While watching a demonstration of various MIT Media Lab projects on Friday, President Sebastián Piñera of Chile asked a question that many similar political leaders wonder of their own countries.
“So what is the next industry that will be big in Chile?” Piñera asked of César A. Hidalgo, Asahi Broadcast Corporation Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, and graduate student Alex Simoes, both of whom are at the Media Lab. The two were demonstrating their work with The Economic Complexity Observatory, a collaborative project meant to develop new tools that can help visualize large amounts of data for macroeconomic-development decision making. In response to Piñera, the researchers said that plastics looked to be an economic driver for Chile in the foreseeable future.
The demonstration was one part of Piñera’s visit to the Institute: He met with MIT President Susan Hockfield before heading to the Media Lab, where he also delivered a speech to Chilean students from across the Boston region.
Piñera, addressing the crowd in Spanish, admitted that he felt a "deep, but healthy, jealousy" for the students who had the opportunity to study "at one of the best universities in the world." But he also urged them, once done with their studies, to come home.
"Chile needs your education, the skills you've acquired here," he said. "That's what will make a difference in our economy going forward."
Emily Finn contributed to this story.