Murray Gell-Mann on “Thinking About the Future—The Big Picture”

Distinguished Lecture Series

September 27, 2005

Nobel Laureate Prof. Murray Gell-Mann, the 2004–2005 Pardee Visiting Professor of Future Studies at the Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, would like to see the integration of thinking in science and in policy. Yet he describes his talk as “a crude look at the whole,” as a way of acknowledging the difficulty of making an integrative study work. Gell-Mann says global problems cannot be considered in isolation, and he wonders about the best ways to separate environmental issues from those involving population growth. Integrative thinking is the focus of the Sante Fe Institute, which Gell-Mann founded. He also discusses the ways in which a sustainable future can be envisioned, warning, “We have to get rid of the idea that careful study of a problem in some narrow range of issues is the only kind of work to be taken seriously, while integrative thinking is relegated to cocktail party conversation.”

Video length is 01:27:00.

About the Speaker

Murray Gell-Mann, who was the 2002–2003 as well as the 2004–2005 Pardee Visiting Professor of Future Studies, is a Distinguished Fellow of the Santa Fe Institute and the author of the popular science book The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. In 1969, Gell-Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles. He and others later constructed the quantum field theory of quarks and gluons, called quantum chromodynamics, which seems to account for all the nuclear particles and their strong interactions. Gell-Mann is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees. Although a theoretical physicist, his interests extend to many other subjects, including natural history, historical linguistics, archaeology, history, depth psychology, and creative thinking, all subjects connected with biological evolution, cultural evolution, and learning and thinking. His scientific work is influenced by his concern about policy matters related to world environmental quality (including conservation of biological diversity), restraint in population growth, sustainable economic development, and stability of the world political system. His recent research at the Santa Fe Institute has focused on the subject of complex adaptive systems, which brings all these areas of study together.