Our current scientific worldview adheres to a mechanistic paradigm of prediction and control. This view fails us when dealing with the unpredictable behavior of complex systems that involve agents (organisms, ecologies, and social systems including economies). Applying mechanistic approaches to such systems inevitably leads to unintended consequences, some of which (social breakdown, ecosystem degradation, climate change) now threaten the future of humanity. The central conceptual problem here is how we consider and formalize possibilities in scientific models. Mechanistic dynamics are governed by fixed rules generating trajectories through a predefined space of possibilities: the configuration space of the model. In contrast, agents co-determine the rules by which they behave and evolve, their space of possibilities constantly expanding due to their own actions. The dialectic dynamics of these co-evolving possibility spaces enable truly open-ended evolutionary innovation. This raises a number of fundamental questions—still rarely asked today:
*How can we conceptualize/formalize expanding possibility spaces in agential models?
*What is the contribution of agency to expanding possibilities (evolutionary innovation)?
*To what extent can we actually model and predict emergent agential dynamics at all?
A science that takes purposive agency seriously must have these questions at its core. This transdisciplinary project employs a collaborative network of biologists, complexity scientists, and philosophers to establish conceptual foundations on which we develop a novel modeling paradigm for evolving agential systems. This paradigm for a true “science of purpose” will radically change how we do science, how we use scientific knowledge in society, and how we see ourselves and our place in the world. We will raise awareness of these important issues through a book written for a general educated public and an outreach strategy based on a combination of innovative formats.