Friday, May 05, 2006

Important Differences Between Chaos and Complexity

In an upcoming blog entry, I'll be giving you some interesting information about complexity and the need to simplify. Before doing that, though, it's important for you to understand what complexity is and why it is different from chaos. This should help... and no, there will not be a quiz at the end of the hour, but you'll still need to pay attention.

"Chaos theorists typically look for patterns of order in chaotic systems – such as the eddies that appear and disappear in turbulent water – and try to derive these patterns from a set of generative mathematical rules. Complexity theory, in contrast, explores the activity of complex systems at the edge of chaos, such as living organisms. Complex systems exist on the cusp of too much and too little order; they are systems that act as wholes but are nevertheless far from equilibrium. In other words, complex systems are capable of undergoing rapid and radical transformations in order to adjust to changes in their environment. Complexity theorists are primarily interested in the ways in which such systems are self-organizing, or autopoietic, developing new structures without any external cause or motive."

From the review by Stephen Schryer of Mark C. Taylor's, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. $32.00, 340pp.

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