Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

Orban @ State of the Net 2015

The Simulated Future

IEET Audience Divided on Minimum Wage and Technological Unemployment

Visibility of IEET Jumps This Week

Virtual Reality and Reality Augmentation

A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future

ieet books

Surviving AI: The promise and peril of artificial intelligence
Calum Chace


rms on 'A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future
' (Oct 5, 2015)

CygnusX1 on 'The Simulated Future' (Oct 4, 2015)

Roy Alexander on 'Could Artificial Morals and Emotions Make Robots Safer?' (Oct 4, 2015)

etienne thillaye on 'Egalitarianism is not Radical' (Oct 3, 2015)

Rick Searle on 'How Nature Plays the Lottery' (Oct 3, 2015)

instamatic on 'Envy of the Future' (Oct 2, 2015)

AlonzoTG on 'Technology and Human Dignity' (Oct 2, 2015)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Seven Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World Forever
Sep 29, 2015
(108163) Hits
(4) Comments

The price of the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world
Sep 25, 2015
(24722) Hits
(3) Comments

This Artificially Intelligent Boss Means the Workplace Will Never Be the Same
Sep 18, 2015
(16447) Hits
(1) Comments

Religion and Superintelligence
Sep 12, 2015
(8382) Hits
(0) Comments

IEET > Life > Innovation > Vision > Affiliate Scholar > Melanie Swan

Print Email permalink (0) Comments (6571) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Application of Complexity Theory: Away from Reductionist Phase Transitions

Melanie Swan
By Melanie Swan
Ethical Technology

Posted: Dec 16, 2012

Reductionism persists as a useful node in the possibility space of understanding and managing the world around us. However the possibility space is now expanding to higher levels of resolution such as a focus on complex systems. Learning and tools are ratcheting in lock-step.

Some of the key complexity-related concepts in understanding collective behavior in real-life physical systems like the burning of a forest fire include:

  • Organization and Self-Organization: Self-orchestration into order in both living and non-living systems, for example: salt crystals, graphene, protein molecules, schools of fish, flocks of birds, bee hives, intelligence and the brain, social structures 

  • Order and Stability of Systems: Measurements of order, stability, and dynamical break-down in systems such as entropy, symmetry (and symmetry-breaking), critical point, phase transition, boundaries, and fractals (101 primer)

  • Tunable Parameters: An element or parameter which doesn’t control the system, but can be tuned to influence the performance of the system (for example, temperature is a tunable parameter in the complex system of water becoming ice) 

  • Perturbation and Reset: How and how quickly systems reset after being perturbed is another interesting aspect of complex systems 
Complexity science is not new as a field. What is new is first, a more congruous conceptual application of complexity thought in the sense of appreciating overall continuum of systems phenomena, not trying to grasp for the specific moment of a phase transition.

The other aspect that is new is the idea of working in an applied manner with complex systems, particularly with tools that are straightforward to implement like the math tools of non-linear dynamics, networks, chaos, fractals, and power laws (many inspired by the work of Stan Strogatz), and Software Tools like NetLogo, a multi-agent programmable modeling environment and ChucK, a digital audio programming language.

Melanie Swan, MBA, is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. Ms. Swan, principal of the MS Futures Group, is a philosopher, science and technology futurist, and options trader.
Print Email permalink (0) Comments (6572) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: #16: Developing World: Beyond the Frontiers of Science Fiction

Previous entry: Could maternally inherited DNA gather harmful mutations that only affect men?


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-297-2376

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @