The Woods Hole Institute explores the complex relationships and interconnections among the domains of knowledge, culture and nature.

The Woods Hole Institute (WHI) is an experiment in integrative action across the boundaries of science, art and humanistic thought, exploring the next big scientific frontier: understanding ourselves. We can look through telescopes and microscopes, we can understand quarks and quasars, but we don’t really understand what it means to be human. At WHI, we seek to gain understanding of the human scale through exploring our minds, our relationship to the environment, and our relationships with each other. At its heart, it is exploring human culture––human expression, knowledge and creativity––and how it evolves. And we seek to draw on the way we understand complexity to inform the way we understand ourselves.

The Woods Hole Institute is a place to build new kinds of thinking about science, the environment and the social issues that arise from the recognition of the complexity of nature and culture at all scales, and the dissonance of human experience at the boundary of culture and nature. The wicked problems society faces in the 21st century will not be solved using 20th century tools and methods.

The Woods Hole Institute is less about domains of thought and more about the paradigm, bringing together leaders, thinkers and doers to explore new ways of making the intractable tractable. It is a place where these ideas converge, providing fertile ground for the actionable explication of important ideas at the boundaries of science and human reason; the ways we think about the human condition; the influence of creativity on decision-making, knowledge and understanding; and foregrounding collective, transdisciplinary ideas to solve problems.

The Woods Hole Institute is not just about thinking, it is also about doing and expressing, a place to help connect people and ideas among disciplines through an ecosystem of deep thought and action, through a wide range of experiences such as colloquia, seminars, retreats, workshops, performances, and installations.

Among the science-inflected topics we explore are:

  • Understanding nature: What it means to be grounded in nature and using its rules to guide us in working across boundaries; nature as a reflection of the ways things work;  

  • Interdisciplinarity: The connections among complex human social and cognitive systems and natural systems;

  • Knowledge from a systemic sense, not content sense;

  • Connected constructs and dynamics: Seeking homologous patterns that connect, for example, among social networks and brain networks;

  • Quiet problems; The kinds of problems embedded in systems that require new thinking to discover.

The Woods Hole Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.