3/17/09

Complexity 1001: One More Question

Another overwhelming aspect to sticking my toe into the complexity rapids is the number of new concepts and terms I have encountered (from agent-based modeling to neural networking to fractal geometry, etc.).  So -- in addition to a key/core reference(s) -- what would be the half dozen or so key concepts or terms I would need to master so I can build a foundation in understanding complexity science?  I'm not sure why, but I imagine myself standing on a beach with dozens upon dozens of interesting looking shells -- and while I can picture myself picking up any one of them here and another one or two of them there -- and eventually working my way across all of the shells -- I suspect there would be some shells that are "basic" and thus fundamental to understanding all shells -- and I would appreciate your suggestions here as well.


Dr. Castellani's Reponse


Dear Complexity Challenged, I would start with my complexity science map. Here is why.

The map is conceptual.

Like you, I struggled early on to get a grasp of this field. It is so amazingly interdisciplinary and scattered that it is hard for the beginner (and even expert) to have a true appreciation for what is going on with the field as a whole. After years of struggling to obtain some type of synthesis, I realized that some degree of closure could be obtained if I looked for similarities across the wealth of research taking place. I asked myself, what concepts (be they theoretical or methodological) do all complexity scientists use? And, how do these concepts relate? Also, could I identify the leading scholars associated with these concepts? And, could I highlight one particular sub-concept or area of study with which each of these scholars could be identified? The result was the map.

So, long story short, I would work on mastering the concepts on the map. That will give you an excellent working knowledge and vocabulary sufficient to communicate with any complexity scientist, regardless of their otherwise intractable or incomprehensible research--hee haw!

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