Thoughts on complexity

Steven’s article gives an overview of the complexity theory. The author argues that there is no single complexity theory because there are different kinds of complexity that have different or even conflicting assumptions and conclusions. Three types of complexity are discussed by the authors: algorithmic complexity, deterministic complexity, and aggregate complexity.

I am not sure if I fully understood the concept of complexity even though the title of this article is “simplifying complexity”. Tons of questions remain to me after reading this article. Before talking bout my questions, there are certain points that interest me. First, the author states that complexity theory and general systems theory are both anti-reductionism and interconnectedness of the system, whereas one of the differences is that complexity research uses techniques such as artificial intelligence to examine quantitative characteristics, while general systems theory that only concerns qualities. I’ve never thought about it this way before as I believe that AI is a quantitative method that can make inferences about qualitative attributes. In this sense, the qualitative and quantitative parts do not differentiate the two, because general systems theory also has the ability to make qualitative inferences. Second, the author mentioned the deterministic complexity, which means a few key variables related through a set of known equations can describe the behavior of a complex system. I wonder deterministic complexity is also a kind of reductionism because it tires to describing a complex system by equations and variables, which goes against the anti-reductionism notion of complexity. Third, the author mentions that a complex system is not beholden to the environment – it actively shapes, reacts and anticipates. This reminds me of the machine learning algorithm that activity adapts to the data it saw. It seems that this is a way of approaching complexity.

Main questions I have are
1. If there are different kinds of complexity that sometimes conflict with each other, what is actually the complexity?
2. Is every generalization we made a reductionism in some way? If so, isn’t all the research, even the complexity research anti-complexity?
3. What can complexity theory offer us? Does it complicate the analysis or does it offers us a more sophisticated way of approaching a problem?

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