Complexity Theory

Ep. 7: Complexity Theory, Complexity Science and Chaos with W. Brian Arthur


Episode Summary for Complexity Theory

In Episode 7 of the Hidden Forces podcast, Demetri Kofinas speaks with one of the pioneers in complexity theory and complexity science, W. Brian Arthur. Brian Arthur has long been associated with the Santa Fe Institute, having served on its board of trustees and its board of science. He has been described by Fortune Magazine, as “one of the country’s leading economic thinkers,” and he is best known for his pioneering work on the operation of high-technology markets. He is the author of numerous papers and books, including The Nature of Technology: What it is and How It Evolves, and Complexity and the Economy, a collection of papers on economics and financial markets examined from the perspective of complexity theory.

In this episode, Demetri Kofinas examines the emerging fields of complexity theory and complexity science. Brian Arthur educates us on the interdisciplinary history of complexity theory. It is a history replete with the work of mathematicians, physicists, philosophers, ecologists, biologists, etc. It is a field bound together not by its adherence to perfection, but by the imperfections of the natural world. This is an episode that moves far from equilibrium. Complexity theory is messy. It zigs and it zags. Demetri Kofinas and W. Brian Arthur cover the booms and the busts of Joseph Schumpeter. They examine the information-laden price signals of Friedrich Hayek. They circle the chaotic orbits of Joseph Ford. They scale the infinite fractals of Benoit Mandelbrot. Demetri Kofinas asks Brian Arthur about information theory, cryptography, and quantum potentiality. Both dive deep into the waves that make markets and life so volatile, a volatility that is born of a universe whose countless mysteries we can never fully understand.

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Reading List for Complexity Theory

Books for Complexity Theory, Chaos Theory, and Dynamical Systems Theory:

Simply Complexity: A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory, by Neil Johnson
Complexity: the Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, by M. Mitchell Waldrop

Chaos: Making a New Science, by James Gleick
The Essence Of Chaos, by Edward Lorenz
Signals and Boundaries: Building Blocks for Complex Adaptive Systems, by John H. Holland

Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows
Limits to Growth, by Donella H. Meadows
Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology, by Gregory Bateson
Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos: With Applications to Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering (Studies in Nonlinearity), by Steven H. Strogatz

The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence, by Benoit Mandelbrot
Fractals: Form, Chance, and Dimension, by Benoit Mandelbrot
Fractals and Scaling in Finance: Discontinuity, Concentration, Risk, by Benoit Mandelbrot
Complexity and the Economy, by Brian Arthur

Information Theory and Theoretical Mathematics:

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, by James Gleick
The Mathematical Theory of Communication, by Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver
An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals, and Noise, by John R. Pierce
Introduction to Graph Theory, by Richard J. Trudeau
Introduction to Topology, by Bert Mendelson

Meta Math!: The Quest for Omega, by Gregory Chaitin
Information-Theoretic Incompleteness, by Gregory Chaitin
The Principles of Mathematics, by Bertrand Russell

Differential Equations, Dynamical Systems, and Linear Algebra, by Stephen Smale and Morris W. Hirsch