Organized Complexity: Properties, Models and the Limits of Understanding

John Collier
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Complexly organized systems include biological and cognitive systems, as well as many of the everyday systems that form our environment. They are both common and important, but are not well understood. A complex system is, roughly, one that cannot be fully understood via analytic methods alone. An organized system is one that shows spatio-temporal correlations that are not determined by purely local conditions, though organization can be more or less localizable within a system. Organization and complexity can vary independently to some extent, but they are interconnected: organisation requires some complexity, but complexity cannot be maximum in an organized system. I will define complexity and organization more precisely, and show how these definitions imply the above properties. Next I will discuss how organized complexity can be modelled, with an eye to limitations on the tractability of both the models and the modelling process. I will finish with some remarks on the limits of our possible understanding of complexly organized systems. Keywords: complexity, organization, modelling, holism, information theory..
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