Mark Klein, PhD
Principal Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Welcome News Research Teaching Engagement Curriculum Vita Personal Info

I was born April 13, 1960 in Montreal, Canada. My parents came from Poland, and survived the Holocaust to live in Israel before moving to Canada. My Dad is a gifted engineer and designed automated machinery for assembling small tricky items like pens (which I think triggered my initial interest in complex adaptive systems). He has since retired and now splits his time between Montreal and Israel. My Mom died when I was twelve. I have a sister who is a lawyer and lives in Jerusalem with her husband and triplets born in 1996.

I got my Bachelor's degree at Dartmouth College between 1977 and 1981, where I majored in Biochemistry with a focus on neuroscience. It was there that I discovered computers, got interested in artificial intelligence (AI), and learned something of the intricate complexity of living systems. I also discovered I wasn't much good at lab work.

I found an opportunity, after graduating, to combine my interests by working at the Cognitive Psychophysiology Lab (CPL) at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was there that I learned something about how science really works; how to design, run and interpret experiments, how to write scientific papers, and how to develop large computer systems. One study I did on "perfect pitch" was published in Science journal. Believe it or not, I also learned rock climbing in central Illinois, under the influence of some professors in the Psychology Department.

In 1983 I entered graduate school, studying artificial intelligence in the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois. For my Masters degree I implemented a system that reads simple stories and infers the emotional reactions of the characters, based on a model developed by my thesis advisor, Andrew Ortony.

Around that time I met Janiece Joy Sneegas. We got married in August of 1985, and have stuck together through thick and thin.

For my PhD I worked with my advisors Arthur Baskin and Stephen C-Y Lu to develop a computational model of conflict management in collaborative design. This work was fun because it involved a combination of empirical case studies (I studied some architects at work), theory building, and system development, and it started my current preference for multi-disciplinary coordination science research.

Seeking adventure, I got a position after graduating in 1989 as a visiting researcher at the Hitachi Advanced Research Lab near Tokyo Japan. The year I spent there with Jan opened my eyes to the range of differences in human cultures, and got me enthusiastic about travel.

Upon my return to the US in 1991, I got my first "real" job as an AI specialist in the collaborative computing program at The Boeing Company in Seattle WA. Seattle is a stunning place, and Boeing gave me a great opportunity to learn about how a large corporation coordinates its vast activities. I also was introduced to the world of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) by my colleague Stephen Poltrock.

On November 27, 1992 my daughter Hannah Marisha Klein was born, changing and enriching my life in many profound ways. After that, I worked hard to balance professional and personal life.

In 1995 I decided that I wanted to focus more on research than was possible in Boeing, so I took a job as a research scientist at the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Lab. It was really hard to leave Seattle, but State College turned out to be a serene and friendly place, and the job allowed me to learn the craft of writing grants, developing collaborations, and managing a research group. I really like the research scientist lifestyle; it allows me to focus on research without excessive administrative or teaching commitments, and to balance my work with other pursuits.

In 1996 my son Samuel was still-born; the grief Jan, Hannah and I felt has helped us, I think, be more sensitive to the suffering of others and has motivated me to try to contribute something to the world outside my immediate family.

In 1997 MIT called, and after a lot of soul-searching I decided to come join the Center for Coordination Science founded by Tom Malone. MIT is a fantastic place, I think, because of the bright creative people who gather here, and I feel very grateful for this opportunity.

1998 was a pivotal year in my research career. I started up a new line of research, and received several grants to work on it. I have also begun collaborations with folks at the MIT AI Lab, the MIT Department of Civil Engineering, and others. More recently (2000) I was promoted to the rank of Principal Research Scientist. I feel like I have found a true 'home' here and am excited about the opportunities it gives me to contribute as a researcher.

Starting around 2006, I found myself increasingly restless about the fact that my research work was not directly addressing the sustainability challenges that I care so much about as an individual. Our sustainability challenges seem to represent failures of collective intelligence i.e. we are making decisions, collectively, that result in outcomes (environmental degradation, as well as social and economic distress) that almost none of us individually want. And, while it seemed that internet-based collaboration could help us make better decisions around such complex and contentious topics, we had not yet found a way to do that. My two major research projects since that time (the Deliberatorium and Complex Negotiation projects) have focused on that key challenge.

In May 2010, I spent a month as a visiting scholar at the University of Hong Kong, hosted by Professor Maggie Wang. I love living abroad, the sense of aliveness I get from being in a place where something puzzling or wonderful or just quirky is always potentially just around the corner. I think what I'm looking for most is visions of how people can live more happily and sustainably on this planet.

In July 2011, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and spent a week in the Amazon rain forest, at an eco-lodge about 100 km south of Manaus in Amazonas state. It was truly amazing, though it is difficult for me to be in a place of such ecological richness without also being conscious of how our species is rapidly destroying such places throughout our planet.

From August through October of 2011, I was a visiting scholar at the Spanish AI Research Institute in Barcelona Spain, hosted by the Spanish Government. Barcelona is a lovely cosmopolitan city, an amazing place to visit. And it gave me a chance to pursue my ambition of seriously working on my Spanish.

I spent Feb and March of 2013 as a visiting researcher in the Information Science Department at the University of Otago, New Zealand, hosted by Michael Winikoff. New Zealand is a truly wondrous place in terms of its natural beauty.

I spent May 2013 as a visiting researcher in the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Nagoya, Japan, hosted by Takayuki Ito, a long-time collaborator of mine.

As of September 2013, I've taken a leave of absence from MIT to participate in the two year CATALYST European Union project aimed at creating better ways to harvest the wisdom of the crowds for socially impactful applications. My host is Prof. Avi Bernstein at the University of Zurich, and I'll be working with an international team that includes Imagination for People as well as Prof. Simon Buckingham Shum at the Open University. I'm looking forward to meeting new people, seeing new places, and doing interesting and potentially impactful work. My hope is that I will be able to secure new US funding, and return to MIT, after the EU project concludes.

In September 2014, I spent a very interesting and productive month as a visitor at ADDLabs, which is a part of Fluminense Federal University (UFF) in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. I gave six lectures for a UFF class on Collective Intelligence, and collaborated intensively on some research projects with ADDLabs director Prof. Ana Cristina Bicharra Garcia, who was my host for the visit. Brazil is a place of contrasts: great natural beauty and a warm vibrant culture, as well as all the heartbreaking problems associated with developing, resource-extraction-based, economies.

I did a lot of traveling in Fall 2015, including a 1 month stay as a visiting international professor at the Nagoya Institute of Technology (where I taught a course on collective intelligence), plus a month as visiting research fellow at the University of Alcala in Alcala Spain, working on protocols for enabling complex negotiation.

I spent August of 2016 as a visiting research fellow at the Social Media Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto, working on deliberation-centric social media analysis. It was a nice trip: my hosts were great, Toronto is a vibrant cosmopolitain city, and I got to train almost every day at the renowned Systema schools there.

In 2017, I started an extended collaboration with an NEC-funded research group at AIST, a national research lab in Tokyo. Our group has been developing software to enable faster and better outcomes for large and complex negotiations. I've done two three-month stints in Tokyo so far and have really enjoyed the collaboration as well as the city itself.

What I Do When I'm Not At Work

The two most important people in my life are my wife Jan and my daughter Hannah. I like talking with Jan about life, and telling Hannah stories about exotic places and times.

I enjoy outdoor adventures, in particular hiking, SCUBA diving, and rock/mountain climbing. Some of my most memorable climbs include Joshua Tree in California, Devil's Tower in Wyoming, Mount Rainier in Washington State, and Mount Fuji in Japan.

I like to travel and live abroad, the more exotic the better. Most of my trips have been to the Pacific Rim, including Australia, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Singapore and Japan (where I lived for a year), but I've also visited parts of Europe, Central America, Israel and Brazil. My most memorable trips include the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama, Heron Island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) in Vietnam, New Zealand, and the Amazon rain forest. I speak French and Japanese and Spanish (some rusty). My current ambitions include learning Mandarin Chinese, visiting India, Tibet, and Africa as well as remote parts of Indonesia.

I have studied the martial arts intensively since 1982. I have a black belt in Karate as well as in Bong Suul (a Korean weapons style), and have an instructor's rating in Tai Chi Chuan through Yang's Martial Arts Association. In the last two years, I have become entranced with Systema, a remarkable Russian martial art that uses soft style principles in a deep and very pragmatic way. I have been impressed by the insights that this training has offered concerning fundamental principles of mental and physical effectiveness.

I have been exploring the practice of some spiritual disciplines, particularly the Buddhist path, which I see as a comprehensive and pragmatic curriculum that seems very compatible with my personal experiences as well as my understanding of the emerging sciences of consciousness.

I hope to re-kindle my previous involvement in classical guitar and shodo (Japanese calligraphy), as well as increase my involvement in service activities, particularly concerning children and the environment.

My Mission Statement

Sharpen Sword Continuously develop and integrate my physical, mental and spiritual resources. Keep myself healthy and capable so I feel physically good and I am not hampered from doing anything I want to do. Develop my ability to fully experience, love and accept every part of myself, other people, and the universe, just as it is.
Family Man Foster a loving family, helping each other grow towards our full potential. Provide for the basic needs of my family, a few luxuries, plus enough financial security so we can weather out storms, make changes and take chances. Support and be close to my father and sister as well as Jan's family. Have time/energy for fun meaningful shared family activities. Expose Jan and Hannah to the best the world has to offer in culture & nature.
Social Being Develop intimate meaningful connections with a wide range of interesting estimable people. Develop and participate fully in a vital community.
World Citizen Contribute to greater harmony, justice and growth in human society. Leave the natural environment as a whole better off than when I entered it, and work towards achieving a sustainable and vital natural environment.
Research Scientist Make a contribution to research, as a mentor, and as an educator/consultant, aligning my work with my social/environmental values. Do fun, creative, collaborative work. Create opportunities to meet interesting people, travel etc. Always keep an appropriate balance between work and non-work.
Gourmand of Life Experience first-hand that which is wonderful, including love and friendship, human cultures and natural wonders. Experience adventures of every type, including discovery about myself, others and the universe at large.