science members, five Pulitzer Prize winners and 27 MacArthur Fellows.

Combined, TAU and Stanford have a critical mass of some 50 scholars and scientists working in areas related to data science, analytics, information systems, operations research, supply chains, transportation, security, privacy, control, social media and more.

DIGITAL LIVING 2030 will engage talent from both universities’ Departments of Management Science & Engineering and Industrial Engineering, which conduct interdisciplinary research from three areas critical to the program’s success:

a) Information systems, analytics and data science;
b) Computational behavioral science and human-machine interactions; and
c) Applied math, system engineering, control and optimization.

This unique blend of expertise provides a wide area for collaboration of faculty and students that can be further enhanced when preliminary results are applied to NSF-like research grants.

Both institutions work closely with world-leader companies, such as Google, Apple, IBM, Intel, Ford, GM, TATA, Infosys, Applied Materials and many others.

Together TAU and Stanford will:

▪ Advance multidisciplinary, basic and applied research in data science that addresses the challenges of collecting and analyzing data in smart environments.
▪ Develop new methodologies and technologies that use the gathered information to enhance the quality, safety and efficiency of people’s lives, while supporting open, transparent and fair communication among people and organizations.
▪ Develop smart applications that can optimize services such as transportation, healthcare, commerce, safety, energy and material flow in environmentally friendly and sustainable urban settings.

 

HOW WE CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

Advanced research is essential to develop innovative techniques and technologies that can provide the critical tools necessary to address new challenges and lay down the foundation for future generations.

We need to create strategies, technologies and systems to address the new environmental, social and personal forces that human society will inevitably face in 2030. These new systems will need to take on even bigger challenges of fulfilling essential human needs while ensuring a better quality of life.

We need our best and brightest.