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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds This lecture will explain the meaning of complexity in general. In ordinary language, “complex” and “complicated” are often seen as identical, but it’s not the way we define complex in this course. In complex system, we have a great many elements, particles, and individuals that interact with each other, and they also respond to their environments. The individuals, the elements, the particles are heterogeneous in terms of their information, knowledge, or otherwise. Interaction often involves exchanging information and knowledge. There’s no central control or central processing unit in a complex system. Think about a computer. A computer is not a complex system. A Boeing 747 is not a complex, but it is a highly complicated vehicle. Look around you. You will find complex systems everywhere.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 seconds For instance, the biosystem is a complex system. Our brains are complex. The human immune system is a complex system. Look outside of your window. You see traffic. Traffic is a complex system. The highly integrated financial system where many banks and other financial institutions interact is a complex system. The economy at large is very complex, or even wider, society is complex. But also, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, the social media are examples of complex systems. And the weather and climates are also very complex.

Skip to 1 minute and 59 seconds Complexity is studied and can be found in very different academic disciplines. In mathematics, complex systems are studied. In physics and biology, of course in economics and sociology, in epidemiology and in logistics. In the early 1980s, the process towards complexity science, if we can call it, got an impulse. People from very different disciplines came together and they met at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, and it was an important catalyst for the study of complex systems. People from very different disciplines are looking at complexity together.

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds They discussed very different disciplines, and while discussing the fascinating issue of complexity with each other, it became clear that different complex systems in very different environments have things in common, and that they require a common methodology, a common language to be described and analysed. It has also become clear that complex systems involving human beings, you and I, also have their own characteristics. We will come back to that in following lectures. In this lecture, we have defined what a complex system is and argued that they can be found almost everywhere, and that they have things in common.

What is complexity?

This video explains the concept of complexity in general. It specifically highlights the differences between ‘complex’ and ‘complicated’.

Complex systems consist of many interacting individuals that respond to each other. This is different from complicated systems. It can be somewhat tricky to fully understand but, here elements do not interact and respond to each other - an example of a complicated system is an air plane or a computer. In this video, Lex argues that complex systems are all around us and that they share a lot of characteristics.

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Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World

University of Groningen

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