Jacob Foster


Jacob G. Foster 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 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. Foster also develops formal models of the structure and dynamics of ideas and institutions, with a particular focus on the rich nexus of cognition, culture, and computation. He is currently writing a book on knowledge as an emergent feature of complex adaptive systems. Foster 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.

After studying mathematical physics at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Foster received his Ph.D. in Physics (with a specialty in Complexity Science) from the University of Calgary. He then spent three years as a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago before moving to UCLA in 2013. His work has appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Sociological Review, NeurIPS, Science, Phil Trans B, Poetics, Sociological Science, and Social Networks, among other venues. He was an Infosys Member at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Sciences in 2020-2021.

Jacob Gates Foster

Contact Info