Daniel Christian Wahl wrote an article for Resilience.org titled A Brief History of Systems Science, Chaos and Complexity (September 12, 2019).

« Since the beginning in the 1950s… there have been many attempts to break free from the reductionist paradigm and develop a more holistic and systemic understanding of the complexity of the world we live in. »

« Early systems thinkers were still ultimately aiming to improve their ability to better predict and control the system in question. The introduction of insights from chaos theory and non-liner mathematics into systems science sparked the development of complexity theory. »

« Interconnectedness, unpredictability, and uncontrollability are key characteristics of all complex dynamic systems. In dealing with complexity rather than mechanisms, the aim of science shifts from improving our ability to predict and control to aiming to better understand the dynamics and relationships of the systems we participate in so that our participation can be more appropriate. »

CHAOS THEORY

“Chaos theory teaches us that we are always a part of the problem and that particular tension and dislocation always unfold from the entire system rather than from some defective “part.” Envisioning an issue as a purely mechanical problem to be solved may bring temporary relief of symptoms, but chaos suggests that in the long run it could be more effective to look at the overall context in which a particular problem manifests itself.” — Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Spiritual Wisdom from the Science of Change by John Briggs and F. David Peat (1999, pp.160–161)

« When we speak about chaos theory it is important to understand that chaos does not refer to a state of absolutely incoherent disorder, rather “the scientific term chaos refers to an underlying interconnectedness that exists in apparently random events.” Briggs and Peat explain: “Chaos science focuses on hidden patterns, nuance, the sensitivity of things, and the rules for how the unpredictable leads to the new” (Briggs & Peat, 1999, p.2). »

« Chaos theory provides a radically different framework for studying complex dynamics. It highlights the limitations that are inherent in a reductionistic and mechanistic — linear cause and effect based — analysis of complex systems. »

ADDITIONAL READING

« for me most significant insights I gained from systems science, chaos and complexity are summarized in these articles:

Facing complexity means befriending uncertainty and ambiguity

Why do we need to think and act more systemically?

Donella Meadows recommendations for how to dance with and intervene in systems

Avoiding extinction: participation in the nested complexity of life »


Wahl wrote his 2006 PhD thesis on ‘Understanding Complexity: A Prerequisite for Sustainable Design’. He is the author of Designing Regenerative Cultures (2016).


Some books on complexity and systems thinking.

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