Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University. His work is in the fields of network science, biosocial science, social AI, public health, and behavior genetics. He directs the Human Nature Lab and is the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2006; the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.
How do you use data science?
For the past few centuries, swept by a reductionistic fervor and by considerable success, scientists have been purposefully examining ever-smaller parts of nature in order to understand the whole. We’ve disassembled life into organs, then cells, the molecules, then genes. We’ve disassembled matter into atoms, then nuclei, then sub-atomic particles. We’ve invented everything from microscopes to super-colliders. But across many disciplines, scientists are now trying to put the parts back together – whether macromolecules into cells, neurons into brains, species into ecosystems, nutrients into foods, or people into networks. They are turning their attention to how and why the parts fit together and to the rules that govern interconnection and coherence. In this sense, the objective of the Human Nature Lab is part of a much broader, and unstoppable, phenomenon that we call the assembly project of modern science. In the Human Nature Lab, we explore emergent properties of social and biosocial systems using basic-science approaches in a pragmatic, solution-oriented way, to develop new discoveries and applications relevant to pressing global problems, from epidemic disease, to the role of AI in social life, to public health in the developing world, and more.