What complexity science is, and why

Petter Holme

This is a post/essay about understanding complexity science, via some peculiarities of the field, as a meeting place for a special kind of scientist. It is the result of my nostalgia-driven hobby of reading popular-science complex systems books, and builds on notes that have been collecting dust for almost a decade.

Definitions and disclaimers

A striking feature of complexity science is the effort books and articles spend on defining the discipline itself, or complex systems (its study objects) [1]. These definitions often come with disclaimers declaring themselves incomplete [2], inconsistent with other definitions [3], etc. In other words, claiming not to be the final word on the matter and preparing the readers for more definitions to come. But, the more definitions I read, the less well-founded the disclaimers seem. For the purpose of defining a scientific discipline, they are not only consistent [4], but they also stand the test of…

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