About Complex Systems

Overview | Significant Points | Concept Map | Visualizations


Overview: what is the study of Complex Systems?

Complex Systems is a new field of science studying how parts of a system give rise to the collective behaviors of the system, and how the system interacts with its environment. Social systems formed (in part) out of people, the brain formed out of neurons, molecules formed out of atoms, the weather formed out of air flows are all examples of complex systems. The field of complex systems cuts across all traditional disciplines of science, as well as engineering, management, and medicine. It focuses on certain questions about parts, wholes and relationships. These questions are relevant to all traditional fields.

Why Complex Systems?

The study of complex systems is about understanding indirect effects. Problems that are difficult to solve are often hard to understand because the causes and effects are not obviously related. Pushing on a complex system "here" often has effects "over there" because the parts are interdependent. This has become more and more apparent in our efforts to solve societal problems or avoid ecological disasters caused by our own actions. The field of complex systems provides a number of sophisticated tools, some of them concepts that help us think about these systems, some of them analytical for studying these systems in greater depth, and some of them computer based for describing, modeling or simulating these systems.

Three approaches to the study of Complex Systems:

There are three interrelated approaches to the modern study of complex systems, (1) how interactions give rise to patterns of behavior, (2) understanding the ways of describing complex systems, and (3) the process of formation of complex systems through pattern formation and evolution.

 

 

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