Hawking’s New Institute to Harness Data

Stephen Hawking has launched a new institute called the Cantab Capital Institute for the Mathematics of Information (CCIMI) to task Ph.D. students at the University of Cambridge with finding new ways to analyse the seemingly endless streams of data we have at our fingertips. “In a dazzlingly complex world, you have to be able to discern the meaning in the mess. We are, in a figurative and literal sense, awash with what we call data,” said Hawking. “What we’re only now fully realizing is twofold: the sheer quantity of data in any given domain and the tools we need to make use of the information encoded in it.” CCIMI will tackle everything from financial markets and data processing to data science in healthcare and biology. Plenty of information on these subjects is available; the trick is finding ways to responsibly use that “big data” to understand our world. “The power of information only comes from the sophistication of the insights which that information lends itself to,” Hawking said. “The purpose of using information, in this context, is to drive new insight.” That’s why the institute plans to “drive forward the development of insight” via new mathematical tools. These tools could affect everything from where people decide to live to how medical issues are diagnosed and many other aspects of our everyday lives. CCIMI could also inform Hawking’s plans to search the stars for aliens and study A.I.. Both of those efforts will depend on massive amounts of data, and CCIMI could help unlock its secrets. The institute is a joint effort from Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) and Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics (DPMMS). Prospective students must apply by January 15 at the latest.