A complex system is a
System that has the following attributes:Derived from Mitchell (2009) and Ladyman & Wiesner
- It consists of a large network of individual components.
- These components interact without central control, but following comparatively simple rules.
- From these interactions, complex collective behaviour emerges that can change non-linearly through reinforcing feedback loops.
- It is out of thermodynamic equilibrium with its Environment and is often driven by something external.
A complex system is an expression of its components’. It can self-stabilise and adapt to changing environments if the components’ interactions are able to absorb these changes or adapt or transform the system to cope with them. Its recurrent stable states are the Attractors of its State Space.
Because a complex system’s behaviour emerges from the interactions of a large number of autonomous components, it can only be explained by focusing on the components’ relationships, not atomistically. This also means its history is hard to compress and its future is hard to predict.
Complex systems can consist of anything.
- Juarrero (2010): “Complex Dynamical Systems Theory”
- Ladyman & Wiesner (2020): What Is a Complex System?
- Mitchell (2009): Complexity: A Guided Tour