Complex Systems

Complex systems are dynamical systems consisting of a great many interacting parts. Typically we think of the parts as being agents with different degrees of intelligence and communicaton ability. In contrast, an ideal gas consists of a great many parts, the large number of molecules, that interact (through collisions). But the molecules themselves don't have much internal "intelligence", information processing capability, or computational capacity.

More typically the complex systems one has in mind have more sophisticated parts. Typical examples would be

    An economy of competing firms

    Ant species that develop sophisticated colonies and social structures

    The brain's visual cortex

    Schooling fish or flocking birds

Complex systems like these exhibit a number of charactistics, such as

    Pattern formation in which the patterns take on functional utility

    Spontaneous self-organization

    The emergence of cooperation

    Hierarchical structure

    Collective properties beyond those directly contained in the parts

Very often, these complex systems are adaptive. Taking in external influences, they change their internal structure to take advantage of the new circumstances.

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