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What Is a Complex System?$
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James Ladyman and Karoline Wiesner

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300251104

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300251104.001.0001

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Features of Complex Systems

Features of Complex Systems

(p.63) Chapter 3 Features of Complex Systems
What Is a Complex System?

J. Ladyman

K. Wiesner

Yale University Press

This chapter uses the representative examples of complex systems discussed in the previous chapter to arrive at a list of the distinctive features of complex systems. These features include numerosity; disorder and diversity; feedback; and non-equilibrium. The interesting thing about complex systems is that these conditions can give rise to the following products: spontaneous order and self-organisation; nonlinearity; robustness; nested structure and modularity; history and memory; and adaptive behaviour. Not all these features are present in all complex systems. Whenever any of the products are found in a system, they are the collective result of the conditions, but not all the products are found in all complex systems. Often products help produce other products — for example, memory is impossible without a degree of robustness, and adaptive behaviour can build nested structure and modularity. The chapter considers each of them in turn in more detail and assesses whether each is necessary and/or sufficient for complexity on any or some conceptions of what complex systems are.

Keywords:   complex systems, complexity, numerosity, diversity, non-equilibrium, self-organisation, nonlinearity, robustness, modularity, adaptive behaviour

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