Complexity Theory

In the next 3 web lectures (part of our MOOC The Next Generation of Infrastructures) we will explain complexity theory and its importance.

A Complex system is defined as one in which many independent agents interact with each other in multiple (sometimes infinite) ways. This variety of actors also allows for the “spontaneous self- organization”; that sometimes takes place in a system. This self-organization occurs without anyone being in charge or planning the organization. Rather, it is more a result of organisms/agents constantly adapting to each other. The complex systems are also adaptive (i.e., they always adapt in a way that benefits them). Another important concept in complexity theory is that there is no master controller of any system. In short, we have to deal with a lot of uncertainty and many actors with different interests.

You will see that one of the defining characteristics of complex systems is the inability to predict the outcome of any given change to the system? Because a system depends on so many intricate interactions, the number of possible reactions to any given change is infinite. Counterintuitive:

  • Minor events can have enormous consequences because of the chain of reactions they might incite.
  • Major changes may have an almost insignificant effect on the system as a whole.