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Using Social Dynamics to Make Individual Predictions: Variational Inference with a Stochastic Kinetic Model
Zhen Xu · Wen Dong · Sargur N Srihari

Tue Dec 06 09:00 AM -- 12:30 PM (PST) @ Area 5+6+7+8 #132

Social dynamics is concerned primarily with interactions among individuals and the resulting group behaviors, modeling the temporal evolution of social systems via the interactions of individuals within these systems. In particular, the availability of large-scale data from social networks and sensor networks offers an unprecedented opportunity to predict state-changing events at the individual level. Examples of such events include disease transmission, opinion transition in elections, and rumor propagation. Unlike previous research focusing on the collective effects of social systems, this study makes efficient inferences at the individual level. In order to cope with dynamic interactions among a large number of individuals, we introduce the stochastic kinetic model to capture adaptive transition probabilities and propose an efficient variational inference algorithm the complexity of which grows linearly — rather than exponentially— with the number of individuals. To validate this method, we have performed epidemic-dynamics experiments on wireless sensor network data collected from more than ten thousand people over three years. The proposed algorithm was used to track disease transmission and predict the probability of infection for each individual. Our results demonstrate that this method is more efficient than sampling while nonetheless achieving high accuracy.

Author Information

Zhen Xu (SUNY at Buffalo)
Wen Dong (University at Buffalo)

Wen Dong is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo with a joint appointment in the Institute of Sustainable Transportation and Logistics. He focuses on modeling human interaction dynamics with stochastic process theory through combining the power of “big data” and the logic/reasoning power of agent-based models, to solve our societies most challenging problems such as transportation sustainability and efficiency. Wen Dong holds a Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His email address is wendong@buffalo.edu.

Sargur N Srihari (University at Buffalo)

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