Jacob Foster

Assistant Professor of Sociology, UCLA

Jacob G. Foster is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA. He is a computational sociologist interested in the social production of collective intelligence, the evolutionary dynamics of ideas, and the co-construction of culture and cognition. His empirical work blends computational methods with qualitative insights from science studies to probe the strategies, dispositions, and social processes that shape the production and persistence of scientific ideas. He uses machine learning to mine the cultural meanings buried in text, and computational methods from macro-evolution to understand the dynamics of cultural populations. He also develops formal models of the structure and dynamics of ideas and institutions, with an emerging theoretical focus on the rich nexus of cognition, culture, and computation.

Jacob is currently writing a book on knowledge as an emergent feature of complex adaptive systems. He is also interested in the care and feeding of “cosmic sociology:”a science of social organization sufficiently generic to embrace social complexity built on radically different substrates, from extraterrestrial civilizations to past and present human societies. Hence his passion for the InterPlanetary Festival and its mission!

After studying mathematical physics at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Jacob received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Calgary and was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. He is founding co-Director of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute, established with a generous grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation. He is also an alumnus of the 2008 Santa Fe Institute Complex Systems Summer School.