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A Playground for Geniuses.

A playground for geniuses: Inside the Santa Fe Institute | Dispatches from The Well Ep.3

I grew up in Palo Alto in the 1970s. I often wandered the halls of Xerox PARC, face-planting into the famous bean bags (Alan Kay on why they used them!). My father, and Godfather both worked at the famous research center. Likely because of this, I’ve had a long term fascination with the laboratory setting and getting the smartest people together to solve really big problems. From Bletchley Park during WWII where my Grandfather ran the hut named, The Newmanry, to Bell Labs, Lincoln Labs, Los Alamos National Lab, or Princeton’s IAS and so many more.

One such place I’ve had a mildly unsociable obsession with is the Santa Fe Institute. The global leader on research in Complexity Science. I’m deeply fascinated with Complexity and, as I mentioned above, creative collaborations like SFI. It appears that SFI is a place where scientists go to have the most fun possible in their work. Legally. The Institute’s podcasts are truly excellent. I never missed the science podcast, Complexity and their Alien Crash Site about science fiction influencing science and the other way around. And of course, me being me, I have a copy of every one of their published books. Having just completed the book, Complexity, Entropy and the Physics of Information. Vol 1.

So you must imagine my delight when I came across a short documentary produced by The Well, on the Santa Fe Institute.

It’s a lovely look inside the institute, including interviews with David Krakauer (who is indeed frighteningly smart), Geoffrey West, Cormac McCarthy and Chris Kempes.

As an aside, Michael Garfield who hosted the SFI Complexity podcast is very likely the best question asking interviewer I’ve ever come across. He hosts another podcast called Future Fossils, which you can find here: https://substack.com/@michaelgarfield