Collins Conference Room
Working Group

Meeting Description:  Recent world events, including the rise of populism and the erosion of the collective perception of objective facts, have undermined our faith in the ability of contemporary institutions to nurture progress.  Financial instability and persistent inequality have fueled unrest and driven perceptions of unfairness.   There is a sense of urgency to understand the root causes of these disturbing trends and to offer feasible alternative visions of cultural and technological change that might take us in a better direction.  Our methods of governance, whether of nation states or corporations, seem adapted to a world that no longer exists. The narratives of the industrial revolution need to be replaced.

This workshop will explore the hypothesis that the mismatch between rapidly evolving physical technologies on one hand and slowly responding cultures and institutions (i.e. social technologies) on the other is a major cause of these problems.  As the digital revolution accelerates, widespread automation becomes a fact, and the interaction of Biological, Information, Nanotech and Cognitive (BINC) technologies suggest even more radical transformations ahead, this gap between our physical and social technologies is likely to grow.   Opinions about the consequences range from those argue we will remain in a sustained secular stagnation, to those who believe that we are on the cusp of a singularity in which humanity will replace itself with artificial intelligences of ever-accelerating capacity.  Can we identify leading empirical indicators, critical processes, and model these trends, to get insights and answers rather than just opinions? What are the right theoretical frameworks and models that can shed light on these complex phenomena?  Can we pinpoint the main challenges and opportunities, and simulate worlds of the future, including social, economic and physical interactions, to provide better guidance?  How can we change society to foster the right technologies and use those technologies to foster societies with greater transparency, more effective democracy, and enhance cooperative and fair modes of governance? 

In the inspiring setting of the Santa Fe Institute, we will meet for three days for an informal but structured discussion of these important questions.  The workshop will bring together roughly 10 participants with cross-disciplinary expertise, spanning economics, social science, history, law, business, technology, and cultural narratives.  Our goal will be to enlighten each other, develop a program of future work, and to work toward a collective vision that might help us imagine our way forward.

Research Collaboration
SFI Host:
Doyne Farmer, Eric Beinhocker, John Clippinger, and Steen Rasmussen