Complexity, Emergence, and Evolution

  • Tim Gooding


Most economists are not familiar with complexity science as it applies to economics. Complexity and emergent behaviour are broad terms that are not scientifically defined. This chapter outlines how the terms complexity, emergent behaviour, and evolution are being used in this work. While mainly aimed at people who are not familiar with complexity, it also explains how these terms are specifically being used in this work. It also defines two new terms that clarify certain aspects of evolution as it applies to economics, specifically, the ‘fitness test’ and ‘evolutionary strength’.


Complexity Emergent behaviour Evolutionary Fitness test Evolutionary strength 


  1. Arthur, W. B. (1989). Competing technologies, increasing returns, and lock-in by historical events. The Economic Journal, 99(394), 116–131.Google Scholar
  2. Bonabeau, E., Dorigo, M., & Theraulaz, G. (1999). Swarm intelligence: From natural to artificial systems (No. 1). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Chaos, J. G. (1988). Making a new science. Minerva: Minerva.Google Scholar
  4. Christen, M., & Franklin, L. R. (2002). The concept of emergence in complexity science: Finding coherence between theory and practice. In Proceedings of the Complex Systems Summer School (Vol. 4).Google Scholar
  5. Dessalles, J. L., & Phan, D. (2006). Emergence in multi-agent systems: Cognitive hierarchy, detection, and complexity reduction part I: Methodological issues. In Artificial Economics (pp. 147–159). Springer, Berlin: Heidelberg.Google Scholar
  6. Edmonds, B. (1995). What is complexity? The philosophy of complexity per se with application to some examples in evolution. In The evolution of complexity. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  7. Grassé, P. P. (1959). La reconstruction du nid et les coordinations interindividuelles chezBellicositermes natalensis etCubitermes sp. la théorie de la stigmergie: Essai d’interprétation du comportement des termites constructeurs. Insectes sociaux, 6(1), 41–80.Google Scholar
  8. Hillis, W. D. (1999). The pattern on the stone: The simple ideas that make computers work. New York: Basic Books (AZ).Google Scholar
  9. Hornby, G., Globus, A., Linden, D., & Lohn, J. (2006). Automated antenna design with evolutionary algorithms. In Space 2006 (p. 7242).Google Scholar
  10. John, G., Clements-Croome, D., & Jeronimidis, G. (2005). Sustainable building solutions: A review of lessons from the natural world. Building and Environment, 40(3), 319–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Johnson, S. (2001). Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  12. Lipson, H. (2005). Evolutionary robotics and open-ended design automation. Biomimetics, 17(9), 129–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lucas, R. E. (1976, January). Econometric policy evaluation: A critique. In Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy (Vol. 1, pp. 19–46), North-Holland.Google Scholar
  14. Railsback, S. F., & Grimm, V. (2011). Agent-based and individual-based modeling: A practical introduction. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Santamaria-Bonfil, G., Gershenson, C., & Fernández, N. (2017). A package for measuring emergence, self-organization, and complexity based on Shannon entropy. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 4, 10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Schumpeter, J. A. (1912). Theorie der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (1st ed.) [English translation 1934: Theory of economic development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press]. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.Google Scholar
  17. Standish, R. K. (2001). On complexity and emergence. arXiv preprint nlin/0101006.Google Scholar
  18. Veblen, T. (1898). Why is economics not an evolutionary science? The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 12(4), 373–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Wilensky, U., & Rand, W. (2015). An introduction to agent-based modeling: Modeling natural, social, and engineered complex systems with Netlogo. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  20. Witt, U. (2008). What is specific about evolutionary economics? Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 18(5), 547–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Zykov, V., Mytilinaios, E., Adams, B., & Lipson, H. (2005). Robotics: Self-reproducing machines. Nature, 435(7039), 163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tim Gooding
    • 1
  1. 1.Kingston UniversityKingston upon ThamesUK

Personalised recommendations