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Education Program

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Program Overview

A new program from the Santa Fe Institute combines the guided interaction of an in-person course with the flexibility to learn from anywhere in the world. This three-week, part-time, online course offers participants a theory- and applications-based view of complexity science. Complexity Interactive will focus on providing a foundation for thinking broadly about complex systems, encouraging participants to explore syntheses across systems in an open dialog with SFI faculty. SFI-CI will be limited to ~ 50 participants to ensure everyone has ample opportunity to discuss with faculty and with each other.



Complexity Interactive is aimed at practicing researchers from academic, private, non-profit, and government sectors who wish to understand how the methods and philosophy of a complex systems approach may enhance their work. The curriculum is especially suited to graduate students and postdocs (or those at similar career stages) in a particular discipline who wish to develop a more trans-disciplinary, mutualistic approach in their work.

Dates & Times

June 14th to July 2nd, 2021

"Live" Events Monday – Friday

8:00AM – 10:30AM MDT*

It is expected that participants will participate in the “live” sessions in order to engage in the discussions, ask questions of the speakers and interact with fellow participants.

Participants should plan to spend an additional 5 hours per week of self-scheduled time in order to contribute to interest group discussion(s), collaborate on a group project and review course materials. Participants who wish to pursue a more technically intensive path through the course, in the group project and/or optional problem sets, should plan on a total of about 10 hours per week of self-scheduled time.

*minor variations are possible; applicants offered admission will be notified of the final schedule prior to registration

  • A series of live* lectures and discussions organized around select themes in complexity science. Content will cover methods/approaches, applications, debates, and open questions. 
  • Thematically organized interest groups will facilitate deeper exploration of topics of interest in a highly collaborative setting.
  • Group projects and optional problem sets will provide opportunities to apply the foundational concepts and approaches introduced in lectures.
  • Curated recorded materials as well as recommended readings will provide a reference and resource for foundational theory.

Participants will receive a certification of completion from the Santa Fe Institute at the conclusion of the course.

 * Recorded and archived for participants during the course. 


The curriculum will focus on the broad themes of trade-offs, optimization, and adaptation as evident in a variety of systems. In particular, the course will consider several examples of socio-behavioral systems and institutional complexity.


The Complexity Interactive faculty incorporates the diverse interests of SFI scientists. Speakers include:

Miguel Fuentes • Course Director

Eric Beinhocker • Economies
Aaron Clauset • Networks
Andrew Dobson • Food Webs
Jessica Flack • Collective Computation
Laura Fortunato • Kinship & Cooperation
Ross Hammond • Public Health
Rudolf Hanel • Thermodynamics
Willemien Kets • Cultural Diversity
David Krakauer • Complexity
Rajiv Sethi • Predication Markets

More to be announced.

Interest Groups & Group Projects

Because of the short duration of the program, Complexity Interactive group projects focus on questions and approaches, placing importance on the process of uncovering common interests with colleagues and experiencing the insights made possible through multi-disciplinary collaboration.

WEEK 1 – Small-group discussions, facilitated by the course director, will address a series of self-organized topics.

WEEKS 2 & 3 – These interest groups will evolve into project groups, each of which will then define a specific question or hypothesis relating to complex systems. Some groups may choose to move their project into a research phase, undertaking analyses or formulating models.

FINAL DAY – All groups will give a presentation on the question they explored.

Program Goals 

After completing the Complexity Interactive, participants will be able to:

  1. Recognize cross-system regularities that govern complex systems and have a vocabulary for describing those properties. 
  2. Describe the mathematical and/or physical bases of information, computation, and complexity.
  3. Discuss the approaches used to understand and model complex systems and considerations for employing different approaches.
  4. Quantitatively compare complex systems across scales and compositions.
  5. Apply methods from information theory, computational theory, evolutionary theory, and/or game theory to a question in complex systems science.

We will be using the following platforms to provide content and facilitate interactions: google classroom, Zoom, Discord, YouTube, AWS. Please ensure that you can access all of these in order to participate fully in the program.

Tuition & Application

As a member of an ACtioN Member Organization, should you be accepted into Complexity Interactive, the regular tuition of $500 will be waived. Space is limited and ACtioN members will be accepted on an availability-basis.

Please submit the CVs of those interested in participating to before the Deadline of Friday, April 16th.


Please Note: Complexity Interactive is a program hosted and run by the Santa Fe Insitute's Education Department. Complete details for this program can be found below.

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