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Eric Berlow  

Data Ecologist, Complexity Scientist

An ecologist, data scientist, and co-founder of Vibrant Data, Eric Berlow knows just how significant the intersection of data and AI is to business. Machines can now recognize people in images better than humans can, instantly translate languages, and tell how you’re feeling before you know it yourself. To keep up, businesses are investing heavily in algorithms and engineers, creating entire departments in order to automate processes or glean previously inaccessible insights. But the data we use is the bloodline that feeds these algorithms. In his clear and timely talks, Berlow shares the complexity of the data and AI supply chain, and how you can nourish your data ecosystem.

Eric Berlow has spent the past twenty years enabling people to make data-driven decisions as a complexity scientist and data entrepreneur. In an increasingly interconnected and AI-optimized world, Berlow, a TED Senior Fellow, helps bring the potential of AI—the technology and the business of it—into view. The biggest driver of success in AI is not the algorithms, he explains, it is the data. In fact, the basic AI algorithms we use today have been around for decades. What has changed is the way we’ve come to understand, collect, and employ big data. Berlow’s talks show you the ways in which a healthy data ecosystem is more critical than code for developing AI that works for you.

Berlow was the co-founder and CEO of Vibrant Data, a data science company which built tools, powered by machine learning, to visually explore high dimensional data. The company was acquired by Rakuten in 2016, where Berlow led product innovation for data insights from the world’s largest e-commerce panel. Prior to that, Berlow was the founding director of the University of California’s first science institute in Yosemite National Park, where he co-led efforts to leverage data and machine learning for facilitating intelligent conservation policy. Berlow is internationally recognized for his research on ecological complexity, with articles in Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that have received Thomson Reuter’s Most Highly Cited Papers awards. His two TED Talks on finding hidden patterns in complex data have received over 2 million views. Berlow is the recipient of a TED Fellowship, a TED Senior Fellowship, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Fellowship, and a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis Fellowship. Berlow holds a BA from Brown University and a PhD in Ecology from Oregon State University.

Speech Topics


Simplifying Complexity

Recent research on natural ecosystems suggests that, for any problem with many moving parts that all influence one another, the more complex the problem - the more resistant it seems to change - the easier it may be to understand and solve. In this talk, Eric Berlow shows audiences how embracing complexity can lead to simple answers. How can complexity theory help us harness more creativity to solve difficult problems? How can you map complex systems to be able to isolate their most influential agents? And, how can we use our knowledge of ecosystems to help solve our largest societal problems? On stage, Berlow unravels his fascinating research to help audiences embrace complexity and become better problem solvers.

The Ecosystems of Business

Natural ecosystems represent millions of years of open source Research and Development on how entire systems have developed the resilience to deal with unpredictable times. In this talk, Eric Berlow applies his work on ecosystems to the business world, to help audiences rethink the way they structure their business. What can ecosystems teach us about sustainable business models? How do they manage risk? What makes them reliably productive in both good years and bad? And what characteristics do highly productive ecosystems have that challenge conventional business wisdom? Berlow helps audiences from any industry think bigger, question prevailing wisdom, and better assess their market.

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