Catalysis Meeting

The nature of regulation: how evolutionary theory can inform the regulation of large-scale human social interactions

PI(s): David Wilson (State University of New York-Binghamton)
Start Date: 1-Jun-2009
End Date: 31-May-2010
Keywords: human evolution, neurobiology, management of natural populations

The regulation of large-scale human social interactions is arguably the most important public policy issue of our time. Our current regulatory systems are not working, in part because of inadequacies in the economic theories upon which they are based. Experimental and behavioral economists are already drawing upon the fields of psychology and (increasingly) neurobiology to remedy the limitations of classical economic theory. Evolutionary theory expands the view by including, but also going beyond, the study of proximate human psychological and neurobiological mechanisms. Additional relevant areas include: a) living systems as highly regulated molecular interactions; b) the evolution of higher-level units (e.g., multicellular organisms and social insect colonies) as highly regulated societies of lower-level units; c) the genetic evolution of human groups as highly regulated small-scale societies; and d) the cultural evolution of regulatory mechanisms at increasingly large scales throughout human history. This catalysis meeting will convene a diverse group of evolutionists, economists, and public policy experts to create a new interdisciplinary foundation for the study and practice of large-scale human regulatory systems. The project will initiate a collaboration between NESCent and the Evolution Institute, a newly formed think tank for informing public policy from an evolutionary perspective. The involvement of the Evolution Institute will insure a lasting impact of the catalysis meeting on public policy, in addition to the future academic study of human regulatory systems from an evolutionary perspective.