Humanity faces serious social and environmental problems, including climate change and biodiversity loss. Increasingly, scientists, global policy experts, and the general public conclude that incremental approaches to reduce risk are insufficient and transformative change is needed across all sectors of society. However, the meaning of transformation is still unsettled in the literature, as is the proper role of science in fostering it. This paper is the first in a three-part series that adds to the discussion by proposing a novel science-driven research-and-development program aimed at societal transformation. More than a proposal, it offers a perspective and conceptual framework from which societal transformation might be approached. As part of this, it advances a formal mechanics with which to model and understand self-organizing societies of individuals. While acknowledging the necessity of reform to existing societal systems (e.g., governance, economic, and financial systems), the focus of the series is on transformation understood as systems change or systems migration—the de novo development of and migration to new societal systems. The series provides definitions, aims, reasoning, worldview, and a theory of change, and discusses fitness metrics and design principles for new systems. This first paper proposes a worldview, built using ideas from evolutionary biology, complex systems science, cognitive sciences, and information theory, which is intended to serve as the foundation for the R&D program. Subsequent papers in the series build on the worldview to address fitness metrics, system design, and other topics.
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