Santa Fe Institute

Human Behavior, Institutions, and Social Systems

The appearance and persistence of such complex forms of human social organization as property rights, companies, markets, cities, nation states, and democratic forms of government raise fascinating questions about human social development.

Why and how were such systems advantageous to those who adopted them? How have these systems co-evolved? Why do cities live forever but companies eventually die? What are the underlying structures and dynamics of financial markets? Why did complex urban centers suddenly appear in at least six places around the world at about the same time?

Social systems have been a mainstay research direction at SFI. Today, a growing numbers of Institute researchers are taking an empirical, quantitative approach to theories in social systems. Massive data sets and scaling laws offer new ways to understand modern complex social systems. By adding the increasingly expansive and detailed archaeological records of early human social systems, researchers are gaining valuable insights into human social and cultural evolution.