The in-person portion of the school will run from Monday, December 4, to Friday, December 15. This in-person portion is intense, and students will not have time for outside work during these 12 days. The in-person portion of the school will focus on lectures, discussions with lecturers and peers, and the formation of project groups. From December 16, 2023, to March 15, 2024, there will be a less intensive virtual portion of the school. During this period, students will virtually collaborate with their selected group to finish their projects. 

The pedagogical structure of the December 2023 Complexity Global School is largely based on the Santa Fe Institute’s Complex Systems Summer School, which has been running for over 30 years and whose alumni have gone on to obtain top positions in academia, government, and industry. 


Motivation and Purpose

Humans use complex social, political, and economic mechanisms to distribute power, prestige, and resources. Many social outcomes – good and bad – emerge from the interactions between these mechanisms. These can include: technology development, economic growth, pollution, inequality, and various forms of human flourishing. 

The “rules of the game” individuals use to engage with these social, political, and economic mechanisms are constrained by our technologies and largely determined by our beliefs, norms, and conventions. There are many factors that impact the distribution of these beliefs across the human species, but political and economic paradigms play an especially important role. Rules often vary by location, but common consensus can give rise to globally dominant rules and paradigms. 

Political and economic paradigms centered on free trade and free markets dominated global thinking from the end of the Cold War (approximately 1989) to COVID (early 2020). During this period, the global economic order achieved some amazing accomplishments. Notably, the percentage of the world living in extreme poverty decreased from 38.4% in 1989 to 8.5% on 2019. These dominant paradigms have also produced some less desirable outcomes. The negative impacts of climate change are increasingly costly, and that cost often falls disproportionally on populations that are underrepresented in global industrialization and its benefits. Furthermore, inequality increased in several parts of the world. For example, India, South Africa, and the United States all experienced a decrease in total income earned by the bottom 50% of their populations between 1989 and 2019. 

Rising issues of climate change, inequality, and disruptive technologies suggest a reassessment of the rules and paradigms we use to justify those rules. The Complexity Global School will play a part in this reevaluation process by colliding a diverse array of senior scholars, early-career researchers, and change-oriented practitioners from around the world. 


Epistemology vs. Ideology

Unlike most inquiries into these topics, Complexity Global is not ideological. We are not promoting any preconceived social, political, or economic paradigms. We are intentionally recruiting a student body with a broad spectrum of ideological beliefs. 

The Complexity Global School is fiercely epistemological. Epistemology involves the philosophical inquiry into what separates justified belief from opinion. We believe in the continuous development of rigorous, quantitative techniques to illuminate complex social, political, and economic phenomena. These include not only advances in classical statistical methods, but also new approaches in digital humanities, computational modeling, network-based modeling, and the use of statistical physics in social science analysis. These approaches must be continually refined, questioned, and interrogated with new data, outcomes, and emergent phenomena. Irrespective of your opinions and values, understanding how the world currently works, and why it works that way, are necessary first steps in imagining how the world might work. 

Diversity enhances the epistemic quality of our inquiry. Time and time again, insular groups of scholars have “gotten it wrong” because they overused a small set of methodological tools when examining large complex phenomena. Complexity Global is powered by scholarly communities that are intellectually, geographically, and disciplinarily diverse. The December 2023 Complexity Global School is a collaboration between the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in India, the Santa Fe Institute in the USA, and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. The Santa Fe Institute itself is based on an external faculty whose ranks include a highly interdisciplinary mix of tenured professors from Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, UPenn, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, UCLA, University of Michigan, and many other globally-known research universities.