Princeton Project on Fragility



Sarah Jones Nelson 

Project Director 


What is fragility? It is the condition of being fragile, not robust, in physical and nonphysical states of reality. For instance the past as perception of fluctuating memories is fragile; written texts and narrative art that embody the past tend to be robust. Interpretations of the origin of the universe and the species are fragile because of conflicting worlds of reference, either metaphorical or factual, to the phenomena. The cosmic microwave background data are as indisputably robust as evidence for evolution of the species. Metaphors in scriptures for the creation of the universe on the other hand vary in the text tradition and are thus fragile.

An epistemic position that a robust physical reality exists separately as the object of fragile perception was thought to be consistent with general relativity until quantum mechanics threw doubt upon whether one can separate the reality being observed from the act and method of observation. We examine the paradox of these contradictions and the open questions they raise about the fundamental laws of nature.

Disciplines brought to the project range widely to questions of consciousness and its fragile relation to the brain, body, and emotions. Political and pictorial realism were both inventions of the Renaissance. Are their effects fragile or robust? We have yet to learn how the robust organization of fragile biological systems corresponds to the emergence of social norms. The open problem in mathematics of whether P equals NP may profoundly affect the robust development of computational biology.

An urgent question of fragility is at the foundations of morals and values shared among world religions and cultures. Vulnerable, enslaved populations are at risk daily in the developed and developing worlds where religious differences are immaterial to the need for sustainable, robust systems of health and education that can save extremely fragile lives. The Princeton Project on Fragility responds to this question and need for systemic implementation across the traditional concepts of disciplines.