18 Uncertainty and Surprise: Ideas from the Open Discussion

  • Michelle E. Jordan
Section IV Conversations on Uncertainty and Surprise
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)


Approximately one hundred participants met for three days at a conference entitled “Uncertainty and Surprise: Questions on Working with the Unexpected and Unknowable.” There were a diversity of conference participants ranging from researchers in the natural sciences and researchers in the social sciences (business professors, physicists, ethnographers, nursing school deans) to practitioners and executives in public policy and management (business owners, health care managers, high tech executives), all of whom had varying levels of experience and expertise in dealing with uncertainty and surprise. One group held the traditional, statistical view that uncertainty comes from variance and events that are described by usually unimodal probability law. A second group was comfortable on the one hand with phase diagrams and the phase transitions that come from systems with multi-modal distributions, and on the other hand, with deterministic chaos. A third group was comfortable with the emergent events from evolutionary processes that may not have any probability laws at all.


Strange Attractor Open Discussion Complexity Science Conference Participant Double Pendulum 
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Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle E. Jordan
    • 1
  1. 1.McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin 

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