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Simply Complexity

A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory

By Neil F. Johnson
15-minute read
Audio available
Simply Complexity: A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory by Neil F. Johnson

In Simply Complexity, Neil F. Johnson presents an introduction to complexity theory, explaining what complex systems are, where we can spot them in everyday life and how we can benefit from understanding complexity. Although a young field, complexity science already offers us ways to help explain and potentially avoid complex phenomena, such as traffic jams, financial market crashes and modern warfare.

  • Anyone interested in new explorations in science
  • Anyone intrigued by the increasing complexity of today’s world
  • Anyone who wants to better understand complex phenomena such as dating and warfare

Previously a professor of physics at Oxford University, Neil F. Johnson is currently head of the Complexity research group at the University of Miami in Florida. His work involves researching a wide range of real-world complex systems. He is the author of Two’s Company, Three is Complexity and Financial Market Complexity.

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Simply Complexity

A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory

By Neil F. Johnson
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Simply Complexity: A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory by Neil F. Johnson
Synopsis

In Simply Complexity, Neil F. Johnson presents an introduction to complexity theory, explaining what complex systems are, where we can spot them in everyday life and how we can benefit from understanding complexity. Although a young field, complexity science already offers us ways to help explain and potentially avoid complex phenomena, such as traffic jams, financial market crashes and modern warfare.

Key idea 1 of 9

Complexity arises through collective interaction and studying this can help resolve challenging problems.

If you didn’t think about it too hard, you’d probably agree that traffic jams and financial markets are complex things. But ponder over it a little longer and you’ll discover that complexity is actually quite difficult to define. In fact, even the scientific community struggles to provide a clear definition of the term.

However, the author has come up with the following definition of complexity science: the study of phenomena which emerge from a collective of interacting objects. One real-world example of this could be a crowd, in that it emerges from a collection of interacting people.

As an ever-present part of life, complexity manifests in our everyday experience when objects or people compete for resources such as food, space or wealth.

For example, a crowd of financial traders who all want to sell are competing for buyers, and when people get stuck in traffic, they’re competing with other drivers for space on the road. Even a cancer tumor is a “war” in which two competitors – cancer cells and normal cells – fight for space.

As competition sometimes goes awry and leads to conflicts or market crashes, the resulting complexity creates a problem that complexity science can help unravel. The advantage of complexity science is that, drawing on ideas from other sciences such as biology, sociology and ecology, it can solve problems by forming otherwise hidden connections between complex systems.

If we can uncover universal patterns in a complex system in one area of science, this can expedite our understanding of complex systems in other disciplines, therefore enabling us to resolve the problems that stem from them.

So, although complexity science is still in its teething stages, it has a wide range of potential application to different fields, which may make it extremely important in our everyday lives.

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