"The New Zealander" from 'London: A Pilgrimage' (1872) by Gustav Dore. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, and expanded with Photoshop Generative Fill AI.
SITE Santa Fe

All day


Our campus is closed to the public for this event.

“Civilization” is an ancient ideal. The word’s Latin root, civilis, points to the values of someone inhabiting a city. To be civilized means to accept certain norms and behaviors putatively necessary for life in a complex community. We might think of civilization as something inherently collective, the cumulative creative and expressive achievement of humanity. Civilization implies sophistication, breadth, self-awareness, and a sense of place in time. And yet civilization is fragile, transitory, capable of changing, collapsing, or fading away.

Civilization has always had its critics and discontents, too. What is lost when we give up simplicity or wield the idea of civilization as an instrument against others? Walter Benjamin’s adage reminds us that, paradoxically, “there is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” Now more than ever, in a time when the world wobbles between the astonishing advances of human technology and our uncertain ability to survive what we have created, we need to ask what civilization is, where it is going, and whether we can enjoy its advantages while addressing its faults.

How are technology and civilization related, and will future technologies be likely to usher in a fundamental break in the history of civilization? Is civilization an amplifier of collective intelligence, a mechanism to police ignorance and violence, or merely the collective justification for avarice?

Is the globe divided by fundamentally incompatible “civilizations” destined to “clash”? Or can the project of civilization contribute to the pursuit of peace? And will new technological platforms promote decentralized civilizations that transcend geography creating ahistorical world orders?

Can the idea of civilization help us understand the trajectory of past societies and emergent values and behaviors in human communities over time? And can we avoid collapse by learning from the disintegrations of the past?

We are asking what complexity science and related creations of the human imagination tell us about the past, present, and future of civilization. In the emergent civilization of a globalized commons might we reason our way towards something more inclusive and humane?



**Please note that all events are listed in Mountain Time.**


Santa Fe Institute’s Cowan Campus
1399 Hyde Park Road

8:30AM - Breakfast
9:00AM - Tutorial on Large Language Models (LLMs) and Transformer Networks with Maell Cullen and Arseny Moskvichev


SITE Santa Fe
1606 Paseo de Peralta

12:00PM - Lunch
1:00PM - Welcome and Introduction with David Krakauer
1:05PM - Civilization: The Long View with Kyle Harper
1:50PM - Modeling the End of Civilization with David Wolpert, Raissa D’Souza, Simon Levin, and Lord John Alderdice
2:50PM - Afternoon Break
3:20PM - "Collapse" or "Conquest"? Two Mesoamerican Stories with Charles C. Mann
4:05PM - The Economics of Civilization with W. Brian Arthur and Sam Bowles
5:05PM - Adjourn

5:30PM - Cocktail Reception & Dinner at Local Santa Fe Restaurant



SITE Santa Fe
1606 Paseo de Peralta

8:00AM - Breakfast
9:00AM - Catastrophe, Complexity, and the Collapse of Civilizations: Are there lessons to be learned from 1177 BC? with Eric Cline
9:45AM - The Collective Dimensions of Civilization with Hahrie Han
10:30AM - Morning Break
11:00AM - Postdoc Flash Talks with Saverio Perri, Kerice Doten-Snitker, Anna Guerrero, and Katrin Schmelz
11:30AM - The Civilization of the Machine with Blaise Agüera y Arcas
12:15PM - Lunch
1:15PM - The Architecture of Civilization with Nicholas de Monchaux
2:00PM - The Difference Between Global and Planetary Civilization with Stewart Brand
2:45PM - Afternoon Break
3:15PM - Creating Civilizations with Jonah Nolan and David Krakauer
4:00PM - The Contribution of Physics to Civilization with George Johnson, Carlo Rovelli, and Geoffrey West
5:00PM - Adjourn

5:30PM - Cocktail Reception & Dinner at Local Santa Fe Restaurant


Blaise Agüera y ArcasBlaise Agüera y ArcasGoogle Research
Lord John AlderdiceLord John AlderdiceUK House of Lords
Yuen Yuen AngYuen Yuen AngAlfred Chandler Chair of Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University
W. Brian ArthurW. Brian ArthurExternal Professor at the Santa Fe Institute
Sam BowlesSam BowlesProfessor at SFI
Stewart BrandStewart BrandThe Long Now Foundation
Eric ClineEric ClineProfessor at George Washington University, and Author of '1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed'
Raissa D'SouzaRaissa D'SouzaScience Board & External Professor at SFI; Professor of Computer Science & Mechanical Engineering at UC Davis
Hahrie HanHahrie HanProfessor & Director of the SNF Agora Institute, and Faculty Director of P3 Research Lab at Johns Hopkins University
Kyle HarperKyle HarperProfessor of Classics and Letters at the University of Oklahoma; Fractal Faculty, SFI
George JohnsonGeorge JohnsonScience journalist and author of "Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Physics"
David KrakauerDavid KrakauerSFI President and William H. Miller Professor of Complex Systems
Tim KohlerTim KohlerProfessor of Anthropology at Washington State University, and External Professor at SFI
Simon LevinSimon A. LevinScience Board at SFI; James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton
Charles C. MannCharles C. MannJournalist and Author of "1491," "1493," and "The Wizard and the Prophet"
Nicholas de MonchauxNicholas de MonchauxProfessor and Head of Architecture at MIT
Jonathan NolanJonathan NolanScreenwriter, Director, and Producer ("Memento," "Westworld," and more)
Carlo RovelliCarlo RovelliTheoretical physicist and author of "The Order of Time," "Seven Brief Lessons on Physics," and "White Holes"
Geoffrey WestGeoffrey WestPast President, Shannan Distinguished Professor, and Science Steering Committee Member at the Santa Fe Institute
David WolpertDavid WolpertProfessor at the Santa Fe Institute


Casey CoxCasey CoxDirector of the Applied Complexity Network at the Santa Fe Institute
Kyle HarperKyle HarperProfessor of Classics and Letters at the University of Oklahoma; Fractal Faculty, SFI
David KrakauerDavid KrakauerSFI President and William H. Miller Professor of Complex Systems
William TracyWilliam TracyVice President for Applied Complexity, SFI

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