César Hidalgo

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César Hidalgo
Cesar Hidalgo
Cesar Hidalgo in 2014
Cesar Augusto Hidalgo Ramaciotti

(1979-12-22) December 22, 1979 (age 39)
Santiago, Chile
Alma materUniversidad Catolica de Chile,
Notre Dame
Known forThe Atlas of Economic Complexity, ‘’The Product Space’’, Economic complexity index’’,Why Information Grows'
AwardsLagrange Prize (2018), Webby Awards (2017,2018(2)), Information is Beautiful Award (2017), Indigo Design Award (2018), Bicentenial Medal of Science from Chilean Congress (2012), Technological Person of the Year Chiletec (2015), 20 Most Influential Latinos CNET (2017)Bicentennial Medal from the Chilean Congress (2012)
Scientific career
FieldsComplexity economics, Complex Systems, Network Science, Data Visualization
ThesisThree empirical studies on the aggregate dynamics of humanly driven complex systems (2008)
Doctoral advisorAlbert-László Barabási

César A. Hidalgo (born December 22, 1979) is a Chilean physicist, writer, and entrepreneur. He is an Associate Professor at MIT and the director of the Collective Learning group at The MIT Media Lab. Hidalgo is also a co-founder of Datawheel, a company specialized in digital transformation solutions for governments and large companies. He is the author of Why Information Grows, and co-author of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. Hidalgo is known for pioneering the field of Economic Complexity and for the creation of several popular data visualization and distribution platforms, such as The Observatory of Economic Complexity, DataViva, Pantheon, Immersion, DataUSA, DataAfrica, and DataChile. He is the recipient of the 2018 Lagrange Prize in Complex Systems, which is the highest prize in the field of Complex Systems given to a scholar under the age of 50. He has also received the Bicentennial Medal of Science from the Chilean Congress and has been a World Economic Forum young global leader and a global agenda council member. Wired Magazine UK also named him as one of 50 people who could change the world in 2012.[1] His data visualization and distribution platforms have won multiple awards, including two webby awards and one information is beautiful award.

Early life and education[edit]

Hidalgo was born in Santiago de Chile in 1979 to Cesar E. Hidalgo and Nuria Ramaciotti. His father was a publicist and journalist and his mother a K-12 school administrator. He has two siblings Caterina and Nuria.

Hidalgo attended The Grange School until he was expelled at the age of fourteen. He then completed his High School Education at The British High School. From 1998 to 2003 he studied Physics at Universidad Católica de Chile. From 2004 to 2008 he obtained a PhD in Physics from The University of Notre Dame. His PhD advisor was Albert-László Barabási.

After two years in Harvard as a postdoc, Hidalgo joined the MIT faculty in 2010 as an Assistant Professor at the MIT Media Lab. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014. Currently he directs the Collective Learning group at The MIT Media Lab.

Economic complexity[edit]

Starting in his PhD Hidalgo began using networks to study economic development. His main contributions include The Product Space,[2] which is a network that can be used to predict a country’s future patterns of diversification, and the economic complexity index,[3] a formula that can be used to estimate the knowledge intensity of economies. The economic complexity index is highly predictive of future economic growth[3] and also is a strong explanatory factor of cross-national differences in income inequality.[4] Hidalgo’s work in Economic Complexity has been covered by important media outlets like The New York Times,[5] The Economist,[6] and The Financial Times.[7]

Why Information Grows[edit]

In Why Information Grows Hidalgo explains economic growth as a consequence of the growth of information and computation in the universe. He begins by explaining the physical mechanisms that allow information to grow, and then unpacks these mechanisms in the context of social and economic systems. The main argument of the book is that the need for computation to be embodied, in cells, humans, or teams of humans, is what makes the growth of information in the economy both possible and difficult.

Soon after its release the book was highly praised by economists including Paul Romer,[8] the father of endogenous growth theory, Eric Beinhoecker,[9] the director of Oxford’s Institute for New Economic Thinking, and Tim Harford,[10] a popular economics author and regular columnist for The Financial Times. Why Information Grows was also featured as the main review of The Economist's books and arts section of the July 25, 2015 print edition,[11] as the main book review of Nature's May 28, 2015 print edition,[12] and Kirkus Reviews,[13] among others.

Data visualization and distribution platforms[edit]

Hidalgo has co-authored a number of popular data visualization and distribution platforms. These are tools that make available vast volumes of data through visualizations. These platforms include:

The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC)[edit]

The OEC is a tool that makes available international trade data through more than 20 million visualizations. The Observatory of Economic Complexity focuses on the mix of products that countries export because this product mix is predictive of a country's future patterns of diversification, G.D.P. growth, and income inequality. The OEC was co-authored with Alex Simões, who developed this platform as his master thesis in the Macro Connections group at The MIT Media Lab.


DataViva is a visualization engine that makes available regional development data for all of Brazil through more than 1 billion visualizations.[14][15] These visualizations include trade data, employment data and education data, for each of Brazil's more than 5000 municipalities and its hundreds of products, industries and occupations. DataViva was developed in a collaboration between Hidalgo, Alex Simões and Dave Landry, and the government of Minas Gerais in Brazil, including Minas’s government department of strategic priorities and FAPEMIG, Minas Science funding agency.


Pantheon[16] is a data visualization engine focused on historical cultural production and impact. Pantheon helps users explore metadata on globally famous biographies as a mean to understand the process of collective memory and of the role of languages and communication technologies in the production and diffusion of cultural information. Amy Yu, Kevin Hu, and Cesar Hidalgo developed pantheon at the Macro Connections group at MIT[17][18]


Immersion is a data visualization engine for email metadata. Immersion helps uncover the networks people form while interacting through email. Immersion was co-authored by Hidalgo together with Daniel Smilkov and Deepak Jagsdish, while both Smilkov and Jagdish were working as students in Hidalgo’s Macro Connection’s group. Immersion was released in 2013, and quickly became popular as a way to demonstrate what people can learn by looking only at email metadata.[19][20][21][22]


DataUSA is an effort to visualize and distribute public data for the United States. It was launched on April 4, 2016 and acclaimed by The New York Times,[23] The Atlantic's City Lab,[24] and Fast Company.[25] DataUSA received the Information is Beautiful Award in 2016 and a Webby Award in 2017 for best Civil and Government Innovation.[26] DataUSA was built by Datawheel in collaboration with Deloitte.


DataAfrica makes available data on the health, poverty, agriculture, and climate, of thirteen African countries at the subnational level. DataAfrica won a 2018 webby award for best civil and government innovation.


DataChile integrates and distributes data from more than a dozen Chilean government departments. It won a 2018 Indigo Design Award.

Urban Perception[edit]

Place Pulse, Streetscore, and Streetchange[edit]

Place Pulse, Streetscore, and Streetchange are tools created to map people's perceptions of urban environments. Place Pulse has been featured in The Guardian[27] and Fast Company.[28] Streetscore has been featured in The Economist[29] and New Scientist,[30] among others.

Augmented Democracy[edit]

In 2018, Hidalgo presented at TED's main event the idea of Augmented Democracy: a democracy in which people are represented directly by personalized digital twins powered by artificial intelligence.



  • ‘’Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order from Atoms to Economies’’ Basic Books, New York (2015) ISBN 978-0465048991
  • ’’The Atlas of Economic Complexity’’ MIT Press (2014), ISBN 9780262525428

Selected articles[edit]

  • "Links that speak: The Global Language Network and its Association with Global Fame" Shahar Ronen, Bruno Goncalves, Kevin Hu, Alessandro Vespignani, Steven Pinker and César A. Hidalgo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10.1073/pnas.1410931111 (2014)
  • "The Collaborative Image of the City: Mapping the Inequality of Urban Perception" Philip Salesses, Katja Schechtner, and César A. Hidalgo. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68400. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068400
  • "The Network Structure of Economic Output" R Hausmann, CA Hidalgo. Journal of Economic Growth (2011) 16:309-342 DOI 10.1007/s10997-011-9071-4
  • "The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity" CA Hidalgo, R Hausmann. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (2009) 106(26):10570-10575
  • "Understanding Individual Human Mobility Patterns" MC Gonzalez, CA Hidalgo, A-L Barabási. Nature (2008) 453: 779-782
  • "The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations" CA Hidalgo, B Klinger, A-L Barabási, R Hausmann. Science (2007) 317: 482-487


  1. ^ The Smart List 2012: 50 people who will change the world, Wired UK, 2012. https://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/02/features/the-smart-list
  2. ^ Hidalgo, César A., et al. "The product space conditions the development of nations." Science 317.5837 (2007): 482-487.
  3. ^ a b Hidalgo, César A., and Ricardo Hausmann. "The building blocks of economic complexity." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106.26 (2009): 10570-10575.
  4. ^ "Linking Economic Complexity, Institutions, and Income Inequality". World Development. 93: 75–93. 2017-05-01. arXiv:1505.07907. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.12.020. ISSN 0305-750X.
  5. ^ Tim Harford, The Art of Economic Complexity, The New York Times, May 11, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/05/15/magazine/art-of-economic-complexity.html?_r=0
  6. ^ Diversity Training, The Economist, Feb 4, 2010, http://www.economist.com/node/15452697
  7. ^ Tim Harford, Milton Friedman meet Richard Feynman, The Financial Times, August 18, 2007 http://timharford.com/2007/08/milton-friedman-meet-richard-feynman/
  8. ^ Paul Romer, Why Information Grows, July 8, 2015, http://paulromer.net/why-information-grows/
  9. ^ Eric Beinhoecker, ‘Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies’, by César Hidalgo, Financial Times, June 12, 2015 http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/36cad2c0-1038-11e5-ad5a-00144feabdc0.html
  10. ^ Tim Harford, Team work gives us added personbytes, The Financial Times, June 19, 2015 http://timharford.com/2015/06/teamwork-gives-us-added-personbyte/
  11. ^ Multiplier Effect, The Economist, July 25, 2015 https://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21659692-physicist-explains-how-order-born-multiplier-effects
  12. ^ http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v521/n7553/full/521420a.html?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews
  13. ^ https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/cesar-hidalgo/why-information-grows/
  14. ^ Alexander Howard, Brazilian Data Visualization Platform Brings Numbers To Life, Aims To Make Traditional Reports 'Obsolete', Huffington post, June 18, 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/18/dataviva-open-data_n_7604912.html
  15. ^ Shaunacy Ferrero, New MIT Media Lab Tool Lets Anyone Visualize Unwieldy Government Data, Fast Company, December 4, 2103 http://www.fastcodesign.com/3022701/innovation-by-design/new-mit-media-lab-tool-lets-anyone-visualize-unwieldy-government-data
  16. ^ http://pantheon.media.mit.edu
  17. ^ Dwight Garner, Who is more famous than Jesus? The New York Times Magazine, March 14, 2014 https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/magazine/whos-more-famous-than-jesus.html
  18. ^ Margaret Rhodes (March 25, 2014). "MIT Media Lab Maps History's Biggest Celebrities". Fast Company.
  19. ^ Kashmir Hill, Forbes, July 10, 2013 Here's A Tool To See What Your Email Metadata Reveals About You https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/07/10/heres-a-tool-to-see-what-your-email-metadata-reveals-about-you/
  20. ^ Larry Abramson, NPR, How a look at your gmail reveals the power of metadata https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2013/08/22/214172709/how-a-look-at-your-gmail-reveals-the-power-of-metadata
  21. ^ Abraham Riesman, What your metadata says about you, Boston Globe, https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/06/29/what-your-metadata-says-about-you/SZbsH6c8tiKtdCxTdl5TWM/story.html
  22. ^ Nidhi Subbaraman. Take a peek at your email metadata ... before the feds do. NBC News http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/take-peek-your-email-metadata-feds-do-6C10569544
  23. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/technology/datausa-government-data.html?_r=0
  24. ^ http://www.citylab.com/tech/2016/04/this-new-data-tool-brings-city-data-to-the-surface/476661/
  25. ^ http://www.fastcodesign.com/3058589/how-an-mit-data-viz-guru-is-cracking-open-cryptic-government-data
  26. ^ http://www.webbyawards.com/winners/2017/websites/general-website/government-civil-innovation/data-usa/
  27. ^ Place Pulse: : a new website rates city safety. August 19, 2011. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/19/place-pulse-website-city-safety
  28. ^ http://www.fastcodesign.com/1664885/mits-place-pulse-a-hot-or-not-for-cities-to-fix-broken-blocks
  29. ^ https://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2014/08/dodgy-neighbourhoods
  30. ^ https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229744-100-spot-the-difference-software-maps-citys-mean-streets/#.VA8CQfldWSo