In light of JTF’s “Cultural Evolution for the Future of Humanity” initiative, we will develop a model of communities as field sites for the study of human cultural evolution in real-world settings. We define a field site as a community of people who become partners managing their cultural evolution to achieve their valued goals. A key insight is that cultural evolution often results in outcomes that deviate from societal goals, benefiting some individuals and groups at the expense of others and short-term advantage at the expense of long-term wellbeing. Hence, work is required to align cultural evolution with normative goals. Otherwise, cultural evolution still takes place but results in suffering rather than thriving.
Our approach addresses real-world problems in parallel with basic scientific research, rather than deferring practical applications to the future. The generality of the evolutionary principles enables us to work in any topic area, transcending the problem of “siloes” that plagues so many academic disciplines and practical change efforts.
The JTF grant will expand upon our existing capacities in the following areas:
1) A research program to support an international ecosystem of field sites. This will include our own research and organizing a community of other researchers around the field site approach.
2) A worldwide community of trained facilitators to work with groups in both WEIRD and non-WEIRD societies.
3) An ecosystem of field sites and partner organizations, focusing on three main topic areas of schools/youth, health, and spirituality.
4) An array of digital tools for facilitating the human-technology interaction.
These activities combine a "bottom-up" approach of working with small groups as a fundamental unit of human society with an “enlightened top-down” approach of working with organizations in a way that facilitates lower-level cultural evolution and becomes coordinated with higher-level cultural evolution.