An Overview of Complex Adaptive Systems

  • John D. McDowall


A complex adaptive system is a system where each of the parts may be perfectly understood, but the behavior of the system as a whole cannot necessarily be predicted. The characteristics of such systems and their relevance to system design have been recognized for many years. Douglas Hofstadter, in his 1979 work on artificial intelligence, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, recognized the importance of the emergent behaviors that come from these systems. By the 1990s, commodity hardware powerful enough to efficiently run large-scale agent simulations was readily available, opening up a new avenue of research into complex adaptive systems. This research led to new insights in the social sciences and the effects of small changes on the behavior of large populations and how societies self-organize. We can use the insight that was developed from this research to improve the practice of enterprise architecture. Instead of imposing structure from the top down, we can let the structure emerge naturally from an environment bounded by relatively simple rules.

Copyright information

© John D. McDowall 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. McDowall
    • 1
  1. 1.WarrentonUSA

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