What Makes Complex Systems Complex?

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This paper explores some of the factors that make complex systems complex. We first examine the history of complex systems. It was Aristotle’s insight that how elements are joined together helps determine the properties of the resulting whole. We find (a) that scientific reductionism does not provide a sufficient explanation; (b) that to understand complex systems, one must identify and trace energy flows; and (c) that disproportionate causality, including global tipping points, are all around us. Disproportionate causality results from the wide availability of energy stores. We discuss three categories of emergent phenomena—static, dynamic, and adaptive—and recommend retiring the term emergent, except perhaps as a synonym for creative. Finally, we find that virtually all communication is stigmergic.
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Archival date: 2019-02-03
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