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Here, we'll keep items about complexity theory, evolution, emergence, and the like, i.e. 'the laws of change' in the physical and social world.


On the Difference Between Systems Analysis and Evolutionary Studies

"In contrast to the system approach that considers systems and structures as essentially static (or concentrates on their functioning), evolutionary approaches focus on those special conditions and factors that determine qualitative evolutionary transformations and reorganizations of such systems."

- Leonid Grinin, Andrey Korotayev et al. [1]

Entropy vs Neguentropy

"Erwin Schrödinger, in his seminal 1944 essay “What is Life?” Schrödinger approached the question of biological organisms from the perspective of a physicist—that is, perspective the angle of energy and entropy. He recognized that “the device by which an organism maintains itself stationary at a fairly high level of orderliness (= fairly low level of entropy) really consists in continually sucking orderliness from the environment” (Cambridge University Press edition, p. 73). He called this metabolic process of generating order through “drinking” orderliness from the environment and then exporting entropy back into the environment “negative entropy,” or “negentropy” for short."

- Brendan Graham Dempsey [2]

Brendan Graham Dempsey on Complexification and Knowledge

"The revelations of complexity science have been truly revolutionary. Across the many fields of inquiry in this diverse new scientific paradigm—from non-equilibrium thermodynamics, to origins of life research, to evolutionary biology, to consciousness studies—new discoveries and insights have been accumulating which radically shift our sense of how the universe works as well as our place in it. Ideas like self-organization, dissipative adaptation, emergent levels, and emergent causation have truly reframed reality as we know it. Today, these insights are being synthesized and integrated, yielding fascinating new grand unified theories that offer nothing short of a whole new worldview for our time. In these comprehensive, integrative visions, we can finally see how all of these incredible discoveries hang together—what it all really means, and what it means for meaning itself."

- Brendan Graham Dempsey [3]


Recommendations by Brendan Graham Dempsey:

In her book Complexity: A Guided Tour (p. 13), complexity scientist Melanie Mitchell defines a “complex system” as “a system in which large networks of components with no central control and simple rules of operation give rise to complex collective behavior, sophisticated information processing, and adaptation via learning or evolution.” She continues: “Systems in which organized behavior arises without an internal or external controller or leader are sometimes called self-organizing. Since simple rules produce complex behavior in hard-to-predict ways, the macroscopic behavior of such systems is sometimes called emergent.” She then offers a second definition of a complex system as “a system that exhibits nontrivial emergent and self-organizing behaviors.”

The idea of emergence has thus come to be central to the discipline of complexity science as it has arisen since the late 20th century. Of course, contemporary theories of emergence have been considerably refined, clarified, and developed since their original pioneering by the British Emergentists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Theorists now argue over distinctions between “weak” vs. “strong” emergence, “ontological” vs. “epistemological” emergence, etc. The finer points of this philosophical discourse has become quite technical, and would be too much for a book of this size and focus. Those interested in a transdisciplinary overview of emergence can consult works such as Clayton, Philip and Paul Davies (eds.) (2006) The Re-Emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion (Oxford University Press, Oxford). Those keen to explore the more nuanced philosophical discourse around emergence can check out Gibb, Sophie et al. (eds.) (2019) The Routledge Handbook of Emergence (Routledge, London)."


Key Resources


The Evolution of Complexity:

  1. The Evolution of Complexity in the Cosmos and Matter Regimes, see: Evolution of the Physical Universe Before the Emergence of Life
  2. The Evolution of Complexity of Life and Biological Regimes
  3. The Evolution of Complexity in Human Society and Cultural Regimes‎



Pages in category "Complexity"

The following 168 pages are in this category, out of 168 total.