Tipping Points and Major Transitions

The coupled human-Earth system has a complex, highly non-linear nature. Which major transitions characterize its evolution? Which risks arise from potential tipping dynamics in the biophysical sphere, how can they be mitigated through transformations in the socio-technical sphere, and which adaptation measures and regenerative strategies need to be prepared?

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Projects Related to Tipping Points and Major Transitions

Petrochemical Technosphere

Chemical industries play a major, yet in technology studies still underestimated role in the establishment of the technosphere and for the course of history in the Anthropocene. Artificial  fertilizers, ammunition, plastics, fuels, pharmaceuticals are drivers for paradigmatic Anthropocene dynamics in all spheres of the Earth- and socio-technical systems. (Great Acceleration Observatory). Via their industrial technicality, a large set of molecules need to be addresses as part of the technosphere. It is the ongoing „transformation of chemistry“ towards sustainable process structures, that calls for an understanding of the full scope of industrial chemicals for the actual historical condition.  more

Teleconnections: A Spatiotemporal Atlas of the Technosphere

How did a state shift in planetary conditions occur in the wake of local transformations and how does that state shift feed back to such localities, further spurring their transformations? Can we map, and thereby discern, the systemic drivers and their mutual interdependencies that mesh the global fabric of the Anthropocene? In the collaborative project Teleconnections we seek to develop a new visual grammar representing social, technological, and ecological transformations across space and time, helping to get an evolving technosphere into view. more

Narratives between society, science and policy

Analyzing narratives between science and policy involves examining the complex interplay and communication strategies that bridge the gap between scientific research and policy-making. more

Structural language evolution

Analyzing social tipping dynamics within the context of structural language evolution offers a novel lens through which to understand the mechanisms driving societal change. more

Mapping Capitalist Expansion

This project maps forest cover loss, alongside the forms of political resistance that have obstructed deforestation, during the era of global capitalist expansion from the late 1400s onwards. more

AI Assistant for Geoanthropology

The project aims to create an AI assistant to support research in the emerging, highly interdisciplinary field of geoanthropology. The new generation of generative AI is starting to transform scientific practice across all disciplines. In particular, large language models (LLMs) are rapidly becoming better at understanding text and quickly generating accurate responses, making this technology broadly applicable across many domains, including science. more

Dynamics of the Technosphere

The "Dynamics of the Technosphere" project is dedicated to understanding the complex and interconnected systems that constitute the technosphere and their interaction dynamics. By identifying distinct subsystems and measurable proxies for key system parameters and variables, our research aims to elucidate the fundamental relationships that govern the behavior of these systems. Through a combination of empirical data collection, computational modeling, and theoretical analysis, we seek to uncover the core principles driving energy and material fluxes, structural organization, and entropy within the technosphere. Our work will explore the specific mechanisms that couple different subsystems, aiming to provide a comprehensive framework for analyzing the dynamics of this intricate network of subsystems. more

In many complex systems, as e.g. in physics, ecology, finance, or history, phases of relatively stable states often alternate with with rapid shifts, as phase transitions, revolutions, the emergence or extinction of species etc. Physics, as well as e.g. classical economics (adopting concept from physics), tends to see these stable states as equilibria, i.e. as the result of some optimisation process. more

Pan-African Evolution

The Pan-African Evolution project is focused on understanding the early periods of human prehistory, and how early human shaping of the earth had cascading effects down to the present day. more


The WAMSA project, funded under the EU Horizon 2020 programm builds on both previously described work and emerging data from West Africa. Over the last decade, this region is yielding provocative insights that increasingly challenge early narratives about human biological and cultural evolution. Recent introgression of archaic specimens in the modern genome and very long persistence of Middle Stone Age (MSA) technology have been emphasized. The aim is to explain this distinct regional Stone Age Sequence. In other words what are the forces driving forces West African MSA “cultural anachronism”? Are climatic trends sufficient to explain long-lasting behavioral stability? Can demographic conditions between 150 and 11 thousand years ago explain it? Did connections exist between structured populations? Were West African populations geographically separated from the rest of the continent isolated? Were there natural barriers (eg. ecological) separating them from the rest of the continent?  more


The ERC funded IslandLab project will document long-term legacies and feedbacks between ecological changes, societal responses and ecosystem resilience on the island of Malta. more


RESILIENT: Forest Cities - Utopia and Development in the Modern Amazon is a 3 year-funded project of the Gerda Henkel Foundation as part of the special Programme: Lost Cities: Perception of and living with abandoned cities in the cultures of the world. It focuses on 20th century ‘lost cities’ in the Amazon created and abandoned in association with different extractivist projects. RESILIENT will use multiple historical documents to explore the resilience of industrial cities in tropical forests from both a human and non-human perspective. Amazonian lost cities are privileged spots for investigating the pitfalls in discourses on modernization and progress so prevalent on large-scale development projects, which continue to shape the imaginings, expectations, and lives of people in the Amazon to this day. more

Past Human Impacts on the Tropics and Connected Earth Systems

The last 5 years of research in the tropics have not only started to demonstrate the long record of human presence emphasized above, but also the fact that human societies have left legacies of varying nature and intensity on different aspects of tropical ecosystems and their associated earth systems. This project applies varied methods to build detailed records of human interactions with different aspects of these environments across space and time including: more

Deep Human History in the Tropics

This project seeks to resolve the timing and nature of human adaptations to tropical forests in different parts of the world. It can be divided into four main sub-project areas, covering the time depth of our species’ interaction with these environments, with corresponding methodological approaches. more

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