Jacob Foster

External Professor

Jacob G. Foster is a Professor of Informatics and Cognitive Science at Indiana University Bloomington and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.  He aims to understand what makes complex wholes more intelligent than their parts. Jacob studies the social production of collective intelligence, the evolutionary dynamics of ideas, and the co-construction of culture and cognition. In his empirical work, he 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 and technological 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. His theoretical work focuses on the principles behind natural and artificial intelligences and on the social science of the possible. Jacob is co-Director of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute, a program that aims to build community, collaboration, and creative thinking among early career scholars interested in the study of mind, cognition, and intelligence of diverse forms and formats—from ants and apes to humans and AI. He was originally trained in physics, starting with a BS from Duke University. After studying mathematical physics at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, he received his PhD in statistical physics and complex systems from the University of Calgary. He trained as a social scientist as a postdoctoral scholar and research assistant professor at the University of Chicago. From 2020-2021, he was an Infosys Member at the Institute for Advanced Study.