Foundational Papers in Complexity Science

David C. Krakauer, ed.
SFI Press, 2024

This project maps the development of complex-systems science through eighty-eight revolutionary works originally published between 1922 and 2000. Curated by SFI President David C. Krakauer, each seminal paper is introduced and placed into its historical context, with enduring insights discussed by leading contemporary complexity scientists.
These four volumes are a product of collective intelligence. More than a compilation, Foundational Papers represents large-scale collaboration within the SFI community—brilliant thinkers who have contextualized the work that shaped their own research, resulting in a sparkling demonstration of how complexity shatters the usual scientific divisions and a look back at the path we’ve followed in order to gain a clearer view of what lies ahead.

The Quark & the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple & the Complex

Murray Gell-Mann
SFI Press, 2023

The Santa Fe Institute celebrates one of its founders with a new edition of a seminal work by the late Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann. Originally published in 1994, The Quark & the Jaguar spans the simple and the complex, examining the relationship between the fundamental laws of physics and the complexity and diversity of the natural world. Neither autobiography nor scientific treatise, this uniquely personal and unifying vision reflects Gell-Mann’s broad expertise, curiosity, and passion for topics as disparate as archaeology, linguistics, child development, and computers.

Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann & the Revolution in Physics

George Johnson
SFI Press, 2023

Acclaimed science writer George Johnson brings his formidable reporting skills to the first biography of Nobel Prize-winner Murray Gell-Mann, the brilliant, irascible man who revolutionized modern particle physics with his models of the quark and the Eightfold Way.

Beautifully balanced in its portrayal of an extraordinary and difficult man, interpreting the concepts of advanced physics with scrupulous clarity and simplicity, Strange Beauty is a tour de force of both science writing and biography. This updated edition, with a new foreword by Douglas Hofstadter, includes reflections on the final years of Gell-Mann’s life and his influence on the Santa Fe Institute.

Complexity, Entropy and the Physics of Information, Volumes 1 & 2

Wojciech Zurek, ed.
SFI Press, 2023

The specter of information is haunting sciences. With these words, Wojciech H. Zurek invited fellow scientists to attend the 1989 Santa Fe Institute workshop on which this proceedings volume is based. Thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, the quantum theory of measurement, the physics of computation, dynamical systems, molecular biology, and computer science — information remains central to the 32 essays collected in this new edition of Complexity, Entropy & the Physics of Information.

Like the original meeting, this two-volume set explores the connections between quantum and classical physics, information and its transfer, and computation — and their significance for the formulation of physical theories. A newly written preface from attendee Seth Lloyd contextualizes the significance of this record of a meeting that marked the intersection of information, physics, complexity, and computation.

Ex Machina: Coevolving Machines & the Origins of the Social Universe

John H. Miller
SFI Press, 2022

Earth is full of examples of social behavior. When individual bacteria, insects, primates, and even self-driving cars make productive choices about their interactions with other individuals, that’s sociality. We can trace social behavior back to the unicellular organisms that became the building blocks for life on our planet. And humans, by becoming social, gained a great advantage in the evolutionary race for survival. If we could rewind Earth’s clock, would social behavior emerge yet again, and could we expect to find it elsewhere in the Universe? “Probably yes,” writes SFI External Professor John H. Miller, author of “Ex Machina: Coevolving Machines & the Origins of the Social Universe.”

The Complex Alternative: Complexity Scientists on the COVID-19 Pandemic

David C. Krakauer and Geoffrey West
SFI Press, 2021

COVID-19 is the virus that proved the fragility of the world. It took only the simplest form of life to shake the connectivity and dependency of society. This book is a real-time record and recommendation from a community of complexity scientists reacting to the pandemic. Through nontechnical articles, interviews, and discussions spanning the early days of the pandemic through the fall of 2021, researchers seek ways to stay responsive to complexity when every force conspires toward simplicity. The Complex Alternative encompasses immunology, epidemiology, psychology, inequality, and collapse. It is an effort to preserve perspective at a time when partiality seeks dominion.

Edited by David C. Krakauer and Geoffrey West, this book features the thoughts of more than sixty members of the Santa Fe Institute’s research community on the future of complexity science and the broader significance of science in the twenty-first century.

Just Deserts Debating Free Will

Daniel C. Dennett, Gregg D. Caruso
Polity, 2021

The concept of free will is profoundly important to our self-understanding, our interpersonal relationships, and our moral and legal practices. If it turns out that no one is ever free and morally responsible, what would that mean for society, morality, meaning, and the law?

Just Deserts brings together two philosophers – Daniel C. Dennett and Gregg D. Caruso – to debate their respective views on free will, moral responsibility, and legal punishment. In three extended conversations, Dennett and Caruso present their arguments for and against the existence of free will and debate their implications. Dennett argues that the kind of free will required for moral responsibility is compatible with determinism – for him, self-control is key; we are not responsible for becoming responsible, but are responsible for staying responsible, for keeping would-be puppeteers at bay. Caruso takes the opposite view, arguing that who we are and what we do is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control, and because of this we are never morally responsible for our actions in the sense that would make us truly deserving of blame and praise, punishment and reward.

Just Deserts introduces the concepts central to the debate about free will and moral responsibility by way of an entertaining, rigorous, and sometimes heated philosophical dialogue between two leading thinkers.

Agent-Based Modeling for Archaeology: Simulating the Complexity of Societies

Iza Romanowska, Colin D. Wren, and Stefani A. Crabtree
SFI Press, 2021

To fully understand not only the past, but also the trajectories, of human societies, we need a more dynamic view of human social systems. Agent-based modeling (ABM), which can create fine-scale models of behavior over time and space, may reveal important, general patterns of human activity. Agent-Based Modeling for Archaeology is the first ABM textbook designed for researchers studying the human past. Appropriate for scholars from archaeology, the digital humanities, and other social sciences, this book offers novices and more experienced ABM researchers a modular approach to learning ABM and using it effectively.

Readers will find the necessary background, discussion of modeling techniques and traps, references, and algorithms to use ABM in their own work. They will also find engaging examples of how other scholars have applied ABM, ranging from the study of the intercontinental migration pathways of early hominins, to the weather–crop–population cycles of the American Southwest, to the trade networks of Ancient Rome. This textbook provides the foundations needed to simulate the complexity of past human societies, offering researchers a richer understanding of the past—and likely future—of our species.

Learn more about Agent-Based Modeling for Archaeology

InterPlanetary Transmissions: Stardust

David C. Krakauer and Caitlin L. McShea, eds.
SFI Press, 2020

This volume is a record of the Santa Fe Institute’s second InterPlanetary Festival, nicknamed Stardust, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in June of 2019. The InterPlanetary Festival fuses an exploration of complex systems and technological innovation with music, film, art, food, drinks, and more.

During the Summer of Stardust, as the world observed the fiftieth anniversary of the momentous Apollo 11 Moon landing, the Festival celebrated human ingenuity and pondered what the next half-century might hold. Conversations centered on building other worlds — imaginatively in literature, experimentally in simulation and games, and literally in architectural design. Attendees and panelists wrestled with topics as wide-ranging as time, the future of cities, and the meaning of intelligence.

In this book, transcripts of the Festival panel discussions, each paired with new introductions by contributors including physicist Sean Carroll, poet, artist, and curator Anaïs Duplan, and speculative-fiction writer Rebecca Roanhorse, commemorate the creativity and insight generated at this one-of-a-kind cosmic event.

Complexity Economics: Proceedings of the Santa Fe Institute's 2019 Fall Symposium

W. Brian Arthur, Eric D. Beinhocker, and Allison Stanger, eds.
SFI Press, 2020

When Santa Fe Institute Scientists first started working on economics more than thirty years ago, many of their 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 volume, edited by W. Brian Arthur, Eric D. Beinhocker, and Allison Stanger, includes panel and talk transcripts from SFI’s 2019 Applied Complexity Network Symposium, with newly written introductions and reflections. Representing both scholarly and practitioner perspectives, this book explores the history and frontiers of complexity economics in a broad-ranging, accessible manner.

Unsolved Problems in Ecology

Andrew Dobson, Robert D. Holt, and David Tilman
Princeton University Press, 2020

Publisher's Summary:

Leading ecologists discuss some of the most compelling open questions in the field today

Unsolved Problems in Ecology brings together many of the world’s leading ecologists to discuss the most fundamental research questions confronting the field today. This diverse and thought-provoking collection of essays spans virtually all of the key subfields of the discipline, from behavioral and evolutionary ecology to population biology, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, disease ecology, and conservation biology. These essays are intended to stoke curiosity, challenge prevailing wisdom, and provoke new ways of thinking about ecology in light of new technologies and unprecedented environmental challenges brought on by climate and land-use change. Authoritative and accessible, Unsolved Problems in Ecology is ideal for graduate students in the early stages of their scientific careers and an essential resource for seasoned ecologists looking for exciting new directions to take their research.

  • Sheds light on modern ecology’s most important and compelling open questions
  • Features thought-provoking contributions from more than two dozen world-class ecologists
  • Covers behavior, evolution, communities, ecosystems, resource management, and more
  • Discusses ways to raise the financial and intellectual profile of the discipline
  • An invaluable resource for graduate students as well as seasoned ecologists

Law as Data

Michael A. Livermore and Daniel N. Rockmore, eds.
SFI Press, 2019

In recent years, the digitization of legal texts, combined with developments in the fields of statistics, computer science, and data analytics, have opened entirely new approaches to the study of law. This volume explores the new field of computational legal analysis, an approach marked by its use of legal texts as data. The emphasis herein is work that pushes methodological boundaries, either by using new tools to study longstanding questions within legal studies or by identifying new questions in response to developments in data availability and analysis.

By using the text and underlying data of legal documents as the direct objects of quantitative statistical analysis, Law as Data introduces the legal world to the broad range of computational tools already proving themselves relevant to law scholarship and practice, and highlights the early steps in what promises to be an exciting new approach to studying the law.


Pejman Rohani and Samuel Scarpino
Oxford University Press, 2019

Publisher's Summary:

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a respiratory disease caused primarily by infection with the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It remains among the leading causes of death amongst vaccine-preventable diseases worldwide and recent years have seen its alarming re-emergence in many regions (including the U.S. and much of Europe), despite sustained high levels of vaccine coverage. The causes of the resurgence remain contentious, in part due to inherent complexities of the pathogen's biology, in part due to pronounced variation in the treatment and prevention strategies between different countries and regions, and in part due to long-standing disagreement amongst scientific researchers studying pertussis. This edited volume brings together expert knowledge from disparate fields with the overall aim of synthesizing the current understanding of this critically important, global pathogen.

The Energetics of Computing in Life and Machines

David H. Wolpert, Chris Kempes, Peter F. Stadler, and Joshua A. Grochow, eds.
SFI Press, 2019

Why do computers use so much energy? What are the fundamental physical laws governing the relationship between the precise computation run by a system, whether artificial or natural, and how much energy that computation requires? Can we learn how to improve efficiency in computing by examining how biological computers manage to be so efficient? The time is ripe for a new synthesis of nonequilibrium physics, computer science, and biochemistry.

This volume integrates pure and applied concepts from these diverse fields, with the goal of cultivating a modern, nonequilibrium thermodynamics of computation.



Allison Stanger
Yale University Press, 2019

Publisher's description:

Misconduct by those in high places is always dangerous to reveal. Whistleblowers thus face conflicting impulses: by challenging and exposing transgressions by the powerful, they perform a vital public service—yet they always suffer for it. This episodic history brings to light how whistleblowing, an important but unrecognized cousin of civil disobedience, has held powerful elites accountable in America.
Analyzing a range of whistleblowing episodes, from the corrupt Revolutionary War commodore Esek Hopkins (whose dismissal led in 1778 to the first whistleblower protection law) to Edward Snowden, to the dishonesty of Donald Trump, Allison Stanger reveals the centrality of whistleblowing to the health of American democracy. She also shows that with changing technology and increasing militarization, the exposure of misconduct has grown more difficult to do and more personally costly for those who do it—yet American freedom, especially today, depends on it.

Artificial Intelligence

Melanie Mitchell
Macmillan Publishers, 2019

Publisher's Summary:

Melanie Mitchell separates science fact from science fiction in this sweeping examination of the current state of AI and how it is remaking our world

No recent scientific enterprise has proved as alluring, terrifying, and filled with extravagant promise and frustrating setbacks as artificial intelligence. The award-winning author Melanie Mitchell, a leading computer scientist, now reveals AI’s turbulent history and the recent spate of apparent successes, grand hopes, and emerging fears surrounding it.

In Artificial Intelligence, Mitchell turns to the most urgent questions concerning AI today: How intelligent—really—are the best AI programs? How do they work? What can they actually do, and when do they fail? How humanlike do we expect them to become, and how soon do we need to worry about them surpassing us? Along the way, she introduces the dominant models of modern AI and machine learning, describing cutting-edge AI programs, their human inventors, and the historical lines of thought underpinning recent achievements. She meets with fellow experts such as Douglas Hofstadter, the cognitive scientist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the modern classic Gödel, Escher, Bach, who explains why he is “terrified” about the future of AI. She explores the profound disconnect between the hype and the actual achievements in AI, providing a clear sense of what the field has accomplished and how much further it has to go.

Interweaving stories about the science of AI and the people behind it, Artificial Intelligence brims with clear-sighted, captivating, and accessible accounts of the most interesting and provocative modern work in the field, flavored with Mitchell’s humor and personal observations. This frank, lively book is an indispensable guide to understanding today’s AI, its quest for “human-level” intelligence, and its impact on the future for us all.

Worlds Hidden in Plain Sight

David C. Krakauer, ed.
SFI Press, 2019

Over the last three decades, the Santa Fe Institute and its network of researchers have been pursuing a revolution in science. This volume collects essays from the past thirty years of research, in which contributors explain in clear and accessible language many of the deepest challenges and insights of complexity science.

Explore the evolution of complex systems science with chapters from Nobel Laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Kenneth Arrow, as well as numerous pioneering complexity researchers, including John Holland, Brian Arthur, Robert May, Richard Lewontin, Jennifer Dunne, and Geoffrey West.

Emerging Syntheses in Science

David Pines, ed.
SFI Press, 2019

Santa Fe, October 1984. Many of the most accomplished creative minds in science—including four Nobel laureates—gather to create an institution unlike any other: where unconventional thinking flourishes and disciplinary boundaries fall away.

From this meeting emerged some of the most generative research programs of the last three decades, including the physics of living systems, the mathematics of society, quantitative archaeology, the nature of mind, fundamentals of complex systems theory—and the implications of all of these on the future. The original vision of a boundary-spanning research center became what Nature has called “that mecca of multidisciplinary complexity studies”: the Santa Fe Institute. This republished volume includes chapters from the scientific talks given at the founding meetings as well as never-before-published transcripts of the roundtable discussions.

Life Finds a Way

Andreas Wagner
Basic Books, 2019

Publisher's Summary:

How the principles of biological innovation can help us overcome creative challenges in art, business, and science

In Life Finds a Way, biologist Andreas Wagner reveals the deep symmetry between innovation in biological evolution and human cultural creativity. Rarely is either a linear climb to perfection–instead, “progress” is typically marked by a sequence of peaks, plateaus, and pitfalls. For instance, in Picasso’s forty-some iterations of Guernica, we see the same combination of small steps, incessant reshuffling, and large, almost reckless, leaps that characterize the way evolution transformed a dinosaur’s grasping claw into a condor’s soaring wing. By understanding these principles, we can also better realize our own creative potential to find new solutions to adversity.

Ultimately, Life Finds a Way offers a new framework for the nature of creativity, enabling us to better adapt, grow, and change in art, business, or science–that is, in life.

The Ethical Algorithm

Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth
Oxford University Press, 2019

Publisher's Summary:

Over the course of a generation, algorithms have gone from mathematical abstractions to powerful mediators of daily life. Algorithms have made our lives more efficient, more entertaining, and, sometimes, better informed. At the same time, complex algorithms are increasingly violating the basic rights of individual citizens. Allegedly anonymized datasets routinely leak our most sensitive personal information; statistical models for everything from mortgages to college admissions reflect racial and gender bias. Meanwhile, users manipulate algorithms to "game" search engines, spam filters, online reviewing services, and navigation apps.

Understanding and improving the science behind the algorithms that run our lives is rapidly becoming one of the most pressing issues of this century. Traditional fixes, such as laws, regulations and watchdog groups, have proven woefully inadequate. Reporting from the cutting edge of scientific research, The Ethical Algorithm offers a new approach: a set of principled solutions based on the emerging and exciting science of socially aware algorithm design. Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth explain how we can better embed human principles into machine code - without halting the advance of data-driven scientific exploration. Weaving together innovative research with stories of citizens, scientists, and activists on the front lines, The Ethical Algorithm offers a compelling vision for a future, one in which we can better protect humans from the unintended impacts of algorithms while continuing to inspire wondrous advances in technology.