What is a Complex System? A new book explains - CSH

What is a Complex System? A new book explains


Dec 1, 2020

Now there is a Guide through the Chaos

 

When coming across the term “complex systems,” many readers may shy away from engaging any further. The term is often associated with confusion because complex systems come up in various disciplines and seem to be everything and nothing at once.

 

With their book “What is a complex system?,” Karoline Wiesner, a member of our External Faculty and associate professor of mathematics at the University of Bristol, and James Ladyman, as well professor (of philosophy) at the University of Bristol, connect the dots behind the various phenomena under the umbrella of complex systems. Those range from the way a flock of birds flies, to the motion of people in a city, to the inner workings of stock markets.

 

In December 2020, the book was considered as one of “the week’s best science picks” by Nature.

 

In the past years, complexity science has grown in popularity and appeared in various academic studies. However, something was missing in the existing body of literature. “Whenever a student asked me ‘What should I read first?’, I always struggled. I would start giving them a collection of articles,” says Karoline, a trained physicist. “This book fills that gap and is a good starting point to approach the field.”

 

Some complex systems may have undesirable effects

 

Karoline aimed to bring clarity into the intertwined and convoluted world of complex systems. Many academics have used complexity science to describe living and nonliving systems in disciplines like biology, physics, sociology or economics.

 

The new book “What is a complex system?” looks at the research that has been done so far and creates a conclusive framework.

Karoline Wiesner, James Ladyman:

What is a Complex System?

 

ISBN: 9780300251104

Yale University Press

August 2020

“You don’t have to be a math wizard to combine these subjects”

 

The first two chapters are introductory and can be understood by interested lay people, too. Yet, the further the reading goes, the more basic mathematical knowledge becomes useful.

 

The book ends on a rather cautionary note, explaining how the fate of complex systems such as the climate or life on earth depends on us. The authors convey a sense of urgency in dealing with these matters. “Once you have understood how complex systems work, you know how problematic the unbearably slow approach to the grand challenges is,” says Karoline.

 

Urgency also becomes apparent as the focus in the book shifts to new complex systems, like social media algorithms. “We clearly need a lot more research in these matters to avoid unpredictable and undesirable effects,” Karoline emphasizes.

 

Yet, it is important to know that we are not helpless in the face of complexity, she adds. “If we are open to working interdisziplinarily, we can understand different phenomena with similar ways of thinking—this is what complexity science is all about.”

 

The world is without doubts becoming more and more connected. Using the insights of complexity scientists, we are now capable of utilizing these connections to our advantage: We can look at the functioning of the human brain and notice similarities with the behavior of a beehive. “Importantly, you don’t have to be a math wizard to combine these subjects”, argues Karoline. The book provides readers of any background tools to recognize and measure complex systems and better grasp the complex world we live in. It seems easy for Karoline to state her reasons for investing a decade into co-authoring the book: “We can see that, in the face of all this complicatedness and messiness, there is actually a lot of order underneath the seeming chaos.”

 

The book is not without its intricacies. It is an extensive academic discussion on complex systems targeted primarily at students interested in the matter. Nonetheless, the straightforward style and example based breakdown make the book an interesting read for all who want to discover the world of complex systems.

 

About the authors:

 

James Ladyman is a professor of philosophy who mainly works in philosophy of science at the University of Bristol.

 

Karoline Wiesner is an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Bristol. She teaches courses in mathematics and complexity science.


Press

DELTA-VARIANTE: KOMMT VIERTE WELLE?


Puls 4 | Cafe Puls, Jun 24, 2021

Press

Corona: Von Wut über Angst zur Trauer


Ö1 | Digital Leben, Jun 22, 2021

News

Jun 22, 2021

Digital Humanism: CSH successful with three projects

Press

Delta-Variante erschwert das Erreichen einer Herdenimmunität


Oberösterreichisches Volksblatt, Jun 22, 2021

Press

Warnungen vor zu frühem Ende der Maskenpflicht im Handel und in Öffis


OÖ Nachrichten, Jun 22, 2021

News

Jun 17, 2021

TU Wien–CSH Vienna COVID-19 project | Final Report

Publication

F.F. Roch, B. Conrady

Overview of mitigation programmes for non-EU regulated cattle diseases in Austria

Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8 (2021) 689244

Publication

V. Richter, et al.

Animal-related factors predicting fatal cases of blackleg and gas gangrene in cattle

Veterinary Record (2021)

News

Jun 4, 2021

Blog | Anna Di Natale: “Affective meaning in language”

Publication

N. Savela, A. Oksanen, M. Pellert, D. Garcia

Emotional reactions to robot colleagues in a role-playing experiment

International Journal of Information Management 60 (2021) 102361

News

May 17, 2021

CSH leads “Initiative for a National Medical Data Agency”

Publication

A. Di Natale, M. Pellert, D. Garcia

Colexification networks encode affective meaning

Affective Science (2021)

Press

DELTA-VARIANTE: KOMMT VIERTE WELLE?


Puls 4 | Cafe Puls, Jun 24, 2021

Press

Corona: Von Wut über Angst zur Trauer


Ö1 | Digital Leben, Jun 22, 2021

News

Jun 22, 2021

Digital Humanism: CSH successful with three projects

Press

Delta-Variante erschwert das Erreichen einer Herdenimmunität


Oberösterreichisches Volksblatt, Jun 22, 2021

Press

Warnungen vor zu frühem Ende der Maskenpflicht im Handel und in Öffis


OÖ Nachrichten, Jun 22, 2021

News

Jun 17, 2021

TU Wien–CSH Vienna COVID-19 project | Final Report

Publication

F.F. Roch, B. Conrady

Overview of mitigation programmes for non-EU regulated cattle diseases in Austria

Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8 (2021) 689244

Publication

V. Richter, et al.

Animal-related factors predicting fatal cases of blackleg and gas gangrene in cattle

Veterinary Record (2021)

News

Jun 4, 2021

Blog | Anna Di Natale: “Affective meaning in language”

Publication

N. Savela, A. Oksanen, M. Pellert, D. Garcia

Emotional reactions to robot colleagues in a role-playing experiment

International Journal of Information Management 60 (2021) 102361

News

May 17, 2021

CSH leads “Initiative for a National Medical Data Agency”

Publication

A. Di Natale, M. Pellert, D. Garcia

Colexification networks encode affective meaning

Affective Science (2021)

News

Jun 22, 2021

Digital Humanism: CSH successful with three projects

News

Jun 17, 2021

TU Wien–CSH Vienna COVID-19 project | Final Report

News

Jun 4, 2021

Blog | Anna Di Natale: “Affective meaning in language”

News

May 17, 2021

CSH leads “Initiative for a National Medical Data Agency”

News

May 12, 2021

Blog | Andrew Ringsmuth: “How to deal with urgent global challenges”

News

Apr 19, 2021

The (scaling) laws of the jungle

News

Apr 16, 2021

Paul Watzlawick Ring of Honor for Stefan and Peter

News

Apr 1, 2021

CSH Winter Lecture Series: from the Alps to Zoom

News

Mar 17, 2021

The City Formula or: It’s all about geometry!

News

Mar 12, 2021

Videos out!!! Watch the Covid-19 Measures Tracker Conference

News

Mar 5, 2021

Hostile attitudes to migrants harden by short-term exposure

News

Feb 18, 2021

(Re)Shaping cities to combat inequality

Press

DELTA-VARIANTE: KOMMT VIERTE WELLE?


Puls 4 | Cafe Puls, Jun 24, 2021

Press

Corona: Von Wut über Angst zur Trauer


Ö1 | Digital Leben, Jun 22, 2021

Press

Delta-Variante erschwert das Erreichen einer Herdenimmunität


Oberösterreichisches Volksblatt, Jun 22, 2021

Press

Warnungen vor zu frühem Ende der Maskenpflicht im Handel und in Öffis


OÖ Nachrichten, Jun 22, 2021

Press

„EM-Siegeszug realistischer als neuer Lockdown“


Kronen Zeitung, Jun 21, 2021

Press

Komplexitätsforscher Klimek: Lockert die Regierung zu viel und zu früh?


ORF 2 | ZIB 2, Jun 21, 2021

Press

Forscher: “Vierte Welle wird kommen”


oe24, Jun 21, 2021

Press

Klimek: Eine vierte Welle wird kommen


Puls 24 | News Chronik, Jun 21, 2021

Press

Modellierer Klimek: Wir müssen uns jetzt auf die Delta-Variante vorbereiten


Ö1 | Mittagsjournal, Jun 21, 2021

Press

PCR-Tests sollen ausgeweitet werden


ORF Online, Jun 21, 2021

Press

Lockdown im Herbst? Forscher hält Sieg Österreichs gegen Italien für “wahrscheinlicher”


Kurier, Jun 21, 2021

Press

Die Rückkehr der Wiener Society [Print]


Kleine Zeitung, Jun 19, 2021

Publication

F.F. Roch, B. Conrady

Overview of mitigation programmes for non-EU regulated cattle diseases in Austria

Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8 (2021) 689244

Publication

V. Richter, et al.

Animal-related factors predicting fatal cases of blackleg and gas gangrene in cattle

Veterinary Record (2021)

Publication

N. Savela, A. Oksanen, M. Pellert, D. Garcia

Emotional reactions to robot colleagues in a role-playing experiment

International Journal of Information Management 60 (2021) 102361

Publication

A. Di Natale, M. Pellert, D. Garcia

Colexification networks encode affective meaning

Affective Science (2021)

Publication

V.M. Ilić, J. Korbel, S. Gupta, A.M. Scarfone

An overview of generalized entropic forms

Europhysics Letters 133 (5) (2021) 50005

Publication

M. Leutner, et al.

Risk of Typical Diabetes-Associated Complications in Different Clusters of Diabetic Patients: Analysis of Nine Risk Factors

Journal of Personalized Medicine 11 (5) (2021) 328

Publication

J. Lasser, et al.

Power abuse and anonymous accusations in academia – Perspectives …

Beiträge zur Hochschulforschung, 43. Jahrgang (1–2) (2021) 48–61

Publication

E. Wagner, et al.

Bacteria of eleven different species isolated from biofilms in a meat processing environment have diverse biofilm forming abilities

International Journal of Food Microbiology 349 (2021) 109232

Publication

J. Lasser, M. Ernst, L. Goehring

Stability and dynamics of convection in dry salt lakes

Journal of Fluid Mechanics 917 (2021) A14

Publication

D. Andersson, S. Bratsberg, A. K. Ringsmuth, A. S. de Wijn

Dynamics of collective action to conserve a large common-pool resource

Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 9208

Publication

B. Tadic, R. Melnik

Microscopic dynamics modeling unravels the role of asymptomatic virus carriers in SARS-CoV-2 epidemics at the interplay between biological and social factors

Computers in Biology and Medicine 133 (2021) 104422

Publication

G. Papp, I. Kondor, F. Caccioli

Optimizing Expected Shortfall under an ℓ1 Constraint—An Analytic Approach

Entropy 23 (5) (2021) 523