Friday, March 23, 2012

Great Courses:  Understanding Complexity

This is being watched as part of the weekly talking group at my work.  Professor Page gives us some definitions that begin with large networks of interacting agents.  A second feature of complexity is that different properties show up at different scales.  This is well known to us in physics where a simple gas can develop into turbulent flows with large eddies at a very different scale.  The last feature of complexity is the active agent.  Usually this is a human who makes individual choices, but sometimes a different biological agent.  It is this last requirement that seems to create a dividing wall between the physical sciences and "complexity science".

My work has been on complex software systems for modeling physics.  This can involve piecing together 100,000 lines or more of code involving dozens of different physical theories and hundreds of algorithms.  It also involves complex networks of logic that manage data sets which are also complex networks.  Is there any relationship between this and "complexity science"?  This is what I hope to learn.

The introductory video makes mention of some of the physical phenomenon that develop at larger scales, but the emphasis is on the active agent.  My work, however, does not involve managing active agents.  The applications for complexity theory seem to be economic, social and ecological.  I have typically viewed these areas as being hand waving sciences, so that they really aren't sciences at all.  If there is something that can bridge the gap between the true physical sciences and these other areas, it would seem at the current point that "complexity science" might do the trick.  Since I am on travel, I have missed the second lecture this week, but will need to do a bit of make up work.  With my Hebrew studies going, I will not be able to dig in the way I like.  How to manage a complex life?

1 comment:

Rummuser said...

Now I understand your comment on my post.