Complex systems

Everything is connected. That’s the simplified take-away from complex systems theory applied to biology or any other field of complex systems. Evolution, in itself, seems to be striving for complexity. In other words, complexity is the result of an evolutionary process.

I’m by no means an expert, but it’s fun to play with this idea. It seems as though this is a universal concept that flows through everything and everyone. Sounds kinda far fetched, but stay with me for a moment.

Technology seems to be bound to the same concept. Progress is only going to happen, if technology evolves, thus creating more complex systems to solve previously unsolved problems, creating further problems in the process (therefore requiring more complex systems to solve them.. and so on). That sounds suspiciously similar to a fractal. However, the side effect of this process is that simple problems then can require immensely complex solutions because it can be observed that systems of various complexity behave like organisms in an ecosystem. Ideas, technologies are as much part of survivalism as any other concept. They inherit functionality from their parents and, if thriving, create new offsping in the form of new ideas. Something sound familiar so far?

It’s fun to think about that, because we seem to detach our own existence so gravely from the system we are in fact a part of (“universe”), thus also remove the systems we create from it. Yet, we are technically a product of the universe, so then our creations are aswell part of that same progression of chords. And therefore, why shouldn’t they be depending on the same rules and patterns as much bigger concepts?

The thing is, if complex systems are in fact one and the same “progression of chords”, just being played in different octave, “being” evolution, biology and even the cosmos itself, then that would predict some of what is going to happen with systems we ourselfes created, too. We can already calculate tipping points of complex systems of a certain scale. We could therefore establish, that all systems have a tipping point, no matter how complex they are.

Is there something like a complex system that is too complex? In nature, the physical world, systems are bound to exist in certain boundaries. An ecosystem can only be so complex as the parts it’s made from. The interactions are limited, because there is a limited amount of subjects and objects. If we take the ecosystem on this planet as an example, it had millions of years to evolve and it eventually balanced itself out in a way to become a fertile ground for other complex systems to thrive in. That does, amongst other things, include us as a species. And still, it required a black swan – or a number of those – for us to be where we are now.

Thinking about it this way, it could be hypothesized that for a complex system to evolve, a cataclismic event is always required, that manifests itself as a black swan. A rock falling from the sky, causing an entire dominant set of species to go extinct, rapidly changing an entire set of variables. Thus allowing something to evolve that woudn’t have had a chance otherwise.

It’s a great exercise and mind-opener to try and find such tipping points for small and large scnearios in technology or human history itself.

Unfortunately, the amount of vocabulary available to me doesn’t provide me with enough options to put that into words. I leave that to the literary talented people.