Toward a Social Science of the Possible

IAS Director Robbert Dijkgraaf recently remarked that 21st century scientists are shifting “from studying what is to what could be.” We urgently need a social science of what could be, if we are to face challenges from inequality and racial injustice to climate catastrophe and the rise of AI. In this talk, I describe three theoretical tools--computation, evolution, and construction--that help us re-imagine social science as a science of the possible. To illustrate my approach, I use these tools to think through a number of long-standing questions in social science: the drivers of cultural change, the nature of power, and the role of stories in shaping societies.



Jacob Foster


Infosys Member, School of Social Science