wikipedia small

Complexity characterises the behaviour of a system or model whose components interact in multiple ways and follow local rules, meaning there is no reasonable higher instruction to define the various possible interactions.

yaneer on complexity

The stem of the word “complexity” – complex – combines the Latin roots com (meaning “together”) and plex (meaning “woven”). Contrast “complicated” where plic (meaning “folded”) refers to many layers. A complex system is thereby characterised by its inter-dependencies, whereas a complicated system is characterised by its layers.

Complexity is generally used to characterize something with many parts where those parts interact with each other in multiple ways, culminating in a higher order of emergence greater than the sum of its parts. Just as there is no absolute definition of “intelligence”, there is no absolute definition of “complexity”; the only consensus among researchers is that there is no agreement about the specific definition of complexity.However, “a characterization of what is complex is possible”.


complex adaptive system has some or all of the following attributes:

  • The number of parts (and types of parts) in the system and the number of relations between the parts is non-trivial – however, there is no general rule to separate “trivial” from “non-trivial”;
  • The system has memory or includes feedback;
  • The system can adapt itself according to its history or feedback;
  • The relations between the system and its environment are non-trivial or non-linear;
  • The system can be influenced by, or can adapt itself to, its environment;
  • The system is highly sensitive to initial conditions.


in references: steven johnson’s emergence; jane jacob’s d & l of city

steven.. emergence.. jane


complex system

complex system is a system composed of many components which may interact with each other. In many cases it is useful to represent such a system as a network where the nodes represent the components and the links their interactions. Examples of complex systems are Earth’s global climateorganisms, the human brain, social and economic organizations (like cities), an ecosystem, a living cell, and ultimately the entire universe.

Complex systems are systems whose behavior is intrinsically difficult to model due to the dependencies, relationships, or interactions between their parts or between a given system and its environment. Systems that are “complex” have distinct properties that arise from these relationships, such as nonlinearityemergencespontaneous orderadaptation, and feedback loops, among others. Because such systems appear in a wide variety of fields, the commonalities among them have become the topic of their own independent area of research.


adding page while reading Geoffrey West‘s scale..

and after taking in Dave Snowden‘s ted on complexity:

via Tim fb share

Complexity, citizen engagement in a Post-Social Media time | David Snowden | TEDxUniversityofNicosia- feb 2017


we’ve compounded order w outcome based assessment.. if look at history of last 40-50 years.. everything has to have a target.. a defined outcomes..  and it has to be a number.. the reality is.. all of the scientific evidence.. says that when human beings are pursuing explicit targets it destroys intrinsic motivation..t..

langer outcome law

there is no evidence to contradict that.. and where do we most need intrinsic motivation.. in health and in education and where do we impose the worst targets.. in health and education.. so we need to start to think differently about this.. and we need to move away from this primitive dichotomy in which we contrast one highly structured system w an absolutely chaotic system into something more sophisticated..

2 min – there is actually a third type of system which exists in nature.. its a complex adaptive system.. a system defined not by its structure but by its connectivity

in a complex system everything is connected w everything else.. but many of the connections cannot be known.. ie: the internet; humanity; ..  understanding these and understanding how we manage them is critical.. and it’s not about control.. it’s about understanding the connections about changing the linkages

3 min – if we assume a system is chaotic (children acting w/o constraints behavior is random.. at party).. drugs/alcohol.. personal discovery.. house burn down

4 min – order systems approach.. taught in all business/management schools..  critically important to agree learning targets for the party in advance of the party itself.. project plan for party where can measure progress.. adult start party w lecture.. if at any point.. children not happy.. hire happiness training consultant who will train them to be very very happy

6 min – complex systems approach.. much simpler.. draw line in sand.. look children squarely in the eye and say.. cross that and you die.. on the need for flexible boundaries

7 min – stop trying to treat an ecological problem as if a mechanical problem..

so.. finding new ways to deal with this.. because have to understand what’s going on.. you can only understand a complex system by *understanding the small particular parts of day to day interaction

or perhaps by *listening to.. ie: 2 convos .. as the day

for humans.. those are the anecdotal data of the school gate.. the street story.. the beer after work.. they’re not the grand narratives of workshops.. it’s the day to day anecdotes of people’s existence..

well.. that would be data of us not being us.. of us.. still intoxicated ..we have to go deeper.. and see what we’re really like..  as free people..  ie: via self-talk as data

and we need to understand them thru the voice of the people that tell them.. not thru an ai machine interpreting the text or an expert making them fit their cultural expectations.. people’s own voice has to be subject to their one interpretation

idio-jargon.. mech to facil the chaos of listening to all the voices..everyday

8 min – in order to do that we have to engage people.. and people have had enough of surveys.. enough of focus groups..  we used to trust experts and now we’re trying demagogs for a change.. the reality is we actually hand over a lot of cognitive processes to structures.. it’s not based on ourselves as individuals.. t.. so in order to do that we have to engage people..

yes.. via the above.. ie: the anecdotal data of the school gate.. the street story.. the beer after work


begs.. self-talk as data coming from truly free people..

9 min – ie: s wales .. girls rugby club as agent of change in some of rural communities.. we give them tools to capture their experiences..t.. and the experiences that people try to recruit..

hlb via 2 convos

in schools.. give tools to children to go into communities and gather stories on those communities.. they become ethnographers.. rather than rely on outside experts..

we have the means for 7 bn people to tell their own story .. ie: daily curiosity.. and to facil that..  because.. as nice as it sounds.. (and granted it’s way better than what we’re doing now).. having children in school is still outside experts

the goal is to allow people to become ethnographers to their own condition.. quantitative rather than qualitative.. over last 30-40 yrs seen many attempts at digital story telling .. but nobody thinks about how to scale it..t.. and nobody allows people to tell what their story really means.. because that’s done by the people who gather it..

let’s scale that up a ginorm\small notch ..  2 convos via self-talk as data.. as the day..

10 min – in order to get there we have to empower people.. and power comes from the power to interpret your narrative.. not from the power to actually hand your narrative over to *somebody else..

*even sweet.. young.. local girls..

in order to do that we have to find a way to scale.. several key elements:

1\ need to work w abstraction.. art comes before language in human evolution.. the ability to abstract allows for scientific invention.. in fact.. the overemphasis on stem education around the world.. will destroy scientific creativity.. w/o art there is no invention.. if move up level of abstraction.. avoid gaming

2\ need to increase cognitive load.. because we need to use the popular language to have people thinking slow not thinking fast..t.. we need reflection.. not the immediate response you get on questionnaires

how about really slow..deep.. daily reflection.. by allowing/facil ing.. perhaps idio-jargon.. as popular language

12 min – quant backed up by qual

if you focus on information.. you radically reduce human knowledge.. it’s far more than what we can write down..t

beyond words law

then of course.. have to find a way to enact what comes out of that.. find a way to make real change.. a whole new theory of change..

a nother way

14 min – two sets of data.. on left.. people are giving up and doing what they need to to survive.. on right.. people have to break rules to treat patients empathetically..

how do we change that..? a traditional change mech.. and this is the engineering culture.. would define a desire future state and try and close the gap.. that’s bad complexity science.. in complexity what matters is we describe the present and we make small changes in the present to nudge the system in the right direction

but i don’t mean the conventional approach of behavioral econ.. nudge econ.. that’s more yanking than nudging.. it decides where it wants people to be and tries to tug them toward it..

what we want to work at is where people are and see when it’s ready to change..

or not change .. right..? or.. notice that it’s always changing.. listen to and facil that

in this case what i look for in complexity is called an adjacent possible.. a cluster of stories/narratives.. near to where i am but going in the right direction..

mech to listen to and facil daily curiosities.. by connecting local/adjacent possibles.. tech as it could be

15 min – this is called a vector measure.. i don’t measure outcomes .. i measure vectors.. direction and speed of travel for intensity of effort..

shortening lag between intension and action

what can i do w/in the compass of my power to create more stories like this and fewer stories like that

a story about people grokking about what matters

16 min – we need to start doing small things in the present rather than massive things in future.. because that just leads to perpetual disappointment

rev of everyday life

that is called fractum engagement..  (fractal.. sustainable).. where new key concepts of citizen engagement worldwide.. starting to pair people… trans generational..

fractal thinking et al

18 min – multiple mass fractal engagement to achieve genuine sustainable change in society.. based on scientific approach not an engineering approach.. based on managing a complex ecosystem rather than trying to maintain a machine..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


bateson simple/complex law

yaneer on complexity


via Bernd rt – complexsystembateson simple complex law
Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei) tweeted at 6:21 AM – 3 Aug 2018 :
Gall’s Law:
“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.” ~ John Gall (
via p 86 of regenerative urban design and ecoystem biomimicry

Dr Maibritt Pedersen Zari (@MPedersenZari) tweeted at 12:31 AM – 25 Aug 2018 :

@KateRaworth @LucyFeibusch Thanks for adding ‘Regenerative urban design and ecosystem biomimicry’. It’s available for free viewing in its entirety here: till mid October. Enjoy!!! (


schmachtenberger meta law


from Douglas Rushkoff‘s team human:


progress isn’t the enemy, so long as it’s being used to embrace and support complexity, rather than attempting to eliminate it


eagle and condor ness

holmgren indigenous law


Denise Young 楊 玲 玲 (@ylld) tweeted at 4:37 AM – 8 Nov 2019 :
Top 10 Women Thinkers on Climate, Complexity & The Governance Revolution to read right now
1. Rachel Carson
2. Elinor Ostrom
3. Donella Meadows
4. Gro Harlem Brundtland
5. @SaskiaSassen
6. @NoraBateson
7. @KateRaworth
8. @MazzucatoM
9. @JanineBenyus
10. @rachelbotsman (


via michel fb share:

I’ve never took the time to study complexity and cybernetics, though various people have told me I used it intuitively … in any case, it is a gap in my understanding
in the first ten minutes of this really good presentation, Tainter explains in a very good way, what a complex system is, and what it is not
what it is, differentiation AND integration, with the great paradox that ‘complexity simplifies’ <g>


4 min – more parts and more kinds of parts.. more control of behavior.. mechs to bind together to function as a whole.. w/o org don’t have a system.. simply have parts

hmm.. i’m thinking that control of behavior is what’s messing us up.. what’s keeping us from authentic/natural complexity

fitting that his first ie is about combat ..

6 min – combat loading et al.. wasn’t complex because of lack of org.. second ie .. drummers at olympics.. all doing same thing but not differentiation..  so complex has to have structure, org, and differentiation

all fine and good.. but i don’t believe any three of those come from man made control.. which is what we can’t seem to let go of.. in other words.. i think we (even the seemingly smartest of us) have no idea what natural/authentic complexity is

complexity can be counterintuitive.. because we associate it w being complicated.. but irony is that complexity simplifies.. and this is how it works.. elaboration of structure and control.. simplifies and channels human behavior.. this is the essence of complexity.. it’s why complexity makes systems function

yeah.. i think if our words are saying control and behavior.. it’s a red flag that we’re missing it

again.. i think we have no idea what authentic systems are.. because we have let go (of the whales in sea world et al) enough

7 min – 3rd ie financial crisis of 2008.. involved great structural diversification.. but lack of corresponding org/regulation.. so not a complex system.. a failure to balance complexity

so far ie’s: war, manufactured music, finance, .. saying they’re not complex systems.. so that’s good.. but using them as ie’s

8 min – structure and org are 2 functions of complex system and complexity simplifies and regularizes

so what is a collapse.. why ancient societies collapse – rapidly loses an established level of complexity.. when it rapidly simplifies.. less well org’d .. smaller.. org’d locally.. lit/skill-of-writing lost

thinking that ‘societies’ already not complex

title is ‘collapse of complex societies.. guessing that’s the rest of talk.. just listening to 10 min


from John Maeda‘s how to speak machine:


complicated means something that is knowable, ..although it may take time.. it’s wholly possible to understand.. complex means something that is not knowable.. a complex machine ( think of any human being you have  relationship with) is not understandable.. i always find it necessary to keep this distinction in the foreground.. because how we make systems out of computation is generally complicated.. but how we humans relate to the computational systems we make has complex effects that we’re still figuring out..


on complex econ (aka: natural econoikos – space/home to be/dream)

“It shows that nature’s economy is far more complex than we can imagine. When you do something over here, it affects something over there; that’s nature’s balance sheet. But it’s so intricate we can scarcely imagine what affects what.” (

so why keep wasting our days trying to measure/account- for/research/define it.. perhaps we let go and just try/facil daily curiosity  ie: cure ios city

2 convers as infra.. via tech as it could be..


yaneer on complexity