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57 EpisodesProduced by Santa Fe Institute, Michael GarfieldWebsite

Far-reaching conversations with a worldwide network of scientists and mathematicians, philosophers and artists developing new frameworks to explain our universe's deepest mysteries. Join host Michael Garfield at the Santa Fe Institute each week to learn about your world and the people who have dedic… read more

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Jonas Dalege on The Physics of Attitudes & Beliefs

April 8th, 2021


Human relationships are often described in the language of “chemistry” — does that make the beliefs and attitudes of individuals a kind of “physics”? …

J. Doyne Farmer on The Complexity Economics Revolution

March 26th, 2021


Once upon a time at UC Santa Cruz, a group of renegade grad students started mixing physics with math and computers, determined to discover underlying patterns in the seeming-randomness of systems like the weather and …

James Evans on Social Computing and Diversity by Design

March 12th, 2021


In the 21st Century, science is a team sport played by humans and computers, both. Social science in particular is in the midst of a transition from …

David Stork on AI Art History

February 26th, 2021


Art history is a lot like archaeology — we here in the present day get artifacts and records, but the gaps between them are enormous, and the …

Alien Crash Site Invades Complexity: Tamara van der Does on Sci-Fi Science, with Guest Co-host Caitlin McShea

February 12th, 2021


The consequence of living in a complex world: one tiny tweak can lead to massive transformation. Set the stage a slightly different way, and the

Mark Moffett on Canopy Biology & The Human Swarm

January 29th, 2021


Most maps of the world render landscapes in 2D — yet wherever we observe ecosystems, they stratify into a third dimension. The same geometries that describe the dizzying diversity of species in the canopies of forests …

Cris Moore on Algorithmic Justice & The Physics of Inference

January 15th, 2021


It’s tempting to believe that people can outsource decisions to machines — that algorithms are objective, and it’s easier and fairer to dump the burden on them. But convenience conceals the complicated truth: when lives …

Science in The Time of COVID: Michael Lachmann & Sam Scarpino on Lessons from The Pandemic

December 23rd, 2020


COVID-19 hasn’t just disrupted the “normal” of everyone’s social practices in what we take for granted as “daily life.” The pandemic has also, more …

Artemy Kolchinsky on "Semantic Information" & The Physics of Meaning

December 11th, 2020


Matter, energy, and information: the holy trinity of physics. Understanding the relations between these measures of our world are one of the big …

Peter Dodds on Text-Based Timeline Analysis & New Instruments for The Science of Stories

November 26th, 2020


"There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
– Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

When human beings saw the first pictures of the Earth from space, the impact was transformative. New instruments …

Scott Ortman on Archaeological Synthesis and Settlement Scaling Theory

November 11th, 2020


The modern world has a way of distancing itself from everything that came before it…and yet the evidence from archaeology supports a different story. …

Helena Miton on Cultural Evolution in Music and Writing Systems

October 29th, 2020


Organisms aren’t the only products of the evolutionary process. Cultural products such as writing, art, and music also undergo change over time, …

David Wolpert on The No Free Lunch Theorems and Why They Undermine The Scientific Method

October 14th, 2020


On the one hand, we have math: a world of forms and patterns, a priori logic, timeless and consistent. On the other, we have physics: messy and embodied interactions, context-dependent and contingent on a changing …

Introducing Alien Crash Site, a new SFI Podcast with host Caitlin McShea

October 9th, 2020


Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and every other week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous …

Vicky Yang & Henrik Olsson on Political Polling & Polarization: How We Make Decisions & Identities

September 30th, 2020


Whether you live in the USA or have just been watching the circus from afar, chances are that you agree: “polarization” dominates descriptions of the …

Carl Bergstrom & Jevin West on Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World

September 16th, 2020


Now, maybe more than ever before, it is time to learn the art of skepticism.  Amidst compounded complex crises, humankind must also navigate a swelling tidal wave of outright lies, clever misdirections, and well-meant …

Natalie Grefenstette on Agnostic Biosignature Detection

September 2nd, 2020


Is there life on Mars? Or Titan? What are we even looking for? Without a formal definition, inquiries into the stars just echo noise. But then, perhaps, the noise contains a signal… To find life elsewhere in the …

The Information Theory of Biology & Origins of Life with Sara Imari Walker (Big Biology Podcast Crossover)

August 12th, 2020


One of the defining characteristics of complex systems science is the shift in emphasis from objects to relationships and processes. How is …

Fractal Conflicts & Swing Voters with Eddie Lee

July 23rd, 2020


Since the 1940s, scientists have puzzled over a curious finding: armed conflict data reveals that human battles obey a power-law distribution, like avalanches and epidemics.  Just like the fractal surfaces of mountains …

Fighting Hate Speech with AI & Social Science (with Joshua Garland, Mirta Galesic, and Keyan Ghazi-Zahedi)

July 15th, 2020


The magnitude of interlocking “wicked problems” we humans face today is daunting…and made all the worse by the widening schisms in our public …

The Art & Science of Resilience in the Wake of Trauma with Laurence Gonzales

July 6th, 2020


Each of us at some point in our lives will face traumatizing hardship — abuse or injury, lack or loss. And all of us must weather the planetwide effects of this pandemic, economic instability, systemic inequality, and …

Geoffrey West on Scaling, Open-Ended Growth, and Accelerating Crisis/Innovation Cycles: Transcendence or Collapse? (Part 2)

June 25th, 2020


Cities define the modern world. They characterize the human era and its impacts on our planet. By bringing us together, these "social reactors" amplify the best in us: our creativity, efficiency, wealth, and communal …

Scaling Laws & Social Networks in The Time of COVID-19 with Geoffrey West (Part 1)

June 17th, 2020


We’re living through a unique moment in history. The interlocking crises of a global pandemic, widespread unemployment, social unrest, and climate change, show us just how far human civilization has traveled along a …

Better Scientific Modeling for Ecological & Social Justice with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 7)

June 8th, 2020


Mathematical models of the world — be they in physics, economics, epidemiology — capture only details that researchers notice and deem salient. …

The Future of the Human Climate Niche with Tim Kohler & Marten Scheffer

June 2nd, 2020


Humans, like any other organism, occupy a niche — a “Goldilocks Zone” for which our biology is suited, relatively to the extreme diversity of …

Exponentials, Economics, and Ecology with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 6)

May 11th, 2020


If COVID-19 has made anything obvious to everyone, it might be how the very small can force the transformation of the very large. Disrupt the right place in a network and exponential changes ripple outward: a virus …

Embracing Complexity for Systemic Interventions with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 5)

May 4th, 2020


It takes effort to embrace complexity. Simple models, simple narratives seem easier up front, their consequences only obvious in retrospect. When we talk about COVID-19 transmission rates, we’re using averages that do …

Rethinking Our Assumptions During the COVID-19 Crisis with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 4)

April 27th, 2020


COVID-19 has delivered an extraordinary shock to our assumptions, be they in how we practice education, business, research, or governance. When we …

On Coronavirus, Crisis, and Creative Opportunity with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 3)

April 20th, 2020


Our histories constrain what opportunities we notice and can take in life. The genes you have define the shape your body can grow into, in concert with environmental influences. But the cards you’re dealt don’t tell you …

Caroline Buckee on Improving COVID-19 Surveillance & Response

April 17th, 2020


For this special mini-series covering the COVID19 pandemic, we will bring you into conversation with the scientists studying the bigger picture of this crisis, so you can learn their cutting-edge approaches and what …

COVID-19 & Complex Time in Biology & Economics with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 2)

April 13th, 2020


In several key respects, COVID-19 reveals how crucial timing is for human life. The lens of complex systems science helps us understand the central …

Rigorous Uncertainty: Science During COVID-19 with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 1)

April 6th, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic is in one sense a kind of prism: it reveals the many interlocking systems that, until disrupted, formed the mostly invisible backdrop of modern life, challenging the economy and our models of …

Sam Scarpino on Modeling Disease Transmission & Interventions

April 1st, 2020


“We should not have a strategy that involves killing a sizable percentage of the population. But, even if you were going to get over that ethical …

Laurent Hébert-Dufresne on Halting the Spread of COVID-19

March 26th, 2020


Chances are, if you are listening to this around the time it was released, you’re listening alone. Right now the human species is conducting one of the most sweeping synchronized experiments of all time: physical …

Andy Dobson on Epidemic Modeling for COVID-19

March 19th, 2020


Pandemics like the current novel coronavirus disease outbreak provide a powerful incentive to study the dynamics of complex adaptive systems. They …

Nicole Creanza on Cultural Evolution in Humans & Songbirds

March 12th, 2020


One feature common to nonlinear phenomena is how they challenge intuitions. Maybe nowhere is this more apparent than in studying the evolutionary …

Melanie Mitchell on Artificial Intelligence: What We Still Don't Know

March 5th, 2020


Since the term was coined in 1956, artificial intelligence has been a kind of mirror that tells us more about our theories of intelligence, and our …

Albert Kao on Animal Sociality & Collective Computation

February 27th, 2020


Over one hundred years ago, Sir Francis Galton asked 787 villagers to guess an ox’s weight. None of them got it right, but averaging the answers led to a near-perfect estimate. This is a textbook case of the so-called …

David B. Kinney on the Philosophy of Science

February 20th, 2020


Science is often seen as a pure, objective discipline — as if it all rests neatly on cause and effect. As if the universe acknowledges a difference …

Kirell Benzi on Data Art & The Future of Science Communication

February 13th, 2020


Science has always been about improving human understanding of our universe…but scientists have not always prioritized accessibility of their …

Chris Kempes on The Physical Constraints on Life & Evolution

February 6th, 2020


Why is the internal structure of Bacteria so different from the architecture of a nucleated cell? Why do some kinds of organisms stay small, whereas …

Andy Dobson on Disease Ecology & Conservation Strategy

January 30th, 2020


Physics usually gets the credit for grand unifying theories and the search for universal laws…but looking past the arbitrary boundaries between the …

R. Maria del-Rio Chanona on Modeling Labor Markets & Tech Unemployment

January 23rd, 2020


Since the first Industrial Revolution, most people have responded in one of two ways to the threat of technological unemployment: either a general …

W. Brian Arthur (Part 2) on The Future of The Economy

January 15th, 2020


If the economy is better understood as an evolving system, an out-of-equilibrium ecology composed of agents that adapt to one another’s strategies, …

W. Brian Arthur (Part 1) on The History of Complexity Economics

January 8th, 2020


From its beginnings as a discipline nearly 150 years ago, economics rested on assumptions that don’t hold up when studied in the present day. The …

Matthew Jackson on Social & Economic Networks

December 18th, 2019


It may be a cliché, but it’s a timeless truth regardless: who you know matters. The connectedness of actors in a network tells us not just who wields the power in societies and markets, but also how new information …

Ray Monk on The Lives of Extraordinary Individuals: Wittgenstein, Russell, Oppenheimer

December 11th, 2019


In this show’s first episode, David Krakauer explained how art and science live along an axis of explanatory depth: science strives to find the simplest adequate abstractions to explain the world we observe, where art’s …

Melanie Moses on Metabolic Scaling in Biology & Computation

December 4th, 2019


What is the difference between 100 kilograms of human being and 100 kilograms of algae? One answer to this question is the veins and arteries that carry nutrients throughout the human body, allowing for the intricate …

Mirta Galesic on Social Learning & Decision-making

November 27th, 2019


We live in a world so complicated and immense it challenges our comparably simple minds to even know which information we should use to make …

Olivia Judson on Major Energy Transitions in Evolutionary History

November 20th, 2019


It’s easy to take modern Earth for granted — our breathable atmosphere, the delicately balanced ecosystems we depend on — but this world is nothing …

Rajiv Sethi on Stereotypes, Crime, and The Pursuit of Justice

November 13th, 2019


Whether or not you think you hold them, stereotypes shape the lives of everyone on Earth. As human beings, we lack the ability to judge each …

Jennifer Dunne on Reconstructing Ancient Food Webs

November 6th, 2019


Looking back through time, the fossil record shows a remarkable diversity of forms, creatures unfamiliar to today’s Earth, suggesting ecosystems alien enough to challenge any sense of continuity. But reconstructed …

Jennifer Dunne on Food Webs & ArchaeoEcology

October 30th, 2019


For as long as humans have erected walls around our cities, we’ve considered culture separate from the encircling wilderness. This difference came to …

Luis Bettencourt on The Science of Cities

October 23rd, 2019


If you’re a human in this century, the odds are overwhelming that you are a city-dweller. These hubs of human cultural activity exert a powerful …

Sabine Hauert on Swarming Across Scales

October 16th, 2019


If complex systems science had a mascot, it might be the murmuration. These enormous flocks of starlings darken skies across the northern hemisphere, performing intricate airborne maneuvers with no central leadership or …

The Origins of Life: David Krakauer, Sarah Maurer, and Chris Kempes at InterPlanetary Festival 2019

October 9th, 2019


A few years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, upsetting centuries of certainty about the history of life, he wrote a now-famous letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, British botanist and advocate of …

David Krakauer on The Landscape of 21st Century Science

October 9th, 2019


For 300 years, the dream of science was to understand the world by chopping it up into pieces. But boiling everything down to basic parts does not tell us about the way those parts behave together. Physicists found the …

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