Kick-starting collective learning at MIT Media Lab

A Few Words on Our Collaboration with the MIT Media Lab

Laurène Tran
Sep 4, 2018 · 6 min read

by Laurène Tran |Innovation Working Group, Young Scholars Initiative, Institute for New Economic Thinking

B.Balla, D.Spinola, M.Kaltenberg

This year thanks to the efforts ofMary Kaltenberg, Besiana Balla, and Danilo Sartorello Spinola, coordinators of the Innovation Working group and Complexity Working Group, we had a fascinating summer workshop with the MIT Media Lab & The Institute for New Economic Thinking Young Scholars Initiative (INET-YSI).

Besiana Balla (Innovation Working Group)

With 27 presentation given and 80 young scholars in total, the event was one of the most successful and most diverse in themes and regions.

You can read more about the speakers in my introductory post.

Here’s my summary of the big ideas of the workshops with some additional readings

💻 Collective learning, data and computers 📊

ur host and first speaker was Prof. César Hidalgo (MIT Media Lab). He managed to pull a 3-hour lecture in a 1h30 talk on “The Laws of Learning”chapeau!

Now, if you’re reading this you’ll mostly be interested in knowing what’s next to explore?

The following slides makes for a great literature review. You’ll also find avenues of research to fill ! As you can see, the great bulk of research to do is at the organization level.

or sure, you’ve noticed — Prof. Hidalgo’s research group excels at producing large data visualization, Among them, the Observatory of Economic Complexity is the most famous.

And so, after 3 days full of nice graphs, and data viz, didn’t you ask yourself — how have the democratization of computers affected economics?

In fact, when Brian Arthur, one of the father of complexity in economics started his work at the Santa Fe Institute in 1984, large-scale computing was just emerging. Béatrice Cherrier aka The Undercover Historian, tells it all :

9 ways computers have affected the development of economics

Location strategies, missing women inventors in the 🇺🇸, local policy-makers in 🇨🇳 and Patents 101 🔬

Did you know that bio is the STEM field with the largest fraction of women inventors ? But did you also know that while they represent 52% of all PhDs in bio/agriculture, only 16% of inventors are women?

sMercedes Delgado (MIT Sloan School of Management) demonstrates, we can all contribute to understanding inclusivity in the Innovation Economy. She is building on her previous research on regional clusters with Michael Porter and Scott Stern and she now leads NSF-backed project on the inventor gender gap together with Fiona Murray.

Courtesy of Juan Mateos Garcia, Director of Innovation Mapping @nesta_uk

If you’re not convinced that possessing technical skill is not enough to ensure that women will rise to the top in STEMS fields, you should read (a review of ) Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing.

rof. Siqi Zheng (MIT School of Urban Planning ) also works on location issues yet in another context. When it comes to industrial park allocation, she shows how the managed hand of policymakers solve coordination failures and generate agglomerations, yet they lack the right information and get captured.

In fact, local leaders are willing to sacrifice (on average) about 1.6% of GDP to assign a park to one social connection!

Her working paper “The Revealed Preference of the Chinese Communist Party Leadership: Investing in Local Economic Development versus Rewarding Social Connections” is available on her NBER profile page.

Now, if you’re curious about what complexity thinking looks like when applied in political science, take a look at Prof. Yuen Yuen Ang (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). Her book How China Escaped the Poverty Trap is about bureaucratic politics, adaptation within the party-state, economy and corruption.

inally, Prof. Adam Jaffe, the author of the seminal Innovation and Its Discontents How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do About It. He shared his core lessons on working with patents for over 40 years — how to read them, how to use them.

He also presented his new work on patent citations as formation of ties in a network — through the lens of the preferential attachment model. So, should we move from the “simple” model of diffusion of patents (by following citations) to the preferential attachment model? Prof. Jaffe is not fully convinced. Why ? Because, separating the effects of time and preferential attachment is very difficult and all of these approaches are fuzzy on causality…

So far, no one has really integrated the citations-as-traces-of-knowledge-flows and the spillover phenomena — a working paper idea for next year #EconX ?

If like me you wondered about the ubiquity of patents as a Science and Technology indicator for policy-making, you will enjoy Benoit Godin’s working paper “The Emergence of Science and Technology Indicators: Why Did Governments Supplement Statistics With Indicators? “

👀 So what’s next ?

Since the outset, Prof. Hidalgo insisted on the importance to building tools to facilitate collective learning:

J.Pocklington, D.Spinola, N.Rochowicz, M. Kaltenberg, B.Balla, L.Tran

📖 Our speakers were delighted to be gifted the book Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy.

The author is Dr. William H. Janeway, a seasoned practitioner of venture capital and an astute political economist. He’s also the co-founder of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Doing Capitalism is a must-read for anyone interested in the dynamic interactions of market & politics as well as finance & innovation. Here’s my review and I hope you’ll get the book.


The Innovation Working Group views Innovation as being central to the process of economic development and growth. We look at how economic actors, policies, technology and market conditions interact and evolve over time. We provide a platform to create professional and academic networks for young scholars to share and promote their work on innovation related topics.

Innovation Working Group YSI/INET

We provide a platform to create professional and academic networks for young scholars to share and promote their work on innovation related topics.

Laurène Tran

Written by

Executive Director tradeactive.org @LaureneTran12 #Europe #cannabis #tech

Innovation Working Group YSI/INET

We provide a platform to create professional and academic networks for young scholars to share and promote their work on innovation related topics.

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