David Krakauer

Director, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery; Co-Director, Center for Complexity and Collective Computation; Professor, Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison


A graduate of the University of London, where he went on to earn a master’s degree in computer science and mathematics, David Krakauer received his D.Phil. in evolutionary theory from Oxford University in 1995. He remained at Oxford as a postdoctoral research fellow and two years later was named a Wellcome Research Fellow in mathematical biology and lecturer at Pembroke College. In 1999, he accepted an appointment to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University and served as visiting professor of evolution. He moved on to the Santa Fe Institute as a professor three years later and was made faculty chair in 2009. Krakauer has been a visiting fellow at the Genomics Frontiers Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and a Sage Fellow at the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Krakauer’s research focuses on the evolutionary history of information processing mechanisms in biology and culture. This includes genetic, neural, linguistic and cultural mechanisms. The research spans multiple levels of organization, seeking analogous patterns and principles in genetics, cell biology, microbiology and in organismal behavior and society. At the cellular level, Krakauer has been interested in molecular processes, which rely on volatile, error-prone, asynchronous, mechanisms, which can be used as a basis for decision making and patterning. He also investigates how signaling interactions at higher levels, including microbial and organismal, are used to coordinate complex life cycles and social systems, and under what conditions we observe the emergence of proto-grammars. Much of this work is motivated by the search for ‘noisy-design’ principles in biology and culture emerging through evolutionary dynamics that span hierarchical structures.

Current Projects

Machine Science

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