Complexity science in the name of politics: a travel diary

Petter Holme

This is a reading diary of a naïve complexity / computational social scientist’s first encounter with F. A. Hayek + Eastern Bloc tektology & cybernetics.

You might have heard about project Cybersyn? In 1970s Chile, Salvador Allende’s socialist regime was betting on a systems-theoretical approach to the complex decision-making that’s an inevitable consequence of a planned economy. Captain Kirk would feel at home as operators were rocking the latest cybernetic algorithms. That all ended with the US-backed military coup that installed Augusto Pinochet as a dictator. But did the influence of complex-systems ideas end? Oh no! Pinochet called in economist F. A. Hayek—a vanguard of complexity economics and a firm believer in emergence and self-organization for the social good—to shape a Chilean free-market economy.

In its broadest sense, is complexity science spacious enough to support any ideology? Curious about that, I went on a weeklong tour to the…

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