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A Brief History of Systems Science, Chaos and Complexity

Daniel Christian Wahl
Jul 8 · 6 min read

“Complexity theory is becoming a science that recognizes and celebrates the creativity of nature. Now that’s pretty extraordinary, because it opens the door to a new way of seeing the world, recognizing that these complex dynamic systems are sensitive to initial conditions and have emergent properties. We have to learn to walk carefully in relation to these complex systems on which the quality of our lives depends, from microbial ecosystems to the biosphere, because we influence them although we cannot control them. This knowledge is new to our western scientific mentality…”.

Brian Goodwin (et al., 2001, p.27).

Organizational map of the different scientific sub-fields that deal with the study of complex systems (Image)
The historical time line shows that many sub-disciplines have developed to complexity theory (Graphic)

“Chaos theory teaches us that we are always a part of the problem and that particular tension and dislocation always unfold from the entire system rather than from some defective “part.” Envisioning an issue as a purely mechanical problem to be solved may bring temporary relief of symptoms, but chaos suggests that in the long run it could be more effective to look at the overall context in which a particular problems manifest itself.”

— Briggs & Peat (1999, pp.160–161)

How do we design for positive emergence in complex dynamic systems?

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system

Daniel Christian Wahl

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Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system