We are still in the process of finalizing the 2019 Applied Complexity Events. The tentatively planned events are listed below. Please contact applied@santafe.edu with any comments, questions, or suggestions.


Search and Decision Making

Date: April 25, 2019

Location: GV Headquarters, Mountain View, CA





Historically, most decisions were informed by exhaustive search of a limited opportunity or information space. However, we now have access to quantities of data too vast to be searched with an exhaustive approach. This meeting will explore the history of search in the human and animal domains, with an eye towards understanding how our search strategies evolved and how they might change in the future. Key discussion questions include:

  • Are search strategies solely determined by the information or opportunity landscape, or does the domain intrinsically impact how we search? (e.g. are their inherent differences in our approach to the searchers for knowledge, resources, and happiness.)
  • As technology changes humans’ ability to collaborate and share information, how are our search strategies evolving, and what can be learned from theoretical models of collective search behavior?
  • One aspect of the anthropocene era seems to be urban communities of increasingly vast scale. How does the density and scale of human populations impact our species’ capacity for search?
  • How do we search when the object of search is known vs unknown? For example, do we search differentially when exploring the frontiers of outer space then we do when looking for a job or creative inspiration?
  • Do human or animal search strategies change in abrupt or qualitative ways as search spaces become larger or more complex? What aspects of information or opportunity landscapes shape search strategies?
  • Despite the “No Free Lunch Theorom,” what can we learn from algorithms for search that might improve human search in day-to-day life? Are there any insights from day-to-day life (or studies of organisms) that might information on the development of future algorithms?


The Complexities of Earth 2100

Date: May 2019

Location: Boston, MA




There has never been a time when an understanding of the scope and limits of individual and collective adaptation has been more important. Rapid changes in technology, society, urbanization, the climate, the economy, and education, are all challenging the established order and the effectiveness of our current models and expertise.

In a new annual workshop to be held in late spring in Boston–Earth 2100–the Santa Fe Institute, working with its resident and Boston-area faculty and selective local experts, will investigate the range of ways in which the new sciences of complexity might help us better understand the world in which we live and the directions in which the world is evolving.

Some of the key issues that we seek to explore include:

  1. Managing rates of change and developing new mechanisms for dealing with uncertainty over both short and long time scales.
  2. Exploring the operating principles of hybrid societies–machine/human interactions.
  3. Considering the future of large scale collaborations in a densely connected human population.
  4. Speculating about possible Earth futures, including those beyond our atmosphere, into the ocean and into near-Earth orbit.


The meeting will span two days: day one focusing on the core complexity content and open only to invited scholars, and day two broadening the discussions to include ACtioN members.



Machine Learning, Complexity and Market Behavior

Date: Summer 2019

Location: TBD




What impact will the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other computational tools have on financial markets? Specifically, how might these tools shape market behavior, and even the nature of the markets themselves? We are still crafting this meeting’s agenda, but existing work by a number of SFI community members provide useful insights on these questions. For example Andrew Lo’s recent paper on Moore’s vs. Murphy’s Laws offers a broad overview of the complexities governing the impact of new financial technologies on market behavior. Most experts agree that the increased use of these computational tools will increase heterogeneity, and computational models are particularly useful. This paper by Blake LeBaron on the application of heterogeneity of learning to modeling asset price dynamics is a good example of this approach. Less well understood, is the how the use of these tools will impact the collective intelligence of financial institutions and the collective computation of the markets they animate. This overview from The Atlantic provides a good summary of these emerging fields, and this paper by Eleanor Brush, David Krakauer, and Jessica Flack offers a useful two stage model for thinking about collective computation.


Complexity of Retail

Date: September 12, 2019

Location: TBD






The disruptive effects of internet-based technologies have already been visited on the retail sector–25 years ago most observers would have scoffed at the notion that in 2018 Toys-R-Us would disappear and Sears would file for bankruptcy. Although the internet’s impact on retail is not yet complete, additional trends will also affect the evolution of this sector.  For example, the rapid global increase in urbanization will undoubtably impact the nature of retail. Emerging technologies, such as wearables, big data, machine learning, and additive manufacturing will also impact the sector. This meeting will explore these issues by drawing on SFI’s unique expertise in urban growth and scaling, inference and big social data, and technological invention and innovation.


The Impact of Complex Time on Market & Organizational Risk

Date: October 10, 2019

Location: Morgan Stanley Global Headquarters – New York, NY



This meeting will draw on insights from SFI’s new Complex Time Research Theme to explore the impact of time on market and organizational risk. We are still crafting this meeting’s agenda, but up to date information about SFI’s current work on Complex Time can be found on our new Complex Time wiki.


New Complexity Economics

Date: November 8–9, 2019

Location: Santa Fe Institute - Santa Fe, NM




When SFI scientists first started working on economics over 30 years ago, many of the insights, approaches, and tools were considered beyond heterodox. These once disparaged approaches included network economics, agents of limited rationality, and institutional evolution–all topics that are now increasingly considered mainstream. SFI continues to expand the boundary of our economic understanding, by pioneering fields as diverse as collective intelligence and organizational scaling. This special symposium will explore the new frontier of complexity economics.