What is Complexity?

A definition of Complexity will tell us that the concept applies to things intricate or complex. Most definitions apply to a specific domain such as biology or cybernetics.  These definitions generally fall short of what we think today is important about complexity:  A connected system of parts,  requiring specific knowledge, and likely hard to understand.  In “Complex Systems and Self-organization Modelling”,  Michel Cotsaftis contrasts the meaning of “Complex” from the Latin “cum plexus” (tied up with) with the word “Complicated” from the Latin “cum pliare” (piled up with).

The notion that something complex is made up of connected parts implies that the parts interact with the whole and are inseparable from their whole.  For instance, the recent news about a BP oil well that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico brings to mind the complexity of oil exploration and production, tying together the economy of oil exploration, exploration and production technology and the world of incident remediation.  Each of these areas is itself a complex system.

The word complexity also brings the notion of order.  Without order, a system would be chaotic, unruly, and impossible to define.   With a complexity, we assume, at least, that some measure of order can be uncovered and understood.   Complexity also depends on our point of view.  From far away in space, our world looks like a dot.  Yet as we come closer, we start to appreciate the complexity of its geography, its ecology and its inhabitants.

More to come…

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3 Responses to What is Complexity?

  1. Pingback: Oil Spill and Complexity… « Complexity

  2. Amanda Niepold says:

    I very much would enjoy your thoughts on the entropy and chaos of a system, both closed and open, and its connection to complexity, both directly and indirectly.

    I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read thus far. I look forward to more in-depth examples in the future!

    Like

  3. Pingback: The Oil Spill and the Edge of Chaos… « Complexity

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