Complexity and epochs

It is becoming widely recognized (e.g. after the financial crash of 2008) that complexity matters. But while it is clear that systems of interest are complex in some sense, it is not always clear that any particular theory of complexity captures the aspects of importance.
We commonly observe that systems of interest do display epochs, and many systems of interest involve some sort of adaptation, learning or evolution, so according to Whitehead and Ashby (Cybernetics) will display epochs. Thus key features of interest are:

  •  polystability: left to its own devices the system will tend to settle down into one or other of a number of possible equilibria, not just one.
  • exogenous changeability: the potential equilibria themselves change under external influence.
  • endogenous changeability: the potential equilibria change under internal influence.

For example, a person in an institution such as an old folk’s home is likely to settle into a routine, but their may be other routines that they might have adopted, if things had happened differently earlier on. Thus their behaviour is polyunstable, except in a very harsh institution. Their equilibrium might be upset by a change in the time at which the papers are delivered, an exogenous change.   Endogenous factors are typically slower-acting. For example, adopting a poor diet may (in the long – run) impact on their ability recover from illnesses and hence on their ability to carry on their establish routine. For a while the routine may carry on as normal,  only to suddenly become non-viable.


About Dave Marsay
Mathematician with an interest in 'good' reasoning.

One Response to Complexity and epochs

  1. Pingback: Knightian uncertainty and epochs | djmarsay

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