Human collectives at different scales, from teams to organizations and countries, have an ability to change their decision-making strategies and beliefs, as well as the way they are structured, to cope with a host of emerging problems. This process of collective adaptation can lead to extraordinary successes of human cooperation, but can also lead to surprising collective outcomes that do not seem beneficial individually or collectively. The need to understand these processes is amplified by new technologies that are rapidly changing the way we encounter and evaluate new ideas, as well as how we make, use, and break our social ties. Those technologies create a host of new opportunities for collective adaptation, but our emotional reactions, norms, beliefs, and institutions are not yet prepared to deal with them. This mismatch might be contributing to a host of contemporary social problems including political polarization, rampant misinformation, and the decline of democracy.
In this workshop we aim to explore the mechanisms and manifestations of collective adaptation, focusing in particular on those affected by new information technologies. We will ask questions about the basic interplay of our cognitions and social networks, as well as about the ways we can empower people to create better collectives. For example, we will discuss: How do our existing belief systems and decision-making strategies interact with the emerging social networks and problem structures? How do collectives continuously adapt their cognitive strategies and social networks depending on the problems they face? Why do some technological platforms foster more or less beneficial collective action? How can we handle the collective goods problem of online social environments? What are the tradeoffs between bottom-up and top-down regulation of collective adaptation online?
We will invite scientists working at the intersections of many relevant domains including cognitive science, sociology, ecology, evolutionary biology, computational social science, statistical physics, mathematics, archeology, and anthropology. We will also invite representatives of civic organizations with first-hand experience in real-world collective adaptation, and of business entities that are driving some of the most important collective adaptation processes today. The workshop will combine talks with many opportunities for discussions, which will likely spark new collaborations and joint publications. Because of its wide reach across and beyond many scientific domains, this workshop is uniquely suited for SFI.