Sep 6, 2022

Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute with Dr. Andrew Serazin, Dr. Erica Cartmill, Dr. Pranab Das and Dr. Jacob Foster (podcast)

Key members of the diverse intelligences community share how the program brings together a multiplicity of perspectives to sow the seeds for the next generation of researchers.

By Templeton Staff

The Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI) is a three-week-long program, bringing together typically early-career researchers, graduate students, postdocs, and early-career faculty for a period of interdisciplinary exploration into cognition and questions of intelligences. The DISI community is built around "people who are really accomplished in their own disciplines, but have this hunger, this excitement, and this openness, to exploring and collaborating and connecting with ideas in other areas," says DISI Director Erica Cartmill.

"DISI connects interesting minds to other interesting minds, to then create new ideas and new research through these connections." -Erica Cartmill


"The whole idea of DISI is not to teach people a specific method or technique or theoretical framework — it’s not a training in that. It’s really a training in asking questions and collaborating interdisciplinarily." Cartmill explains, "What we’re trying to do is to bring people together, and give them the tools that they need to do the kind of science that is needed in the future, to connect interesting minds to other interesting minds, and then to create new ideas, new research through these connections."

DISI Director Jacob Foster agrees. He points out what's distinct about DISI is not just that it's a "concerted effort to bring together all of the different disciplines that think about intelligences, but that it’s also an ethos. It’s a kind of community spirit, that doesn’t just put the different disciplines in conversation, but I would say is sort of actively disrespectful of the idea of a disciplinary boundary." This kind of intellectual humility is not often found in the world of academia, and it's rare for scholars to come together for such expansive study. As Stories of Impact podcast host Tavia Gilbert observes, "The DISI community’s humility, courage, and confidence in exploring from a place of not knowing is perhaps just as revolutionary as the questions the scientists explore in their research."

DISI and the research network around the study of diverse intelligences "has really been about bringing new players to the table," shares Cartmill. She points out both the research and the community are "about conceptualizing new forms of knowing and experiencing and existing in the world." Investigating what intelligence means from a multidisciplinary perspective, says Cartmill is "about what I like to call decentering the human, or in particular, decentering one particular kind of human — decentering this idea that all human intelligence is the same and that there’s one canonical yardstick against which everything else is measured."

"When we typically think about the word intelligence, most people in the past have thought about the word intelligence, that it is, you know, seeing a problem, deploying tools to solve that problem. I think our journey so far with diverse intelligences has absolutely expanded that notion of intelligence," TWCF President Andrew Serazin reflects. "In the past five years, [Templeton World Charity Foundation] has awarded over a hundred grants across studying human intelligence, animal intelligence, the possibility of intelligence in machines. It’s been a fascinating journey. I think it’s actually quite timely in terms of the questions that society is asking right now, whether that’s on how we should treat animals, whether that’s on how we regulate artificial intelligence technologies, whether that’s about how advanced forms of biotechnology are deployed and creating new kinds of life. And also what intelligence of groups looks like, what does collective intelligence mean, in teams, in corporations, on a more planetary scale?"

"I think what surprises me the most is to see how pervasive this idea of collective intelligence, the emergence of intelligence is," shares Pranab Das, director of TWCF's Diverse Intelligences, 2017-202. "And what’s great about that is it really resonates with this underlying idea that Sir John Templeton had, that was, everything builds upon itself, things become more interesting as they become more complex. And maybe that interesting-ness is a kind of a bootstrap, that gets us from the intelligence of a cell to the intelligence of an organ, to the intelligence of a small animal, to the intelligence of the person, and then the collectives of people and the collectives of people with other things. So it’s not unreasonable to imagine that that is the kind of progressive collective nests, the increasing power that comes with groups that get bigger and more complex and more interactive."

Learn more about TWCF's Diverse Intelligences priority.

Listen to the podcast with the above player.

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay, presented by podcast producer Tavia Gilbert. Featuring: Dr. Andrew Serazin, President of Templeton World Charity Foundation, Dr. Erica Cartmill, co-director of the TWCF’s Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI) and associate professor of anthropology and psychology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Dr. Jacob Foster, co-director of the TWCF’s DISI and associate professor of sociology at UCLA; Dr. Pranab Das, director of TWCF's Diverse Intelligences, 2017-2022 and professor of physics, Elon University.

Built upon the award-winning video series of the same name, Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” podcast features stories of new scientific research on human flourishing that translate discoveries into practical tools. Bringing a mix of curiosity, compassion, and creativity, journalist Richard Sergay and producer Tavia Gilbert shine a spotlight on the human impact at the heart of cutting-edge social and scientific research projects supported by TWCF.