"Apollo in his Chariot Transforms Night into Day" by Jean-Baptiste Huet (c. 1800). Courtesy of Smithsonian Open Access.
New York City, NY
Topical Meeting

All day

This event is private.

Humanity is experiencing rapid change within a number of inter-coupled systems. Shocks from COVID, climate change, and new technologies are affecting simultaneous regime shifts in our financial, supply, energy, belief, political, institutional, and international systems, creating a moment reminiscent of the 1970s. The interdependences among these systems frustrate reductionist attempts to understand the arch of change by examining individual systems in isolation.

For strategists and decision-makers, periods of increased change are among the most exciting, and offer outsized opportunities. Complexity-based views of social systems highlight the processes and mechanisms that underlie change. Trends, phase transitions, and cycles are among the change processes most relevant to our current situation.

  • Trends are the most intuitive type of system-level change; they build over time, and can often be forecast with some degree of near-term accuracy.
  • Phase transitions are fast and radical changes at the system-level, which often reverse trends and reset the variables on which previous trends operated. In their most extreme form, phase transitions auger new regimes with new rules.
  • Cycles help us understand sets of phase transitions, in which the system moves between multiple regimes in an understandable order.


This meeting, SFI’s first in-person Risk Meeting since the pandemic, will survey the state of change in a number of these inter-coupled systems. Particular emphasis will be paid to instances in which changes in an adjacent system dampen, disrupt, or accelerate the trends, phase transitions, and cycles that typically characterize change.


Niall FergusonNiall FergusonAuthor, Founder of Greenmantle, and Millbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University
Geoffrey WestGeoffrey WestPast President, Shannan Distinguished Professor, and Science Steering Committee Member at the Santa Fe Institute

More SFI ACtioN Events