Customer Reviews


89 Reviews
5 star:
 (55)
4 star:
 (13)
3 star:
 (8)
2 star:
 (5)
1 star:
 (8)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


103 of 113 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a book on complexity, but .............
a book about the mathematicians that developed complexity theory. My statement is more a warning than a complaint. Setting their results in a human and cultural context - as Waldrop does - makes an interesting read and a useful introduction to the field. And the field is promising; it looks at mathematical systems from the inside out, rather than the traditional...
Published on March 18, 2001 by H. Paul Greenough

versus
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complexity
This is an overview of complexity theory, an off-shoot and heir apparent of chaos theory. Waldrop models his book very, very closely on Gleick's "Chaos: Making a New Science," which Waldrop (and his publisher) knows was a best-seller. As a result, he summarizes the key positions of complexity theory by way of telling the story of their creators.
The...
Published on May 17, 2000 by Allen Michie


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complexity, May 17, 2000
By 
Allen Michie (Williamsburg, IA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
This is an overview of complexity theory, an off-shoot and heir apparent of chaos theory. Waldrop models his book very, very closely on Gleick's "Chaos: Making a New Science," which Waldrop (and his publisher) knows was a best-seller. As a result, he summarizes the key positions of complexity theory by way of telling the story of their creators.
The heroes of the story are Brian Arthur, an economist who created "lock-in" theory and refuses to go along with the fusty old Adam Smith school of economics that sees everything moving toward "equilibrium." Stuart Kauffman, a truly brilliant and dogged scientist, has a theory of "autocatalysis" that explains away the creationists' position that the emergence of life is too complicated to ever happen by random chance. John Holland provides a mathematical basis and creates computer models for self-emergent and self-organizing systems (including DNA). Christopher Langton is the founder of the "artificial life" branch of science, and Murray Gell-Mann is the Pulitzer-Prize-winning scientist who discovered quarks and now studies the complexities of fragile ecosystems such as the Brazilian rain forest.
All of these geniuses happily co-habitate and cross-pollinate their ideas at a rare and remarkable instituion, the Sante Fe Institute. The founding of the institute and its early days in the picturesque setting of an old New Mexico convent provide much of the drama and the local color in Waldrop's tale.
All told, however, the book moves much slower than it should and could. The book would have been improved if Waldrop did not have so much "anxiety of influence" over Gleick and his chaos book--Waldrop is inclined to say that complexity theory has outdated or replaced chaos theory, with the implication that Waldrop's book should have the same relationship to Gleick's. In fact, the two theories (and books) can happily coexist and support one another.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


103 of 113 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a book on complexity, but ............., March 18, 2001
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
a book about the mathematicians that developed complexity theory. My statement is more a warning than a complaint. Setting their results in a human and cultural context - as Waldrop does - makes an interesting read and a useful introduction to the field. And the field is promising; it looks at mathematical systems from the inside out, rather than the traditional outside in. Just don't buy the book expecting a guide to recreating even the simplest of systems mentioned.
Those who want to play with the mathematics itself will find other books more helpful. See, for example, Flake's book, "The Computational Beauty of Nature", which contains a description of Waldrop's frequently mentioned "boids" in enough detail that a reader can create similar systems. Flake also describes the details of many of the other systems alluded to in Waldrop's book, mercifully at the "how to do it"level, rather than the rigorous "theorem and proof" level. The two books fit well together.
Waldrop's writing style is clean, clear, literate, and unobtrusive. Read the book for what he says, rather than for how he says it. If you enjoy reading a technical book both for the what the author says - and for how he says it - try almost anything by John McPhee, particularly his loose series on the geology of North America.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE best popular introduction to complexity, September 2, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
I work for a company that is commercializing some applications of complexity science, so I've read a heap of "popular" books on the subject. This is far and away the best: Waldrop gives some entertaining historical background on the Santa Fe Institute, but the "meat" of the book is complexity science and its implications, and his descriptions are clear, easy to understand, and accurate. He not only tells you what complexity science is but WHY you should care about it -- and by doing that, he goes far beyond most other popularizers. The book is a little dated now, but not seriously, and I still recommend it to people as the best general introduction to the subject. (For those wishing to delve a little deeper, Stuart Kauffman's "At Home in the Universe" goes more into the technical side of complexity science while still remaining very readable.)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book should get 6 stars, November 20, 1998
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
In one word, this book was awesome. Waldrop's account of the development of the science of complexity is both compelling and spell-binding. His historical account of the Sante Fe Institute and its members was an inspiring story. Written like a novel, this book was very simple to read and understand and very easy to follow. Even the casual reader could follow its simplifying explanations of the complicated theories invovled in the science of complexity. This book is also a great follow-on to James Gleick's "Chaos - Making a New Science". I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in complex adaptive systems theory, especially its applications in the realm of economics. Waldrop's work here is outstanding!!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful reading for every science enthusiast!, May 22, 2004
By 
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
The cover of the book says " If you liked Chaos, you will love complexity". I just finished reading the book, that validated the claim. While Chaos is written as story of discovery of a new science, Complexity excels as a saga of men who ventured into previously unchartered domains addressing for the first time issues like:
What is life? What is driving force that caused cells to appear from a primordal soup of all elements, when the probability of so happening is infinitesimal? What causes evolution? Do nice guys finish last? What makes evolution, coevolution, adaptation, extinction work? Why do we organize ourselves into families, cultures, nations?
Why do stock markets crash, boom? What controls the emergence of economies? Why can USSR go from one of strongest nations/economies to the state of divided helplessness in less than a few years?
Why are we here? What is life? Artificial Life? Are we still evolving? What is the cause of increasing complexity?
On mundane level: What is non-linearity? What is Chaos? If this science is all that important, why did we wait this long for recognizing it?
What are the paradigms in which sociology and physics settle into same patterns? How neural networks were born, brought up and mastered?
This novel/book is as much about these questions as it is about the scientists who engaged in unravelling many of these mysteries. It speaks about their failures and successes, their approach, ethic and driving force, their fears, fights and friendships. For most part it reads like a thriller, and by the time you are done, you find yourself searching for another book on Chaos, complexity, life at the edge of chaos, genetic algorithms, artificial intelligence. After just 358 pages, your imagination and knowledge of science leaps from Newton's linear models to the twentyfirst century stuff.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Making of the Santa Fe Institute, December 12, 2000
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
I bought this book back in 1994, when it was released as a paperback in the UK. I liked it tremendously, and although I let a dozen friends or so borrow it from me to read, I was keeping its track very meticulously in order to get it back every time. Complexity is one of those books that easily gets lost if you are not careful, you know.
In short, the book is a chronicle of at the time seemingly unrelated ideas that finally led to forming of the Santa Fe Institute in 1984, and the people who created them: the economist Brian Arthur and his lock-in theory of "increasing returns" (better known to engineers as "positive feedback"); Stuart Kaufmann and his "autocatalytic" models for evolving biological systems; John Holland and his genetic algorithms and genetic programming; Christopher Langton and his "artificial life"; Doyne Farmer with all his experience with chaos theory; and of course the "founding fathers" of the Santa Fe Institute: George Cowan, Kenneth Arrow, and two Nobel-prize winners, Murray Gell-Mann and Philip Anderson.
With a PhD in Physics, MA in Journalism and over ten years of service as a senior science writer for one of the world's most prestigious science journals - Science - M. Mitchell Waldrop seems like a role-model science writer. Complexity is his second book, being predecessed by Man Made Minds, a survey of artificial intelligence. This book, however, bears much greater resemblance in style with James Gleick's bestseller Chaos than with his own previous work.
Some "historical distance" allows us also a somewhat more critical view on the complexity theory itself. Contrary to the popular expectations of the time, complexity was since forced to follow the same path that chaos, fractals or catastrophe theory - to name a few - traveled before it, and admit that is not The Great Universal Theory of Everything. On the other hand, while the hype is gone, we have to admit that complexity - or "nonlinear science", if you want - is still very actively worked on.
So is this book for you? Yes, if you want vivid explanation of one of the most important ideas that shaped the end of the 20th century, and colorful portraits of the people behind it. If nothing else, it will wet your mouth. If Complexity will succeed in winning your interest, you may want to proceed with other popular reading on this topic - almost everyone of the people mentioned before has himself published at least one book. For learning more hard science, however, you should reach for other science monographs and papers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars delusive title, decent content, January 24, 2006
By 
O. Burak Okan (Cambridge, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
This book, more than anything, is a detailed historical account of the establishment of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. It is the chronicle of an industrious yet traumatic undertaking, which has been continuing for couple of decades in gathering scientists of different and seemingly disconnected fields to collaborate on the dynamics of complex systems and how they had finally institutionalized this effort.

The science of complexity is only treated to serve as a glue between the personal accounts of scientists (Brian Arthur,

Murray Gell-Mann, Phil Anderson, etc.), while any serious discussion of it throughout the text is conspiciously avoided. In this respect, I find the title somewhat delusive. However, the historical account is still helpful in stimulating interest in both aspiring and seasoned scientists in its subject-matter. Moreover, there are a myriad of excellent books and monographs on this subject by the original contributors albeit none of them is listed/suggested for further study by the author. However, for the willing person, unlike for many branches of basic sciences, the literature for further study is everything but sordid for complexity and nonlinear phenomena.

To sum up, this work might make a very good company for a long travel, since it does not demand excessive concentration or

thinking in grasping of its content and it is rather rich in witty anectodes. The required background is practically null for the reader`s side, so it is a safe popular science reading as well. However, considering the implications of the title, the content falls short in its coverage of complexity and this is a noticeable drawback.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful .. WOW .. Deserves second reading., August 21, 2002
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
I recently finished this book and wow is all I can say. Waldrop is a terrific writer and he has done marvelous job in explaining the difficult concepts. His breadth and depth of knowledge about different subjects is amazing.
This book is light and reads more like a fiction, but at the same time theories of complexity just unfold naturally among the stories of the people who are creating this science.
Complexity as a science is relatively new, and I wonder why. The questions these scientists are trying hard to find answer of are not new. These are simple: How did life start ? Why is ecosystem so complex ? Why are so many other unexplained things in the world ? How does mind work ? How does economy work ? What's the difference between machine and life ?
Scientists have yet to to find the real answer. This book just chronicles their quest. I learned a lot reading this book and now look at things differently. One astounding concept that appears in the book is that "Life is nothing but computation. The raw molecules are the hardware and the life is the software." Looks elegant.
As for other reviewers' inappropriate comments that this book is regarding "scientists drinking coffee", thats wrong opinion and far from truth. This is not a scientific monograph where all you see is dumb (read: abstruse) mathematical equations which can be understood only by the selcted ones in that particular sub-sub-sub branch of sub-sub-subject and which make no sense even to highly literate, science educated people. This is a novel about the science and the people who work in the science, and sheer depth of ideas discussed and debated just amazes me. Nowhere else could I have captured a glimpse of thought process of brilliant scientists like John Holland, Stuart Kauffman, Brian Arthur, Gell-Mann and George Cowan.
As to why "Complexity Science" is needed, I have just this: Traditional conventional Physics, economics and biology CAN NOT explain a lot of things that we see around us. That is why we need this new science. Its agreed that this is new, immature, incomplete but at least this is a new way of looking at things. Things that can not be explained by our esteemed conventional sciences, things like Nasdaq 5000 and its crash, origins of life, how mind works, why Microsoft is making so much money on a such piece of ... To answer questions like these, we need this new science. We have to start afresh, and this is the fresh start, of looking at things from a different perspective, not as parts, but as a whole.
I just hope that Wladrop or someone else would write something similar now to tell the people about the progress in this area in last 10-12 years.
Buy it. Read it. You won't regret it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, January 19, 2000
By 
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
This book is not about a mathematical explanation of complexity. This book will not teach you how to construct a neural network or create autonomous cellular automata.
This book is about the process that some of the world's best scientists went through to realize why a theory like complexity is needed. The book will give any reader a deeper understanding for, and appreciation of how such a broad and information rich topic like complexity is becoming better understood. Insights are also given into how this new understanding of emergent behavior may soon be applied to what were once considered unsolvable problems of Economics, Artificial Life, Biology, Physics, etc.
Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos is the story of a group of humans trying to understand the very nature of nature itself, a superhuman task. An exciting drama that just happens to be about cutting edge science instead of science fiction.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much about our pluralistic world-the fine line-clarified!, November 15, 1999
By 
Richard E Steinhauer (Mt. Gretna, PA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS (Paperback)
I am neither a physicist nor an economist. College mathematics was difficult for me. I understand now that my intellectual strengths are not analysis but synthesis; I can see the whole picture;I am a generalist. I taught reading, English and composition, hands-on problem solving math, social studies, and natural science to fifth and sixth graders. I believed in Dewey's learning-by-doing methods. I am creative in music and writing and encouraged creative thinking. IF YOU ARE THIS KIND OF PERSON and yet curious to know more about the cutting edge of physical science as it relates to the humanities, society and the economy, then the book, Complexity, by Mitchell Waldrop is enlightening reading. The biographical sketches help relate the participants in the Sante Fe Institute to the reader who is a layman regarding advanced science and math. As an elementary educator I especially appreciated the sections on the brain and the evolution of learning. My belief that cooperation and competition play more or less and equal role in human activity was reinforced as I read about the development of complex, dynamic systems. Finally, The concept of complexity suggests a surprising connection between physics and spirituality. To me, it provided a scientific rationale for my personal ethics which call for balance and adherence to the golden rule.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS
COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS by M. Mitchell Waldrop (Paperback - January 15, 1992)
$17.00 $13.08
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.