Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies

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Basic Books, Jun 2, 2015 - Business & Economics - 256 pages
"Hidalgo has made a bold attempt to synthesize a large body of cutting-edge work into a readable, slender volume. This is the future of growth theory." --Financial Times
What is economic growth? And why, historically, has it occurred in only a few places? Previous efforts to answer these questions have focused on institutions, geography, finances, and psychology. But according to MIT's antidisciplinarian CÚsar Hidalgo, understanding the nature of economic growth demands transcending the social sciences and including the natural sciences of information, networks, and complexity. To understand the growth of economies, Hidalgo argues, we first need to understand the growth of order.

At first glance, the universe seems hostile to order. Thermodynamics dictates that over time, order-or information-disappears. Whispers vanish in the wind just like the beauty of swirling cigarette smoke collapses into disorderly clouds. But thermodynamics also has loopholes that promote the growth of information in pockets. Although cities are all pockets where information grows, they are not all the same. For every Silicon Valley, Tokyo, and Paris, there are dozens of places with economies that accomplish little more than pulling rocks out of the ground. So, why does the US economy outstrip Brazil's, and Brazil's that of Chad? Why did the technology corridor along Boston's Route 128 languish while Silicon Valley blossomed? In each case, the key is how people, firms, and the networks they form make use of information.

Seen from Hidalgo's vantage, economies become distributed computers, made of networks of people, and the problem of economic development becomes the problem of making these computers more powerful. By uncovering the mechanisms that enable the growth of information in nature and society, Why Information Grows lays bear the origins of physical order and economic growth. Situated at the nexus of information theory, physics, sociology, and economics, this book propounds a new theory of how economies can do not just more things, but more interesting things.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mavaddat - LibraryThing

The first few chapters are a terrific exposition on the natural (that is, not anthropogenic) origins of information using the models of Boltzmann, Shannon, and another guy whose name escapes me. I had to stop reading at around page 83 because I lost interest at the same time that I lost the book. Read full review

WHY INFORMATION GROWS: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies

User Review  - Kirkus

An interdisciplinary theorist, Hidalgo, the Macro Connections group leader at the MIT Media Lab, invites us to understand the economy in an entirely different way. In the wake of the 2008 recession ... Read full review


PART I Bits in Atoms
1 The Secret to Time Travel
2 The Body of the Meaningless
3 The Eternal Anomaly
PART II Crystallized Imagination
4 Out of Our Heads
8 In Links We Trust
PART IV The Complexity of the Economy
9 The Evolution of Economic Complexity
10 The Sixth Substance
11 The Marriage of Knowledge Knowhow and Information
PART V Epilogue
12 The Evolution of Physical Order from Atoms to Economies

5 Amplifiers
PART III The Quantization of Knowhow
6 This Time Its Personal
7 Links Are Not Free

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About the author (2015)

Cesar Hidalgo leads the Macro Connections group at the MIT Media Lab, where he is also an associate professor of media arts and sciences. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, Anna, and Iris, their daughter.

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