Philosophy of the Predicted Human: Cesar Hidalgo

Jonas L Juul and I are organizing a series of talks this year on the topic of The Predicted Human.

Our first speaker is the amazing Cesar Hidalgo. Did I mention that Cesar is amazing? Let me give you some reasons. He’s the the Director of the Center for Collective Learning which spans the Universities of Toulouse, Manchester, and Harvard. He’s a highly cited scientist, famous for (among other things) the notion of economic complexity. He has written several bestselling books. There’s a TV show about him. He started a successful company. The list goes on.

But all this worldly success is not why you should care about coming to hear Cesar speak. You should come because Cesar is a fountain of creativity. He has more unusual and inventive ideas before breakfast than most people have in months. And he’s brimming with enough energy and excitement to make the energizer bunny envious. In summary, there’s no excuse not to stop by.

Title: How time, technology, and language impact collective memory and attention

Time: February 9, 10am

Place: Det Samfundsfaglige Fakultetsbibliotek. Gothersgade 140. Auditorium 1.

Abstract: From writing to the web, humans have used communication technologies to enhance our collective memory. Yet, much of what was once popular is now forgotten. In this talk, I will present research exploring the roles played by time, language, and technologies on the dynamics of collective memory and attention. Using data on the attention received by biographies, scientific papers, songs, and movies, we will explore the universal decay of collective memory, the role played by languages in global fame, and the biases in attention and collective memory introduced by changes in technology.

Official bio: César A. Hidalgo is a Chilean-Spanish-American scholar known for his many contributions to economic complexity, data visualization, and applied artificial intelligence. Hidalgo leads the Center for Collective Learning at the Artificial and Natural Intelligence Institute (ANITI) of the University of Toulouse. He is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Manchester and a Visiting Professor at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Between 2010 and 2019 Hidalgo led MIT’s Collective Learning group. Prior to working at MIT, Hidalgo was a research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Hidalgo is also a founder of Datawheel, an award-winning company specializing in the creation of data distribution and visualization systems. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Notre Dame and a Bachelor’s in Physics from Universidad Católica de Chile. His contributions have been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2018 Lagrange Prize and three Webby Awards. He is also the author of three books: Why Information Grows (Basic Books, 2015),  The Atlas of Economic Complexity (MIT Press, 2014), and How Humans Judge Machines (MIT Press, 2021).

Cesar is also an old friend from my time as a postdoc in Laszlo Barabasi’s lab. To prove this connection is a BarabasiLab halloween-party photo from 2007 (from the author’s personal collection) which shows the young Cesar (with Nick Blumm to his left and Pu Wang to his right).

If the talk topic intrigues you, you can check out these papers if you’re interested in hearing more

  • Candia, Cristian, et al. “The universal decay of collective memory and attention.” Nature human behaviour  (2019)
  • Ronen, Shahar, et al. “Links that speak: The global language network and its association with global fame.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  (2014)
  • Jara-Figueroa, C., Amy Z. Yu, and César A. Hidalgo. “How the medium shapes the message: Printing and the rise of the arts and sciences.” PloS one (2019)
  • Yu, Amy Zhao, et al. “Pantheon 1.0, a manually verified dataset of globally famous biographies.” Scientific data 3.1 (2016)

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