Re: The Relevance of Complex Systems

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Fri Sep 09 2005 - 11:51:54 MDT

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> My car, alas, is not a Carnot Engine. There are all these practical
> complications in the real world, doncha know, which makes thermodynamics
> irrelevant if you're trying to build *efficient* systems. My car is a
> Complex System, too: I looked under the hood and there were all these
> interacting doohickeys whose local behavior was completely different
> from the globally emergent car. That carburetor thingy doesn't even
> have wheels, much less an engine! As a result I find myself completely
> unable to predict my car's behavior. Why, one time I floored the gas
> pedal, and my car moved fifty miles backward and refilled its own gas tank!

I have only quoted Eliezer's response, here, but I could have picked out
at least a dozen other examples....

Your car, alas, is also not a Complex System. I mean, this was supposed
to be a joke, right: you didn't really think it was a complex system? I
assume you are still thinking about a serious reply ... one that doesn't
involve any confusion about what a Complex system or a Chaotic system
really is?

Is there anyone else on the list who has the energy and knowledge to
write out a clear but concise description of the differences between
Complex Systems, Chaotic systems and plain old 'complicated' systems
(aka 'complex systems' with a small 'c')? Something that we could all
use as a reference point in this discussion, rather than as a bone of

I would do this myself (and I will if no one steps forward), but I seem
to be a lightning rod for spurious attacks, so it might be better if
someone else volunteered. :-)

Richard Loosemore

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