- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199798109
- ISBN-13: 978-0199798100
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 115 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Complexity: A Guided Tour 1st Edition
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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 *
About the Author
Melanie Mitchell is Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.
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I read many of the one and two star grumbles below before I posted this. Somehow, they missed the point of her book. The world is far more complex and fascinating than we imagined. She integrates birds, broccoli, social networks, earthquakes, and economic concepts by presenting some of the hidden common factors.
Is this complete? No. The field seems to be at a similar point to where the mathematics was before the birth of Leibnitz and Newton. On the other hand, you might suddenly see a connection no one else has. Here is an example. There is a similarity between the studies of cities, information theory concepts, and ants. Enjoy the exploration.
However, along with Soft Systems Methodology, the hope of a science of complex systems seems to have eluded us; and it does not look now that we will ever get there. It book seemed a little over optimistic given that the quest had run its course and in retrospect the personal details seem no longer all that relevant.
So I was left a little disappointed as much by the subject as the exposition. Buts its worth a read just to see if you reach the same conclusions.
So I think it serves mostly to stimulate the imagination, if that's what you're looking for. But it doesn't persuade and doesn't do more than point in general directions.
In complexity, Mitchell takes us on a broad tour of the subject, covering all the major bases and interleaving the threads of biology and computation into an informative cloth of complexity. What makes this book stand out from teh others in it's class is how Mitchell shows the various threads come together. Biology is science that is full of phenomena that show remarkable complex behaviors based on interacting units and she provides a few examples - ant colony foraging, the immune system and metabolism. She shows how computational techniqes shed light on how these phenomena may be explained and how we might understand biology as computation.
For me the most interesting part is chapter 11 - "Computing with Particles". She shows how a genetic algorithm evolved cellular automata rule set may be propagating information in its world. While the example is simple, it just begs for more study in different systems and seems like a very interesting idea to follow in real networks, like brains. I couldn't help but wonder if this was the missing model needed for Calvin's excellent "The Cerebral Code: Thinking a Thought in the Mosaics of the Mind".
Mitchell does her readers a great service in not just covering the broad range of topics, but also explaining where the science of complexity (if there is indeed one) fails and where key ideas are controversial and why. In this regard, her discussion of Kauffman's seminal "Origins of Order" is outstanding, highlighting the problems of his approach.
If you want a readable, thought-provoking book on complexity and computation, this is the one to buy. I found it unputdownable and read it in a single session.