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4 The Evolutionary Complexity of Social Economic Systems: The Inevitability of Uncertainty and Surprise

  • Peter M. Allen
  • Mark Strathern
  • James S. Baldwin
Section II Central Themes on Uncertainty and Surprise
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)

Abstract

In order to improve our quality of life and the successful functioning of our organisations and social institutions, or to mitigate some anticipated problem, we need to understand how they “work” and to be able to explore the probable consequences of different possible policies or interventions. And this means that we need to “understand” how the underlying causality of a current social situation is operating, and how it might respond to some changed rules or policies aimed at modifying it in a favourable way. Traditionally, however, this would be thought of as understanding the situation as a “mechanical system” with the different actors locked in a predictable system of interaction, that our “policy intervention” would seek to modify in order to improve the overall outcome. The difficulty with this approach however, is that it fails to recognise the essentially fluid nature of human behaviour, and the ability of actors to modify their previous habits in response to the new opportunities or constraints of the situation. In other words, if our policies and interventions are to succeed, we must attempt to anticipate to some degree the different kinds of outcome that we might provoke. This means that we need to move from a mechanical representation to an evolutionary one, in which structural transformations can and do occur.

Keywords

Structural Attractor Organisational Form Evolutionary Complexity Crime Figure Social Economic System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter M. Allen
    • 1
  • Mark Strathern
    • 1
  • James S. Baldwin
    • 2
  1. 1.Complex Systems Management Centre, School of Management, Cranfield UniversityUK
  2. 2.Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of SheffieldUK

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