Long fascinated by artificial intelligence, MIT Sloan PhD candidate Matt Beane finally decided to pursue an academic career after reading about MIT professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s work using technology to evaluate human conversation. “I read this paper and thought, ‘The future is coming way faster than we expect,’” Beane said. “I applied to MIT Sloan because I was very motivated to see how people would react to getting sensitive personal feedback from technology.”
At the time, Beane was a senior consultant for Roger Schwarz & Associates working with top executives on culture change initiatives at large companies. Often, he found he could improve group dynamics simply by helping people to communicate more effectively. But he discovered that Pentland’s technology was able to accomplish much the same task—taking note, for example, when one person was dominating the conversation or interrupting others. What’s more, feedback from the device actually affected the way people behaved. “It immediately changed participation in groups,” Beane said. Pentland’s study made Beane realize that software might someday be doing his job.
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