Complex Systems Key Features

In this short paper, we will be trying to give a clear outline to some of the basic concepts within complexity theory and the difference between simple linear systems and complex systems. Firstly, complex systems are a type of system. A system is a set of things that are interdependent in performing some collective function. So the human body is a system in that it consists of many individual organs that work together as a functioning entirety. A business is another example of a system – many different individuals and departments functioning as an integrated unit, to collectively produce some set of products or services. And of course, there are many other examples of systems such as transportation systems, ecosystems, information systems and so on.

Not everything is a system though. If we take a random collection of things, say a hard drive, a light, and a watch and put them together, this is not a system. It is simply a set of elements because they are not interconnected and interdependent in performing some collective function. It is because of the fact that the elements within a system perform some collective function that systems are said to be greater than the sum of their parts, that is to say, that the system as a whole has properties and functionality that none of its constituent elements possess. A plant cell is an example of this. It is composed of many inanimate molecules, but when we put these together we get a cell that has the properties of a living system. So it is not any element that has the properties of life but it is the particular way that we arrange these molecules that gives rise to this emergent property of the living system as an entirety.

This is a very quick overview to the idea of a system, but systems can be defined as either simple linear systems or complex nonlinear systems. They are classified like this because each has very different properties and behavior and thus how we approach trying to study, design or manage them changes fundamentally. All systems start out simple and they evolve to become complex. Systems have a number of properties that make them more or less complex. These include the number of elements within the system, the level of interdependency between elements, the degree of connectivity between those elements and their degree of autonomy and diversity. Turning these properties to the system up or down makes them more or less complex, so we will go over each of these in more detail.

  • Publish Date: 21-4-2017

  • Length: 8 pages

  • Type: Research Management

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