My group, which consist of myself, Petter Törnberg and Anton Törnberg, works to develop new ways of understanding the evolution of societal systems. We work on several levels – from specific case studies up to basic concept, model and method development. The basis for our work is the realization that innovation is usefully describable on the highly abstract level of “innovation in complex adaptive systems”. In other words there are features of systems under adaptive transformation that appear to be common to just about any instance: animal culture, early hominin culture, modern culture and biological organic evolution.

Darwinism (or more generally “population thinking”) has since long been the basis for such attempts and it is an element also of what we are doing. However we think that Darwinism needs to be scaffolded: evolution – or innovation, whichever one prefers – is not reducible to the dynamics of populations and it does not just emerge out of a microlevel dynamics where the full explanation really resides. The reason for this is really simple and quite concrete: there is no clear scale separation in these systems and so the generated higher levels of organization will have dynamics on timescales that overlap with those on lower levels.

Societal and biological systems have been described in ways that are compatible with our way of thinking for quite some time; not least lately in evolutionary developmental approaches to biology. But these efforts are scattered across very different disciplines and we think we can get a tremendous head start by combining such accounts. So we are working to produce a synthetic theory of innovation with an eye to two different, yet interestingly connected, areas: human evolution and innovation in modern societies. We are also working to develop a community interested in understanding “innovation in complex adaptive systems” more in general.

Published in Research projects