Saturday, 12 October 2013

Isn't Everything a 'Complex' System?

What distinguishes a theory from a conjecture? For example a characteristic constant (G, c, h, K, etc.) or a fundamental equation. The so-called 'complexity theory' has none. Most importantly, it lacks a measure of its most fundamental quantity - complexity. But worse than that. It lacks a definition of complexity too! Increasing complexity is, by far, the most evident characteristic of most aspects of our lives. It is, therefore, quite correct to talk about complexity. It would be great to be able to manage it before it becomes a problem. But, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Right?

If we accept the current 'definition' of a complex system we can claim that all systems are complex,  This 'definition' states that a system is complex if it is an aggregate of autonomous agents, which, spontaneously interact and self-organize leading to more elaborate systems, etc., etc. You know, the usual 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts' stuff.  It is also stated, quite correctly, that it is impossible to infer the behaviour of the system from the properties of the agents that compose it. True. Analyzing in depth a single human will hint little on the dynamics of a society. Nothing new under the sun.

According to the above logic, all systems that surround us are 'complex':
  • Atoms spontaneously form molecules
  • Molecules spontaneously form crystals, proteins, etc.
  • Proteins combine to form cells, which, in turn, form organs
  • Humans form societies
  • Grains of sand form dunes and landslides
  • Flakes of snow combine to form avalanches
  • Animals and plants form ecosystems
  • Matter in the universe forms stars, which organize into galaxies
  • Corporations form markets
  • Molecules of water form drops, which, in turn, form waves in the ocean
  • Electrical impulses in networks of neurons form thoughts, sensations, emotions, conscience, etc. 
None of the above require outside orchestration of a Master Choreographer.

A closer look at life reveals that everything we see and experience is a 'complex system'. At this point, then, one may ask the following question: what  benefit (for science and philosophy) stems from establishing a new name for a set of objects which already contains all objects?