“All theoretical models are wrong, but some are useful.” Both inevitable error and promising usefulness abound in the bold conceptual models that Mitchell surveys in exploring the nascent science of complexity. Readers will marvel at the sheer range of settings in which complex systems operate: from ant hills to the stock market, from T cells to Web searches, from disease epidemics to power outages, complexity challenges theorists’ intellectual adroitness. With refreshing clarity, Mitchell invites nonspecialists to share in these researchers’ adventures in recognizing and measuring complexity and then predicting its cascading effects. Concepts central to thermodynamics, information theory, and computer programming all come into focus in this foray into the recesses of complexity. Still, the analysis illuminates more than explanatory frameworks (such as network diagrams and genetic algorithms); piquant personalities (including Stephen Jay Gould and John von Neumann) also receive illuminating scrutiny. Though Mitchell acknowledges the doubts of skeptics, she still expresses hope that persistent complexity researchers will yet weld their disparate accomplishments into a coherent paradigm. Mind-expanding. --Bryce Christensen
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Melanie Mitchell's book is most enjoyable, truly inspiring, skillfully written, and, above all, beautifully clear. The author's enthusiasm and passion for the field make the book fascinating to read. Her rigor, clarity, and healthy skepticism make the book sound and the field scientifically stronger. It is an excellent and rigorous account of the scientific field of complexity. She proves by example that it is possible to explain complex systems science with rigor, breadth, depth, and- above all-exquisite clarity. Artificial Life
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