Tagged: Emergence

Reductionism or Emergence?

Here are some quotes about the controversy between reductionism and emergence as basic paradigm for physics. Robert Laughlin: A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down. 2005. From the Introduction: “Much as I dislike the idea of ages, I think a good case can be made that science has now moved from an Age of Reductionism to an Age of Emergence, a time when the search for ultimate causes of things shifts from the behavior of parts to the behavior of the collective. It is difficult to identify a specific moment when this transition occurred because it was gradual and...

Complex systems – a new scientific frontier?

Many of our most pressing challenges, like managing ecosystems and economies, or preventing mass epidemics and market crashes – require a better understanding of complex systems. In recent years, the science of “complexity” came into existence and has grown rapidly. “Complexity” has a precise meaning in science. We call a system “complex” if the whole transcends the parts and if multiple agents participate in it. Most complex systems consist of diverse entities that interact in space and in time; they can be real or virtual. Examples of complex systems are ecosystems, cities, universities, or the stock market. Systems that are merely based on a feedback loop, like automatic temperature regulators, are not complex. Complicated systems are also not necessarily complex. Complicated systems may have diverse parts or many variables, but they are not adaptive.

Emergence

We are currently experiencing a paradigm shift in scientific thinking and explanation, away from reductionist and constructivist approaches. This shift is the result of the introduction of computers and the internet. Scientific researchers are now capable of collecting and processing much more information than ever before, and advanced modeling techniques allow them to develop and test scientific theories in ways that were simply not possible 20 or even 10 years ago. Traditionally, physics operated with a reductionist approach: it breaks down complex phenomena into simpler parts that can be studied independently. Once the basic laws were understood, scientists thought they...