Transformation of Collective Behaviors and Decisions

The multiple crises of the Anthropocene will necessitate deep transformations of collective human behavior. Which are the dynamics of collective behavior and mechanisms of decision-making processes that are suitable to meet this challenge? Which new forms of representation can facilitate the understanding of the underlying complex systems dynamics, and how can such representations be leveraged to communicate and shape the Anthropocene future?

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Projects Related Transformations of Collective Behavior and Decisions

With publishing the Climate Action Plan in March 2024, the MPG set itself the goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2035 and proclaimed to design a pathway towards being a leading example for a sustainable and climate-friendly research organization. This project takes this goal as a starting point for an analysis of the entire climate, biodiversity and sustainability research of the Max Planck Society. Next to taking stock of the relevant research carried out in all three sections of MPG, the analysis aims to support self-reflection in research as to which topics and collaborations within the MGP could be of interest in the future. more

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

Complex system thinking and games

The project explores the innovative approach of utilizing games as educational tools to enhance understanding and skills in complex system thinking. Complex systems, characterized by their intricate and interdependent components, pose significant challenges in comprehension and analysis. Games, with their interactive and engaging nature, offer a unique platform for learners to experiment with and understand the dynamics of such systems in a risk-free environment. more

Promises of Bioeconomy: Toward a New Social and Epistemic Common Sense?

The concept of bioeconomy, defined as an economic system utilizing renewable raw materials to foster sustainable practices across sectors, has garnered significant attention amidst ongoing climate crises. Since around 2009, supranational entities like the OECD and various governments have promoted bioeconomy as a pivotal solution. This has led to an unusual convergence of interests between industry stakeholders and social movements, uniting former adversaries such as environmental activists and the biotech industry. However, the central question persists: Can the bio-transformation of industrial production serve as a viable alternative to oil dependency, or will it exacerbate resource overexploitation? This research seeks to elucidate the historical roots and ongoing tensions in the bioeconomic field by examining its evolution from the 1960s to the 2000s. more

Science and Responsibility: The Life Sciences of the Max Planck Society, 1948–2004

"Science and Responsibility" is the working title for a book project on the history of the life sciences in the Max Planck Society (MPG) between 1948 and 2002. The focus is on the agricultural sciences and molecular biology in the MPG and their different reactions to the social problems of their time. The contrasting development of these sciences in the MPG is described with a view to fundamental epistemic contradictions in the life sciences, power relations and social networks within the scientific organisation and different relationships to business and politics. It deals with fundamental decision-making situations in science and research that are of long-term significance for the relationship between humans and their environment and are the subject of geo-anthropology. more

The Surveyor’s Controversy

This project explores changing epistemes among surveyors during Old Babylonian period, or the early second millennium BCE in Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq). It asks, “How and to what extend did knowledge change in this community?” “Who affected this change?” and “What impact did this change have on the surveyor’s themselves and on other communities?” more

Cosmoperceptions of the Forest

The starting point for the project, conducted in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, is existing initiatives in Indigenous and traditional territories in South America and Europe, that work to regenerate relationships between many species, human and non-human, based on the ways of life of Forest Peoples. more

Hiding in Plains Sight: Tracing the Emergence of the Technosphere between Kansas’ Dust Bowls

The dissertation project explores the socio-ecological dynamics that contributed to the emergence of the technosphere, using the example of Western Kansas’ groundwater irrigation crisis. The project analyzes the physical, technological, and societal rebirth of Western Kansas at the inflection point of the Great Acceleration, following the extreme events of the 1930s and 1950s Dust Bowls. It examines the emergence and transformation of the cultural, economic, legal, and technological drivers that enabled this socio-ecological transformation. In this way, the geoanthropological study raises the question of whether the same drivers that enabled this transformation are now trapping Kansas in its technospheric present. 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

Decision Theater

Any response to societal challenges involves policy and behavior changes. To be effective, these need to be data driven and evidence based. Furthermore, all these challenges represent complex or wicked problems that do not have simple, optimization-based solutions. For such cases the Decision Theater provides a platform for the creation and implementation of model-based scenarios, models, and visualization that allow the exploration and analysis of the consequences of individual and collective decisions. 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

The project emphasises global environmental justice and examines how resource extraction has unevenly affected regions worldwide, influencing economic, societal, and ecological dynamics. The project aims to understand historical decisions guiding energy extraction and transitions, fostering dialogue among scholars and stakeholders on climate justice and policy strategies. Through these discussions, the project aims to develop insights into the impacts of the historical oil industry and contribute to informing sustainable development policies in resource extraction. It also includes a sub-project comparing historical oil exploration in New Zealand and Galicia, exploring regulatory frameworks, technological advancements, and socioeconomic outcomes to understand regional disparities in oil industry trajectories better. more

Petroleum, Press, and Politics

This project explores historical discourses on petroleum extraction in Galicia, highlighting contrasting perspectives: one of technological advancement and another of moral and economic concerns. It investigates how these debates reflect broader global trends in environmental determinism and nation-building, shaping contemporary mindsets. Utilizing advanced computational methods, including text embeddings and divergence measures with Language Model Models (LLMs), the project aims to analyze and compare historical press coverage across linguistic traditions. Simultaneously, it addresses biases in archival data through innovative simulation techniques, promoting transparency in Geoanthropological research. By implementing rigorous pre-publishing standards for data and code, the project ensures the reliability and reproducibility of its findings. more

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