Complex System

#concept21 mentions

A complex system is a Dynamical System that has the following attributes:Derived from Mitchell (2009) and Ladyman & Wiesner (2020).

A complex system is an expression of its components’ Self-organisation. 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.



An attractor is the set of states a System tends to be in given what it is or how it can maintain its boundaries.

Colonialism and Capitalism Form a Feedback Loop

From Colonisation to Early Capitalism Colonisation can be seen as an expansion of the supply zones of European citiesDeLanda (2011) , “the original European solution to the ‘ghost acreage’ question”Tooze (2022) .

Complex Systems Can Consist of Anything

Our Folk Ontology interprets things as being of different genuses or types: locations, physical objects, organisms, biomes, organisations, words, to name a few.

Concept Mapping

Concept Mapping is a tool for collaborative Sensemaking.

Concept Network

Concepts are part of a concept network, the position in which determines the concept’s meaning, that is its specific function and content.

Concepts Are Attractors

Because Concepts are compressed models, and Models are Systems themselves, Concepts are also systems.

Design Studio

A Design Studio is a visual, fast-paced and collaborative approach to Ideation.

Dynamical System

A dynamical system is a System that changes over time.


The context of a System from which it is separated by a System Boundary.


Evolution is descent with modification, that is change in the heritable characteristics of populations of individuals over successive generations.

Folk Ontology

Our Folk Ontology is our everyday picture of what the world consists of: Which (types of) entities it is made up of and what the relationships between them are.


In its most common sense, innovation is the creation and introduction of new, redesigned, or substantially improved Products, processes or Systems.

Living System

A living system is a Complex System that actively and autonomously upholds its System Boundary by exchanging energy and information with its Environment, thus “importing” order and staying in a Non-equilibrium Steady State.


A polycrisis is a (ecological, social, political, economic) crisis that consists of multiple causally entangled, mutually reinforcing crises.

Prioritise Abstraction Over Metaphor

Usually, the Abstractions we are using are based on Conceptual Metaphors.

Prioritise Exploration Over Exploitation

A System samples its Environment to build, update and use Models of it.

Replace Sensemaking Frameworks with Scale Free Abstractions

We want to maximise scope, detail, and cognitive efficiency of Sensemaking.

Revolutions Try to Force Systems into Imaginary Attractors

All political revolutionaries imagine a future constellation of their society and, if and when they succeed in disrupting the old system, use Power to implement the new one.

Sensemaking Framework

A Sensemaking framework is the codification of useful sensemaking practices[^useful], i.

Separate Explanation from Emotion

The world is a hierarchy of systems.

Why How Laddering

Why/How Laddering is a way of reframing a problem or challenge by complementing its initial statement with more abstract and more concrete statements.