Joe Brewer is a complexity researcher and evangelist for the field of culture design. He is co-founder and editor for Evonomics magazine, research director for, and coordinator for the newly forming Cultural Evolution Society. He lives in Seattle and travels the world helping humanity make the transition to sustainability. He does this by working to integrate complexity research, cognitive science, and cultural evolution for the good of humanity.

I help people understand and create systemic change to address the root causes of societal problems. This is what compels me to passionately build out the field of cultural evolutionary studies as the coordinator for the newly formed Cultural Evolution Society. Being a designer of intentional social change requires a clarity about how change happens and what causes change to happen. My personal journey towards making sense of change started with training in physics—where the tools of calculus are essentially a way to measure how change happens for physical forces and objects.

But it was complexity that captured my passion… how might it be possible to see complexity emerging? What is the hidden logic of a thunderstorm or avalanche? How did life arise from gurgling chemicals? Where is all of it going? Two ideas transformed my ability to see complexity. The first is the very same idea that enabled Charles Darwin to make detailed observations about animal anatomy and uncover the mysteries of biology. It is the idea of Deep Time that geologists use to see far into the past and make sense of very large things that happen too slowly for human senses to discern.

The second idea—captured by the phrase “grandeur in this view of life”—is what Darwin was able to uncover. The idea of natural selection as an emergent pattern for living things as they strive to adapt and survive in changing environments. Unpacked into its parts, this is the notion that many things will be tried and most will fail. Only those that are appropriately fit to their surroundings will have a chance of persisting to reproduce.

Herein resides the secret to thriving. Be adaptable. Experiment and open yourself up to variation. Let that which works best be inherited by those who come after you.  Cooperate and do more together than would be possible on your own. And remain humble that sometimes the most inspiring changes take longer than one lifetime.

I learned to see change as calculus, then as emergent complexity. Along the way, I was inspired to discover the simple secret that tiny changes add up and much more is lost in each iteration to push forward what remains to be gained in the next generation. Thus 99.99999% of all species to ever exist are now extinct — yet those still present are the gift of natural selection in action.  And therein one can see grandeur in the cosmic dance of all living things.

For more on Joe Brewer’s work:
Change Strategist for Humanity

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Published On: February 8, 2017

One Comment

  • Rory Short says:

    As a South African I am very aware that the progressive cultural change that took what we thought was a massive step forward in 1994 is seriously stumbling as regressive forces driven by greed and selfishness struggle to de-rail the change.

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