Emergence of Complex Societies

How and why the state emerged in human history.

On the Interface between Movement and Sociality in Animal Behavior,and What Lies on Either Side

Scientists working on the study of animal groups are mainly divided between two schools: those who study social behaviour, and those who study spatial dynamics. Whilst these two dimensions are intrinsically linked, traditionally there has been little interaction between the two approaches. This is mostly...

Percolation — - New Algorithms for an Old Problem

Where do the holes go when the cheese is gone? While we leave this question to the philosophers, we will address a related question: how many holes can a cheese contain before it falls apart? Or, more general, how much local damage can a system bear before it breaks completely? Percolation theory has...

Reading Ancient Minds: Metaphor, Culture, and Complexity

How much does culture influence human societies? The traditional view in many fields is that material forces – land, climate, warfare – trump less tangible human conceptualizations like currencies and laws. But Ortman argues that we don’t really know, yet. Cognitive science suggests that conceptual metaphors...

Ulam's Demons

Stanislaw Ulam (1909-1984), one of the inspirations for SFI, performed useful work, without the visible expenditure of energy, by letting good ideas in and keeping bad ideas out. Four of the twentieth century’s most imaginative inventions — the Monte Carlo method, the hydrogen bomb, self-reproducing...

Models Behaving Badly: On Theories, Models, Intuition and Finance

Models are metaphors that explain the world we don't understand in terms of worlds we do. They are merely analogies, provide partial insight, stand on someone else's feet. Theories stand on their own feet, and rely on no analogies. Models tell you what something is more or less like; theories try to...

Limits of Unpredictability in the Evolution of Word Meanings: How the Study of Semantic Shifts May Help Linguistic Reconstruction

Since the emergence of comparative-historical linguistics as a separate branch of science in the XIXth century, the study of semantic change has steadily remained one of its weakest areas. Un­like phonetic change, where regular patterns may be established on large amounts of lexical data, semantic shifts...

The Emergence of Insurgency in Afghanistan

2012 REU Final Presentation

Modeling the Evolution of Trade in Small-Scale Societies

2012 REU Final Presentation

Evolution of Network Structure with Fixed Edges and Nodes

2012 REU Final Presentation

The Evolution of Economic Inequality and Political Hierarchy in Social Networks

2012 REU Final Presentation

On the Evolution of Altruistic Preferences in Networked Populations

2012 REU Final Presentation

The Lifespans of Publicly-Traded Companies

2012 REU Final Presentation

Principles of Complexity - Overview

From the rise of complex human institutions such as cities and nation states, to the evolution of intelligence in natural systems, complexity is a pervasive feature of our universe, our society, and our biological selves. Why should that be, and how can we study complexity, understand it, even predict...

Framing the Rise and Variability of Past Complex Societies

Principles of Complexity: Life, Scale, and Civilization

Complexity and the Future of Learning and Education

Principles of Complexity: Life, Scale and Civilization

The Variational Universe: From Strings to Neurons

The Principles of Complexity: Life, Scale, and Civilization

The Global and Urban Energy Challenges

Principles of Complexity: Life, Scale and Civilization

Metabolic Ecology of Humans

Principles of Complexity: Life, Scale, and Civilization

Complexity: Life, Scale, & Civilization

On Monday, August 6, SFI hosted a public panel discussion on the nature of complexity. "Complexity: Life, Scale, and Civilization" convened some of the biggest thinkers in science to grapple with some of the biggest questions in science. "From the Big Bang to the Mayans, from the gene to the global...