Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies
In Why Information Grows, Hidalgo combines the seemingly disparate fields of eco ...more
When I first got involved in IT in the 1970s, we were in awe of the Media Lab and all the ultra-clever, way-out technology concepts that they rolled out, convincing us that we were seeing the future in the visiona ...more
Chapter Summary by Cesar A. Hidalgo
Why Information Grows (WIG) describes the evolution of physical order in natural, social, and economic systems. By focusing on the evolution of information WIG reduces the evolution of economies to a particular case of the evolution of physical order in the universe.
The book starts by emphasizing that the growth of physical order in the universe is non-obvious because of the second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics is ...more
The book is about the role of information in the world and it is supposed to take us all the way from the atoms to economies. In particular, the idea was to build up a new theory of economic growth as a result. I would argue, it takes us from atoms to products and social networks required to build those products. But the author either ...more
This was unlike any economics book I have ever read because it focused on information and entropy to explain not just how matter behaves, but our economics systems as well. Even if in the end this fails to explain the evolution of our economies, it seems like exactly the right lens through which to view the question. Think about our best hypothesis for the evolution of the first living cells. Answering the question, "How did life emerge?" was, and remains, a hard question to answer. Our best gue ...more
It also provides an interesting and new perspectives of what economy is, and how to measure it. More than just being an alternative approach it's quite complementary, and specially convenient for the times we live in which we have a lot of data about all the data we have.
Yes it's ...more
Were I to recommend this book, I'd suggest you start with the last 'chapter' -- the acknowledgements. It frames the book as a story and helps breathe some context into a partially discontinuous collection of ideas.
There are good things here, though. It starts with an understanding that information necessarily arises spontaneously in systems out of equilibrium. So while the universe as a whole is gaining entropy, we on Earth and a ...more
The author makes the claim that the functionality and ordering of atoms (?) in physical products is information, and this grows with economies. A computer is only worth more than the plastic and chemicals its made out of because of the order in which it was assembled, and that order is information (or "crystallized imagination"). Thus, we don't export products at all -- we export information.
Information grows in ...more
He starts off with a soft dive into information and entropy, and confuses things quite badly. He attempts to reconcile physical (Boltzmann) and informational (Shannon) views of entropy, admit ...more
A key take-away for me is the importance of assessing development, not in terms of what people can buy, but instead what people can make. This knowledge and know-how, Cesar describes, is embodied in the products that countries exchange with each other. He thus proposes a new way of thinking about international trade as really an exchange of "crystals ...more
Other than that, read James Gleick's The Information, and check out the work Ricardo Hausman's done with Hidalgo in the Atlas of Economic Complexity and you'll be better off.
In any case, this book will not change your life.
Has compelling ideas and got me interested in reading more about information theory. But the ideas do not seem very connected, and at times, not very convincing.
Most books could be half their size, this one could be double its size. The ideas deserve it.
I liked the author's story at the end about how hard this was to write and surely other writers can relate. Maybe, maybe if the limits of real world had given him more time ...more
Cesar Hidalgo, beautifully connects principles of physics, information theory, networks and complexity to understand the emergence of information and dev ...more
+Cesar did a good job quantifying my own observation that a lot of old writing on information theory has much more to do with communication theory than information.
+Good popular science format, tying a personal narrative to the theory well.
+Economic arguments reminded me a lot of Doug North's work(he does mention NIE but not North's work in particular) and James C. Scott's work, but with a combinatoric programmer friendly way using information theory which I liked. Politically speaking ...more
I think academics who have dedicated their career exploring and expanding a topic have the soft responsibility to communicate their work to non-experts of their field.
Cesar has done that with this short book, which serves as a gateway to the work on economic complexity and product space (swear it was called product forest when I first read about it in the early 2000s) started by him and Ricardo Hausman of Harvard Kennedy School. Cesar noted in the acknowledgement that he intended for this book...more
Although our universe as a whole is developing into states with ever higher entropy and therefore less information, the information around us seems to increase. This is because physical systems far from thermal equilibrium tend to create information rich steady states. This process is fueled by the sun's energy. Furthermore information can be stored in solids and living beings are a good example for this. DNA is a amorphous solid with long range correlations that can encode a lo ...more
But, as you can tell by the three stars and short review above, it wasn't all to great; past the redefinition, the book was redundant. Hidalgo was not attempting t ...more
Hidalgo is basically ...more
Amazing book. Top three non fiction books of the year. Clear, crisp and to the point without endless repetition. Only shortcoming I would say was lack of addressing issue of what happens once information is lost how irfan be regained. Something that especially today's first world countries will have to face soon as they offshore more information ... Know how and knowledge.