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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Complexity Theory, June 19, 2009
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This review is from: Complexity: A Guided Tour (Hardcover)
This is one of these books that changes your intellectual perspective. An excellent introduction to Complexity Theory, still in its infancy with a lot of debates because it is a work in progress.
Complexity theory is perhaps the antithesis of reductionism and a complement of the most successful scientific philosophy that, however, leaves out such complex phenomena as the emergency of life and intelligence, the weather, ant colonies, the immunologic system, biological metabolism, brain functioning, self- referential systems, non linear phenomena, game theory, the economy, artificial intelligence, etc. Complexity theorists are trying to find common patterns in these different fields and take cues from dynamical systems, cellular automata, random Boolean networks, chaos theory, information theory, biological systems and others. The author defines a complex system as one that exhibits non trivial emergent and self-organizing behavior.
It seems that some of these systems have a balanced combination of randomness and determinism very well exemplified in ant colonies and immunological systems. Stuart Kaufmann says that life happens "at the edge of chaos".
The skill of the author to explain difficult questions in an easy language is demonstrated in the description of the mechanics of DNA and the explanation of what is a fractal dimension, for example.
Other interesting topics covered are genetic algorithms (which have great practical applications and solve problems in a rather mysterious way which is difficult to understand), cellular automata (a class of non Von Neumann computers), a software program to make analogies in a microworld defined by Douglas Hofstadter (author of the Pulitzer Prize winner "Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid"), an excellent discussion of the best strategy in games derived from the "Prisoner's Dilemma", Small World and Scale Free Networks (the internet being one example), power laws, etc.
To sum up, if you are not an expert in Complexity, but are curious to learn about all these topics I would strongly recommend reading this book.
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