Imagine a bookshelf that stretches far into the distance, laden with genre fiction: potboilers, romances, thrillers. Farther down, we glimpse the royal blue of a Fitzcarraldo edition. The catch? Every book has the same author: E. Machina. They’ve all been written by AI. To SFI External Professor Dan Rockmore (Dartmouth College), we’re closer than we think to the world of that bookstore. The working group “The Anxiety of the Computational” explores questions about how AI-written literature might impact the humanities.
Ten percent of carbon burned on Earth comes from devices like your cellphone, quietly computing even when you aren’t looking at it. Developing a greater understanding of the thermodynamics of computation like that done by your cellphone is critical to reducing energy use. It is also critical to understanding a host of deep, long-standing scientific problems. An Aug. 15–17 workshop, "The Thermodynamics of Natural and Artificial Distributed Computational Systems," meets to identify challenges, opportunities, and priorities to push forward scientific investigations of this topic.
Heatwaves are triggering wildfires and killing people around the globe. The climate emergency and the planet’s sixth mass extinction event have already begun. A special themed issue in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences addresses what actions have led us to this point and what we can do from here.
At present, the global economy is experiencing structural changes that often seem unprecedented. Rapid technological evolution, climate migration, demographic shifts, and deepening inequality all contribute to the current flux of economic systems. The threat of economic reconfiguration also appears to be fueling political polarization around the globe. In light of the current patterns that researchers are observing, many seek new methods to understand the mechanisms that shape the new landscape. An August 8-12 working group explores “How Can Complexity Economics Give More Insight into Political Economy?”
Imagine that we rewound life’s tape to a distant past and let evolution play out again. Which species and traits would succeed the second time? Which characteristics would emerge over and over again, invariant to random chance? Aviv Bergman of the Albert Einstein Institute of Medicine is spending his sabbatical at the Santa Fe Institute, developing computational models designed to answer those questions.
To address climate change and other societal challenges like rising inequality, human migration, and biodiversity loss, humanity must consider the ecological, economic, and political constraints of our planetary systems. In late July, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, hosted a workshop to discuss these considerations and foster collaboration across research communities. SFI co-hosted the workshop in partnership with ICTP and the Fondazione Internazionale Trieste.
A general theory describing how life depends on temperature has been lacking — until now. In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, research led by José Ignacio Arroyo, an SFI Postdoctoral Fellow, introduces a simple framework that rigorously predicts how temperature affects living things, at all scales.
After two years of online-only and postponed events, SFI's summer education programs are back in person. June brought students from around the world to participate in the Undergraduate Complexity Research, Complex Systems Summer School, Graduate Workshop in Computational Social Science, and Advanced Graduate Workshop programs.
By taking another look at the complex relationship between crime and society, researchers at the University of Chicago, including SFI External Professor James Evans, have developed an algorithm that can predict urban crime one week in advance with 90% accuracy. The study, published in Nature Human Behavior, analyzed eight cities — Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Francisco — and found consistent results.
In human cultural life, change often happens in a few notable ways. Some human institutions, like fashion and political opinions, seem to be in constant flux. Others, such as beliefs and scientific theories, change so slowly as to appear static, before suddenly and dramatically shifting course. A new paper in PLOS ONE by SFI’s David Krakauer and Jessica Flack with co-author Phillip Poon offers an underlying framework to describe these changes, both fast and slow.
One of the great goals in physics is to discover whether gravity and the three other fundamental forces in the Universe — strong, electromagnetic, and weak — can be united into a single force, and many superstring and grand unified theories have been created that assume this is possible. But no such grand unified theory has ever been proposed that would unite the characteristics of life — until now.
From its inception in 2017, the Santa Fe Institute’s Research Coordination Network has been bringing interdisciplinary researchers together to study life’s possible origins. This summer, SFI hosts two working groups through the RCN: “Feasible but Undiscovered Metabolisms,” from July 11–16, and “Multiple Life,” from August 22–26.
There's a complex paradox at play in the dynamics between mask-wearing and the spread of disease: While masking reduces transmission rates and consequently disease prevalence, the reduction of disease inhibits mask-wearing — thereby promoting epidemic revival. A new study led by researchers at the University of Virginia and co-authored by SFI's Simon Levin and Stefani Crabtree explores these complex dynamics.
In a June 14-16 SFI workshop, “The Structure of Technology,” researchers seek to develop better frameworks to capture how technology emerges, takes shape, and shapes the world in turn. The workshop is the first of a series of meetings that are taking place through SFI’s Emergent Political Economies grant and research theme.
The immune system is almost fantastically complex, and many basic questions remain unanswered about how it manages to keep us safe from intruders without attacking our own tissues. A June 8-10 SFI working group, Distributed Computing Perspectives on Theoretical Immunology, gathered a diverse community of researchers to both revisit classic problems in immunology with a fresh face and ask what new questions have arisen, taking advantage of recent developments in both biology and computer science.
The world is rife with rankings and orderings, but these hierarchies are only observed after the fact. That makes it difficult to know the true rankings of a system. In a recent paper published in Physical Review E, SFI's George Cantwell and Cris Moore offer a new model to evaluate rankings.
SFI's two-day working group “Language as a window into mind and society” will discuss the many powerful roles language plays in the human mind and in our societies, and how our implicit biases flow into the language-based technologies we build.
On April 30, 2022, the Santa Fe Institute’s Science Board hosted its annual symposium. The meeting’s topic — political economy and climate change — is central to SFI’s new Emergent Political Economies research theme, and will remain a focus of SFI research for the duration of the five-year grant and beyond.