A compilation of quotes about complexity and simplicity
“Humans socialize in the largest groups of all primates because we are the only animals with brains large enough to handle the complexities of that social arrangement.”
M. Gladwell, The Tipping Point
“A system is complex, in the sense that a great many independent agents are interacting with each other in a great many ways.”
M. Waldorp, Complexity, Viking 1993.
“The complex whole may exhibit properties that are not readily explained by understanding its parts. The complex whole, in a completely nonmystical sense, can often exhibit collective properties, “emergent” features that are lawful in their own right.”
S. Kaufmann, At Home in the Universe, Oxford University Press 1996.
“You generally find that the basic components and the basic laws are quite simple; the complexity arises because you have a great many of these simple components interacting simultaneously. The complexity is actually in the organization—the myriad possible ways that the components of the system can interact.”
“The task of formulating theory for complex adaptive systems [CAS] is more than usually difficult because the behaviour of a whole CAS is more than a simple sum of the behaviours of its parts; CAS abound in nonlinearities”
J. H. Holland, Emergence, Perseus 1999.
“To understand the behavior of a complex system we must understand not only the behaviour of the parts but how they act together to form the whole.”
Y. Bar-Yam, Dynamics of Complex Systems, Addison-Wesley 1997.
“Every PhD student in everything should get to grips with the ‘chaos/complexity’ programme, not for reasons of fashion or even legitimate career building, but because this is the way the world works and we need to understand that”
D. Byrne, Complexity and the Social Sciences, Routledge 1998).
“Complexity is not a methodology or a set of tools (although it does provide both). It certainly is not a management fad. The Science of Complexity provides a conceptual framework, a way of thinking, a way of seeing the world”
“I think the next century will be the century of complexity”
“The capacity to tolerate complexity and welcome contradiction, not the need for simplicity and certainty, is the attribute of an explorer. Centuries ago, when some people suspended their search for absolute truth and began instead to ask how things worked, modern science was born. Curiously, it is by abandoning the search for absolute truth that science has began to make progress, opening the material universe to human exploration.”
“Life is a continuing process of making adjustments and creative responses in a world too complex to be predictable. But institutions insist not only upon their illusions of predictability, but their systems of control by which they imagine they can direct the world to their ends. This is why institutions have always aligned themselves with the forces of power, in order to compel the rest of nature – particularly mankind – to conform to their interests.”
Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic… Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.
N. Nicholas Taleb
“For every human problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”
“Simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex.”