Santa Fe Institute

The Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico, is an independent research and education centre where complex systems research is undertaken and the science of complex adaptive systems was defined. Founded in 1984, the institute is a private establishment where scientists deal with the most significant complex phenomena.  Inter-disciplinary research is undertaken in a collaborative manner, with scientists coming to the Santa Fe Institute from various universities, research institutes and government agencies.  The institute came into existence through the continuous collaboration and knowledge sharing between George Cowan (a senior fellow at Los Alamos Laboratory) and other colleagues at the laboratory.  The founding members were George Cowan, David Pines, Stirling Colgate, Murray-Gell-Mann, Nick Metropolis, Herb Anderson, Peter A. Carruthers and Richard Slansky.  Only Pines and Gell-Mann were not scientists at Los Alamos at the time.  The aspiration was to develop and institute where scientists could focus on problem-driven scientific research, rather than paradigm-orientated science.  The original focus of the institute was to propagate the concept of the new research field of complexity theory and related systems.


Research at the Santa Fe Institute focus predominantly on the following six themes:

Research projects currently ongoing at the Santa Fe Institute include the following:

A theory of embodied intelligence

C4:  The Collective Computation Group @ SFI

Cities, scaling & sustainability

Dynamics of wealth inequality

Emergence of complex societies

The co-evolution of individual behaviors and social institutions

The thermodynamics of computation

Additional Research Information:


Working Papers

For a more detailed recollection of the history and development of the Santa Fe Institute, refer to the following article authored by John German (Director of Communications):

Conception to birth: A gleam in one scientist’s eye

The Santa Fe Institute also provides a number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which is hosted by Complexity Explorer.

Additional related text in Further Reading