Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Organisation of Complex Systems

Simon, H.A. (1973) "The Organisation of Complex Systems". Book chapter in: Hierarchy Theory - The Challenge of Complex Systems , Pattee, H.H. eds. pp 1-27

This was quite an interesting paper which draws heavily from his "architecture of complexity" paper. This one is mostly about how complexity is present in pretty much everything. The reason for this is that it's easier to build a systems out of stable subsystems than by building it all at once. He goes into this in greater depth with lots of examples. One of which is a computer system and he suggests that computers will become the most useful experimental tool becuase they can think and we can easily do experiments on them.
Another point made in this paper is about "loose horizontal coupling" which is interactions between systems on the same hierarchic complexity level. He says that systems on one level can communicate with lower levels in a certain way, but those lower levels are independent and so long as they produce the same output they can be improved as much as they like without affecting the higher levels this also speeds up evolution because a system can be constantly improving on all levels at once. This idea also discredits the idea of reductionism because if levels are independent of each other then understanding a lower layer fully isn't going to tell you very much about the higher levels so why even bother?
Overall this is a good paper and there are some interesting issues discussed, there's a few handy quotes too!

My more detailed notes on the paper.

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