Using Technology to Enhance, Rather than Erode, Moral Systems​​
TWCF Number
Project Duration
July 25 / 2018
- March 31 / 2020
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
North America
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

* A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

David Sloan Wilson
Institution Evolution Institute, Inc.

We often think of intelligence as a property of individual people, animals, or even machines. But whole groups and communities can also evince all sorts of intelligence as collectives. David Sloan Wilson hypothesizes that the strongest group intelligence emerges when deep and varied internal communications exist among the group members.

This project emerges from the following assumptions:
• Group-level intelligence requires a process of selection and mechanisms for suppressing disruptive evolutionary processes in groups.
• Because human moral systems present these conditions, they are prerequisites for group-level intelligence in society.
• Human moral systems have been coevolving with technology for a long time. This has led to an increase in the scale of cooperative human society, from small hunter-gatherer groups to the mega-societies of today. But we still fall far short of planetary-level cooperation and intelligence.
• Recent developments in evolutionary science give us a multi-disciplinary theoretical framework for understanding past, present, and future technology-assisted moral systems.

This project’s activities will advance basic scientific research, communicate to the public, and create a technology-assisted architecture for intelligent moral communities at many levels, from small groups to the planet. To study the nature of morality and the cultural evolution of large-scale societies, its basic scientific research will draw on the extensive network of scientists already assembled by the Evolution Institute (EI). Public communications will be based on EI’s “Science to Narrative Chain” communication strategy. Dissemination efforts will include seed funds for a documentary film.

The team will implement the architecture at various scales to establish what Ostrom called “polycentric governance” and what can be understood in evolutionary terms as multicellular society.

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