César A. Hidalgo

Director, Macro Connections, The MIT Media Lab
Author, Why Information Grows and coauthor, The Atlas of Complexity

Bringing Data to Life.

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Biography

César Hidalgo is trained physicist who utilizes the laws of physics to analyze and understand economic, cultural and other complex systems. He is a pioneer in creating new, visual ways to illuminate difficult-to-grasp data to provide insights for policymakers and businesses.

Dr. Hidalgo’s work provides understanding into the behavior of people, markets, and nations. Focusing on the factors that nurture economic growth and prosperity, he gathers and studies information that includes the products that countries create, what they import, what they export, national values, and cultural characteristics. His findings generate ideas and predictions for future economic success and prosperity for countries and regions.

His work in creating colorful visual “maps” — lively graphical visualizations — based on mathematical models render mountains of metadata and complex systems understandable and useful.

Joi Ito chose César for Wired's first Smart List 2012: 50 people who will change the world list.

Several of Dr. Hidalgo’s projects have drawn world-wide attention for their novelty and usefulness, including:

The Observatory of Economic Complexity — international trade data through more than 20 million interactive visualizations. It has received nearly 3 million visits and it is the primary destination for people looking for international trade data in the web.

DataViVa — official data about the entire formal sector of Brazil’s economy, including data on every municipality, industry and occupation through + 100 million interactive visualizations.

The Pantheon Project — compiles and visualizes data on historical cultural production. It includes all biographies with a presence in more than 25 different languages in the Wikipedia. It is the largest structured dataset on historical cultural production. Pantheon was launched with a feature in The New York Times Magazine.

Global Language Network — connects languages that are likely to be co-spoken mapping linguistic connections using data on more that 2.2 million book translations, more than 500 million tweets and all language editions of the Wikipedia.

immersion — a data visualization engine that allows people to visualize their own email metadata, empowering people to explore the networks that they have weaved across years. Immersion has been visited by +1.5 million people.

StreetScore — a “city of the future” algorithm that predicts peoples’ perceptions of visual cues in urban environments that relate to personal street safety. Remarkably, the predictions are accurate when correlated with measures of safety, including homicides. The project will generate ideas on how to design urban environments that promote safety and quality of life.

César Hidalgo is the author of Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies (June 2015). In this book, César combines the seemingly disparate fields of economic development and physics to present this new rubric for economic growth.

He is also coauthor of The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity (MIT Press). The book explores answers to the question of why some nations prosper and others do not. Making use of volumes of data transformed into colorful “visualizations,” the book measures the capability of nations to make diverse varieties of complex products as a predictor of economic growth.

“Absorbing and very visually appealing….a treasure trove.”
The Economist

Dr. Hidalgo speaks and consults around the world, offering his unique take on economic development, complex systems, and the interpretation of data. He has consulted with, among many others, the Asian Development Bank, UN Development Program, the nations of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, US International Trade Commission, and the World Bank.

Credentials

  • ABC Career Development Professor, MIT
  • Assistant Professor, Media Arts and Sciences, Engineering Systems Division, MIT
  • PhD, Physics, University of Notre Dame
  • Bachelor degree in physics, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Books

Why Information Grows

The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies

César A. Hidalgo

Why do some nations prosper while others do not? Economists usually turn to measures such as gross domestic product or per capita income to answer this question, but interdisciplinary theorist Cesar Hidalgo argues that we can learn more by measuring a country’s ability to make complex products.

In Why Information Grows, Hidalgo combines the seemingly disparate fields of economic development and physics to present this new rubric for economic growth. He believes that we should investigate what makes some countries more capable than others. Complex products — from films to robots, apps to automobiles — are a physical distillation of an economy’s knowledge, a measurable embodiment of its education, infrastructure, and capability. Economic wealth accrues when applications of this knowledge turn ideas into tangible products; the more complex its products, the more economic growth a country will experience.

A radical new interpretation of global economics, Why Information Grows overturns traditional assumptions about the development of economies and the origins of wealth and takes a crucial step toward making economics less the dismal science and more the insightful one.

Basic Books (June 2, 2015)

Review

Review of 'Why Information Grows' — Seeking Alpha

The Atlas of Economic Complexity

Mapping Paths to Prosperity

César A. Hidalgo and Ricardo Hausmann

Why do some countries grow and others do not? The authors of The Atlas of Economic Complexity offer readers an explanation based on "Economic Complexity," a measure of a society's productive knowledge. Prosperous societies are those that have the knowledge to make a larger variety of more complex products. The Atlas of Economic Complexity attempts to measure the amount of productive knowledge countries hold and how they can move to accumulate more of it by making more complex products. Through the graphical representation of the "Product Space," the authors are able to identify each country's "adjacent possible," or potential new products, making it easier to find paths to economic diversification and growth. In addition, they argue that a country's economic complexity and its position in the product space are better predictors of economic growth than many other well-known development indicators, including measures of competitiveness, governance, finance, and schooling. Using innovative visualizations, the book locates each country in the product space, provides complexity and growth potential rankings for 128 countries, and offers individual country pages with detailed information about a country's current capabilities and its diversification options. The maps and visualizations included in the Atlas can be used to find more viable paths to greater productive knowledge and prosperity.

The MIT Press; Revised edition (January 17, 2014)

Topics

César tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Big Data

Information Visualization

Economic Development

Complexity and Networks

Evolution of Information

Videos

Meritocracy and Topocracy of Networks

Complexity | TEDxBoston

Economic Complexity and The Wealth of Nations

Networks Understanding Networks | MIT Media Lab